The first two games of the World Series saw a pair of terrific pitching performances, as Jon Lester earned the win for the Red Sox in Game 1 and Michael Wacha continued his impressive run of postseason success in Game 2.
In the pivotal Game 3 of the series, the Cardinals came away with a controversial 5-4 win as they pushed across the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Now the Red Sox will look even things up heading into Game 4, while the Cardinals will look to extend their series lead.
With the aces on tap to take the ball once again in Game 5, both teams will turn to a pitcher with some question marks surrounding him in Game 4, as Clay Buchholz takes the ball for the Red Sox and Lance Lynn goes for the Cardinals.
|2013 Regular-Season Stats for Game 4 Starters|
The team opted to go with him as its fourth starter in the postseason over rookie Shelby Miller, as Miller led all rookies with 15 wins and had terrific all-around numbers but showed signs of tiring down the stretch.
On the other side, Buchholz looked like a legitimate Cy Young contender through the first two-and-a-half months of the season, going 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his first 12 starts before injury struck.
Shoulder inflammation landed him on the DL on June 9, and a neck injury sidelined him even further. When all was said and done, he would not pitch again until Sept. 10.
He came back strong to go 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts to close out the season, but he has not been as sharp in three starts so far this postseason. Shoulder stiffness led to his World Series start being pushed back after some speculation that he could be out altogether, according to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
It's an intriguing matchup that could lead to a high-scoring affair if both guys don't bring their A-game, but who has the upper hand among the Game 4 starters? Let's take a closer look at the numbers.
|2013 Postseason Stats for Game 4 Starters|
Lynn took the ball in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Pirates and was hit hard, allowing seven hits and five runs in 4.1 innings of work to take the loss.
He next pitched in relief in Game 1 of the NLCS, throwing scoreless innings in the 12th and 13th and picking up the win as Carlos Beltran delivered the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 13th.
The right-hander then made the start in Game 4 and pitched well, going 5.1 innings and allowing six hits and two runs to pick up his second win of the series.
Buchholz was the Game 3 starter for the Red Sox in the ALDS, earning a no-decision as he went six innings and allowed seven hits and three runs.
He was bumped up to Game 2 for the ALCS, and while the Red Sox came away with a win thanks to some late-game heroics, Buchholz was hit hard with eight hits and five runs allowed in 5.2 innings. He started again in the decisive Game 6, going five innings and allowing four hits and two runs, but came away with another no-decision.
No one in the Cardinals lineup has ever faced Buchholz before, while Red Sox hitters have limited experience against Lynn. David Ross (1-for-4, 2 K), Jonny Gomes (0-for-2, 1 K), Mike Napoli (0-for-1, 1 RBI, 1 K), Shane Victorino (1-for-2) and Stephen Drew (0-for-1) are the only potential Red Sox starters to face the 26-year-old to this point.
With little to draw from as far as history against these two pitchers, let's instead take a closer look at what type of pitcher each guy is.
|Lance Lynn Pitch Tendencies (Including Postseason)|
|Pitch Type||Frequency||Average Velocity||Whiff/Swing||BAA||BB/K|
While Adam Wainwright relies on his curveball and Michael Wacha on his changeup, Lynn is a classic power pitcher who throws a lot of four-seam fastballs and a heavy, sinking fastball to induce ground balls.
All of his off-speed stuff is set up with the fastball, and if he's locating it, he's capable of piling up his fair share of strikeouts. He ranked ninth in the NL with 198 strikeouts during the regular season.
With that in mind, here's a look at how the Red Sox lineup fared against power pitchers this year, with power pitcher being defined as someone who ranked in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks.
|Red Sox Projected Lineup vs. Power Pitchers in Regular Season|
Outside of veterans Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox lineup has not done terribly well against power pitchers this season, though watching David Ortiz crush a Kevin Siegrist fastball in Game 1 is a solid argument against his numbers here.
It all goes back to whether or not Lynn is locating the fastball, though, as his power stuff means very little if he's not hitting his spots.
On the other side of things, Clay Buchholz continued to refine his stuff this year, as his cut fastball developed into a dangerous weapon for him.
|Clay Buchholz Pitching Tendencies (Including Postseason)|
|Pitch Type||Frequency||Average Velocity||Whiff/Swing||BAA||BB/K|
Early on in his career, Buchholz threw a slider as his main secondary pitch, but over the past three seasons he's ditched it in favor of a cutter, and it has quickly become one of the best of its kind.
He's thrown the cutter 73 times so far this postseason—more than any other pitch—and opponents are batting just .188 with three hits against it, according to Brooks Baseball.
As such, that pitch will likely be the X-factor for Buchholz in Game 4. Here's a look at how Cardinals hitters have fared against the cut fastball so far this year.
|Cardinals Projected Lineup vs. RH Cutters (Including Postseason)|
The cutter is a pitch that has grown more and more prevalent around the league, but few throw it as well as Buchholz, so how the Cardinals have performed against the pitch on the season is not necessarily indicative of how they will do against the pitch when Buchholz throws it.
The real X-factor here is the health of Buchholz, who was originally slotted to pitch Game 3 but was pushed back in favor of Jake Peavy to get an extra day of rest and treatment.
"It's just everyday fatigue and a little bit of dead arm," said Buchholz in an MLB.com video. "Having that long layoff during the season...going from nothing to ramping up real quick I guess has sort of run me down a little bit."
If the extra rest can do the trick and Buchholz can pitch like he did during the regular season, Cardinals hitters could be in for a tough night. At the same time, Lynn is more than capable of turning in a dominant start if he's locating his fastball and manages to avoid the big inning.
Either way, it has all the making of another terrific game in what has already been a great series.