MLB Championship Series Day Five: Jon Lester's Moment Has Arrived
I'll put on record that my pick for yesterday's game was in fact the Dodgers.
Just call it a home-field kind of thing, which is exactly what we are faced with tonight.
Both series have shifted venues and while one series could get knotted up, the other is looking to get undone.
Tampa pulled off a remarkable victory in the battle of disappointing aces. Josh Beckett and Scott Kazmir were supposed to give us what Daisuke Matsuzaka and James Shields gave us.
Guess again, I guess?
B.J. Upton was the hero, not only blasting a home run, one of many in the game, but also knocking in the game winning run in extra innings.
After a travel date, the bullpens should be well rested and even if they aren't, Edwin Jackson and Paul Byrd are on stand-by.
We saw Philadelphia dig into their bullpen rather early last night. The Dodgers put up a huge lead early, so Charlie Manuel really didn't have to use his better relievers in that game, but he better hope Joe Blanton has at least five or six good innings in him.
Rafael Furcal's at-bat to start the game was probably the most game-changing one believe it or not. Furcal getting on really set the tone for the Dodgers who scored five runs in the first.
Andre Ethier thrived in the two hole, hitting ahead of Manny Ramirez, in that one inning and that was all she wrote. A Ramirez single scored one, Casey Blake knocked in another, and Blake DeWitt came up with a clutch, bases clearing, three-run triple.
Of course, there was more game to be played and a benches clearing brawl to occur, but we all knew the outcome of this one.
I wonder what the double-header has in store for us.
ALCS Game Three: Tampa Bay (Garza) at Boston (Lester)
No one really knows how this series will end up playing out, so this could be Jon Lester's final start of the year or his final start until the World Series.
But Terry Francona set this series up knowing full-well that it could go seven games and I can't blame him for wanting to have his best pitcher on the mound.
Yeah, I said it—Jon Lester is his best pitcher and he is also a Ray-tamer.
Lester is 4-0 in his career seven starts against Tampa Bay. He has only faced one team more, Baltimore, but he pitches just as well against the Rays as he does the Yankees.
He is also a remarkable 11-1 record at Fenway Park this year. He carries a 2.49 ERA and really, I wouldn't want to face him in Boston. Welcome to your fate Tampa.
Opposing him is the fiery right hander, Matt Garza. Garza's track record is actually pretty good against Boston. He's won three of the six starts against the sox and has lost just once. He also sports a 3.86 ERA against Boston this year.
With Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia a combined 4-25 against Garza lifetime, the leadoff hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury, will be real crucial. Ellsbury has six hits against Garza, which is not only more than Pedroia and Youkilis combined, but it's also more than David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, and Jason Bay have combined.
Okay, so Bay and Garza haven't exactly matched up yet. Neither has Jed Lowrie, so that should be a couple of key battles to watch, given the past histories of the rest of the lineup.
Did I forget to mention, despite just two hits against Garza, Ortiz has two home runs?
That could be a significant bit of information in favor of the Red Sox.
I'm going with the Red Sox to take control of this series with a win in Game Three. The season series has been home field dependent and with probably the toughest guy on Boston's staff to beat in Fenway, it doesn't make sense for the Rays to win this one.
NLCS Game Four: Philadelphia (Blanton) @ Los Angeles (Lowe)
Derek Lowe will be making the start for the Dodgers on three days rest. Lowe pitched well against Philadelphia in the first game, but made one too many mistakes that put the Phillies ahead for good.
The decision to start Lowe on short rest is a sound one from Joe Torre. A guy like Lowe actually works better, as some will tell you, when he is tired. Theories aside, Lowe is a great candidate to start this game.
If Lowe pitches well, the Dodgers win game four and if he wants to, he can throw Lowe out there for the third game in the series, or go with Greg Maddux. Not a bad situation if I don't say so myself.
The Phillies meanwhile are so deep, that they can pitch Joe Blanton and save Cole Hamels for game five. Blanton pitched the clinching game in the NLDS and did a good job of controlling the Brewers lineup.
The Brewers were a pressing team though, hanging onto their last hope. This will be a whole new ballgame for Blanton, so don't expect seven strikeouts.
Blanton has allowed 22 base runners in his two games against Los Angeles this year. Add in the two home runs and you have a recipe for disaster. He needs to be a lot more effective this time around.
Offensively, the Phillies will need to lean on Pat Burrell, who is suddenly their most consistent hitter in the postseason. He also has a career .314 average against Lowe in 20 at-bats. Burrell also hit the home run off Lowe in the first game.
If Rafael Furcal is indeed heating up at the plate, it could be bad news for Philadelphia. With Furcal on, that makes it extremely crucial to get outs out of Ethier or whoever is in the two hole. You don't want to pitch to Manny with runners on, or else you get into a deep hole, as we saw in game three.
I think the Dodgers feel good back at home and are primed to tie this series up. Lowe should be effective as long as he keeps within himself and pitches like he has been. This will probably be closer in terms of the score than game three was, but I like the Dodgers.
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