In my last post, I expected Matsusaka to start out pitching well, then have middle inning trouble. I said "Francona should have him on a short hook. If he shows signs of tiring or losing control, Francona should pull him before much damage is done."
Francona has got to learn to listen to me! 🙂
The 3rd inning was a bit earlier than anyone expected for the meltdown, but the signs were clear:
Matsusaka loaded the bases with 0 outs, then walked in a batter. That’s the first sign that he’s losing location. That’s when you get the bullpen warming. The next 2 hitters singled, then walked, for the second time in the inning that a run was walked in, and in this case it was the TYING run! There’s your sign right there that all control is lost. At this point, MOST OF RED SOX NATION WERE SCREAMING AT THEIR TV SETS TO TAKE DAISUKE OUT RIGHT THEN.
No go. Francona left him there for 3 more batters. He got a strikeout and a popup. I thought, oh no, now Francona’s going to see if he can "get through the inning". Grand Slam. Sayonara.
Grrrrr! That’s so frustrating as a fan. You know what needs to be done, and you generally trust your manager, but he doesn’t take action.
Now I’ve got to make my predictions conditional, based upon the manager’s decisions. "IF Francona lifts Daisuke at the first sign of trouble, the bullpen will come in and shut things down."
Another thing I forgot to consider is the Orioles’ mounting embarrassment at their franchise-high home losing streak, and motivation to end it. Doubts about Daisuke combined with Francona’s history of leaving starters in too long, and the Oriole extra motivation should have been enough to predict a Sox loss… but then again, I had to write that one up quickly before the game, as it’s been a family weekend.
Now it’s time to let that one go. There’s concern that Daisuke’s tiring. Yes. It’s probably true. Keep in mind that his previous 2 starts were on an extra day of rest, and he pitched fairly well, until his 6th inning implosion in the last start. This start was on regular rest. His next start will be on an extra day of rest. The numbers show that with one extra day rest, as he was used to in Japan, he’s much better this year, and with 2 extra days rest, even better. So Daisuke’s next start should be better. It better be. He’ll be facing the Yankees! The main concern is, will Francona have a quick hook? With the extra bullpen staff, and the fact that they’ll all be rested after the off day, and given tonight’s experience, I think Francona will be more likely to take quick action next Friday.
This brings up the question: Will Daisuke be in the playoff rotation? If Lester impresses a couple more times, Daisuke might be the odd man out when the rotation drops to 4 for the playoffs.
More likely, they’ll have Daisuke pitch just 2 innings in relief on Sept 30th, the last day of the season, and the extra rest will allow him to come back strong in the playoffs.
The Orioles’ motivation will return back to normal after their satisfying win, and the Red Sox motivation will be raised as they saw their lead slip to 5.5 games in the division. David Ortiz was 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and a home run, so he’s looking ready to carry the offense again. Beckett’s looking for his career high 18th win, and is getting stronger, and in the lead pack for the Cy Young award.
The Orioles’ starter looks better than the average Orioles starter, but that’s not saying much right now. The Sox offense will fire on all cylinders in a day game at the end of a brief road trip. The result will be Red Sox winning big, with about an 8-1 score.
The Red Sox will then sweep Tampa Bay at home, as Carlos Pena will be a bit distracted with being home in Boston and will have trouble focussing on beating the team he grew up cheering, Schilling and Lester will continue their good pitching of late, and Wakefield will be happy to see Tampa Bay again. That will make it 10-3 in the 13 games between series against the Yankees, matching my predicted total for those 13 games. The Yankees go 3-1 over the next 5 days (losing one in Toronto) to enter Fenway 6.5 games behind Boston. The Red Sox will take 2 of 3 from the Yankees to move 7.5 games ahead with 12 games to go. The Red Sox will clinch the division Saturday, Sept 22, with Wakefield recording his career-high 18th win of the season, appropriately in Tampa Bay, where Wakefield dominates.