Boston Red Sox-Philadelphia Phillies a World Series Preview? 5 Things We Learned
Philadelphia dominated the first two games behind strong starts from Cliff Lee and Vance Worley, while Jon Lester shut down the Phillies in the third game for Boston's only win of the series.
So what have we learned? Are these really the two best teams in baseball, or just two of the best right now?
Let's take a look.
1. Phillies Don't Need Roy Oswalt
The greatest rotation ever put on paper suffered a big blow when back problems sidelined right-hander Roy Oswalt, perhaps for the rest of his career.
The Phillies also recently placed No. 5 starter Joe Blanton on the disabled list, leaving them with just 60 percent of the rotation intact. But just because Oswalt and Blanton are gone doesn't mean that this isn't still the best rotation in baseball.
Vance Worley, 23, has been terrific in seven starts with a 2.57 ERA in 42 innings. He absolutely dominated a potent Red Sox lineup by throwing seven innings and only giving up five hits and one run while striking out five.
Kyle Kendrick, 26, has filled in at the other spot and has also pitched well with a 3.91 ERA in five starts, although he may be more valuable as a bullpen piece.
Come October, the Phillies only need their top three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to be healthy with a spot-start here and there from either Worley, Kendrick or Blanton (if he returns). That's still good enough to go up against any staff in baseball, so don't expect the Phillies to panic and acquire a starter.
They have plenty already.
2. Josh Reddick Is Ready for the Show
Right field has been an absolute disaster for the Red Sox this season, but manager Terry Francona may have finally found the solution in Josh Reddick.
The 24-year-old outfielder is batting .444/.476/.722 in 14 games this season and has an extra-base hit for every six at-bats. Reddick crushed Phillies pitching with four hits in two games and he already has five multi-hit games this season. More impressively, the free-swinging Reddick has just as many walks (four) as strikeouts.
The Red Sox typically don't like putting young players in full-time roles, but Reddick has been so much better than the JD Drew/Darnell McDonald platoon that it's hard to ignore him.
GM Theo Epstein was prepared to make a deal to get an upgrade in right field, but if Reddick keeps hitting like this, the Red Sox will be able to hold onto their prospects and just ride his hot streak.
3. Phillies Need a Right-Handed Bat
At first glance, the Phillies lineup doesn't appear to be that heavy on lefties.
Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz are both right-handed while Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins are both switch-hitters, so that's half the regular lineup. However, off the bench the only right-handed bats are Ben Francisco, John Mayberry and Wilson Valdez.
The Phillies couldn't muster anything off of lefty Jon Lester in the last game of the series, and they've struggled against lefties all season.
As a team they are hitting .236/.310/.347 against left-handed pitchers, with a .235/.312/.344 line against left-handed starters. The Phillies' right-handed bats, in general, are hitting just .240/.316/.334.
That's not going to get it done, especially with so many great lefty starters and specialists likely to face the Phillies in the playoffs.
The Phillies have been linked to Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer, any of whom would provide a big boost from the right side. However, the cash-strapped Phillies may not have enough cash (or prospects) to get a deal done.
4. Red Sox Can't Play in National League Parks
The Red Sox have lost four of the six games they've played in National League parks this year, and it's easy to see why.
In those four losses, the best offensive team in baseball combined for a paltry six runs. True, they were facing some pretty good pitching and were playing without Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie, both of whom remain on the disabled list. However, the bat they missed the most is, without a doubt, David Ortiz's.
The slugger is having a monster season with a .305/.385/.571 line with 17 home runs and 20 doubles. Even at 35, he's still one of the most feared hitters in baseball and is a central part of the Red Sox offense.
Of course, he can't play during interleague games because Adrian Gonzalez occupies first base, leaving Francona with no choice but to take Ortiz out of the lineup. The Red Sox did start Gonzalez in right field in the final game of the series just to get Ortiz into the game, but don't expect that to happen again.
There's no real solution for this problem other than for the other bats in the Boston lineup to step up. However, if the Red Sox and Phillies do indeed meet in the World Series, then Boston better have home-field advantage if they want a good chance at taking home the trophy.
5. Pitching Really Does Win
In hockey, winning a Stanley Cup is all about the play of the goalie. In football and basketball, there wouldn't be any championship parades without standout defense. But in baseball, the key always has been and always will be pitching.
The Phillies and Red Sox have perhaps the two best pitching staffs in baseball (you could argue Boston's side), and they were on full display in this series.
Both Lee and Lester were untouchable in their starts, and not surprisingly their respective teams won those games. Worley and John Lackey dueled for over seven brilliant innings before a late Raul Ibanez home run tilted the game in the Phillies' favor.
The fact that the Phillies rotation is better would appear to give them the edge in any potential matchup between these two teams, but big names on paper don't necessarily always translate to zeroes on the scoreboard, especially in the playoffs.
Josh Beckett is one of the best postseason pitchers in MLB history and John Lackey and Jon Lester aren't very far behind him. On the other hand, Roy Halladay threw that no-hitter last year and Cliff Lee was terrific for the Rangers before they fell to the Giants in the World Series.
Just imagine what could happen over a seven-game series on the world's biggest stage.