Depression, but no panic, in Red Sox Nation.
Magic Number: 9 (9-3 clinches no matter what Yankees do).
I got so busy with work, I forgot to blog today!
The Red Sox outscored the Yankees, 20-13 in the 3 game series, only to come away with 1 win (by 9) and 2 losses (by 1 each).
The good news is that the offense is doing well, and all 3 starters did well, too, against the potent Yankees lineup… even Matsusaka, who’d been struggling. The side work with Matsusaka seems to have helped. The bad news is that Okajima has been struggling. The length of the season and amount of travel are probably taking a toll on him. He will probably be given a long rest of about a week, especially now that Gagne is back, and seems to be pitching well.
Papelbon atypically left a couple pitches hanging over the middle of the plate in the 8th inning of the first game, just after Okajima’s meltdown to start that inning. Assuming that Papelbon will be OK, and that Okajima just needs some rest, you can look at the 8th inning of the first game as a temporary pitching problem that will go away. Other than that inning, the Sox pitching kept the Yankees hitters to just 7 runs over 26 innings!
That’s why there’s no panic. There were a lot of good signs for the Sox in that series, they just didn’t result in wins.
Today is another big sign to watch for: whether Wakefield will be a viable 4th starter in the postseason. Wakefield dominates in domed stadiums, especially Toronto and Tampa Bay, and that’s where his next 2 starts will be! In the 6 game all-dome road trip, Wakefield will be the only starter with 2 starts. Nice how that lined up!
Wakefield has had 2 straight rough outings since returning from injury. He had a good 5 days between those first 2 starts, and seemed surprised by the rough 2nd outing (not by the rough first outing). Now he has an extra day of rest between starts, and pitches in a dome, so If he doesn’t do well tonight, that’s a very bad sign.
Toronto is now falling out of a realistic chance at the wildcard, so they should be shifting into spoiler mode, as well as "play the young guys" mode. The Red Sox, coming off a frustrating loss after a rousing win after a frustrating loss, should be motivated to win, of course, but going on the road after playing at home can wreak havoc on motivation, so it’s tough to predict.
Wakefield should pitch better, so the question is whether the offense can keep going.