Magic Number: 14 (14-3, or 10-4 with 2-1 vs. Yankees, clinches even if Yankees win all their others)
That was a jumbled lineup of righties. I would have had Ellsbury and Pedroia next to each other in the lineup, figuring if the young guys hit him, they’ll string together a rally. I would have had Lugo sitting, since he struggles against his former team, and Moss as DH.
I expected good performances from the starting pitchers, but not that good. Tampa Bay also has gotten better performances from its bullpen. Kazmir threw a season high in pitches to avoid the middle of the bullpen. That’s the anatomy of being shutout by the Rays: season high pitches by starter, and use your 2 best relievers.
Tonight, we have something old, and something new. Wakefield is 41, Sonnanstine is 24. Old ways, recent ways: Wakefield had been pitching very well until his last start, coming back from injury, where he got hit hard. Sonnanstine had been pitching poorly most of the year, right through his last start against the Red Sox, but in his 3 starts since then, he’s given up only 4 runs in 19 innings. He’s another reason Tampa Bay is hot. Their young pitchers are starting to put things together.
This is not going to be an easy series for the Red Sox. The Sox can only hope that with facing a right-hander and having a more normal lineup back out there, they’ll get back to their old ways, and that Sonnanstine will momentarily remember his 2 August starts against the Red Sox instead of his 3 most recent starts.
More old and new: Red Sox veterans and Red Sox rookies. The rookies have been playing well even when the veterans have slumped.
Nice double-play last night: Crisp to Cora to Youkilis in the 8th inning. Crisp made a great catch, banged into the wall, threw to Cora who quickly turned and fired to Youkilis at first to barely double up the runner who had rounded second base when Crisp caught the ball.
It’s tough to guess how Wakefield will do, with his last start off injury being so bad, and his previous starts so good. The combination of a normal 5 day injury-free between-start routine and facing the Devil Rays, who he’s pitched so well against throughout his career (19-2, 2.72 ERA), should be enough to make the last start an aberration.
Sonnanstine is another one who’s difficult to predict, but he’s on a roll. His only 2 career starts against Boston were last month, with the one in Boston mediocre, and the one in Tampa Bay a bad one. Look for a return to his previous Boston performance.
After 6 innings, this should be about a 3-2 lead for Boston. Then the bullpens will take over. I expect it to go down to the wire, with Okajima and Papelbon having to work the 8th and 9th to save a close one, around 4-3 or 4-2, Boston.