While some are dubbing this Red Sox vs. Phillies series as a World Series preview, we need to see a little more consistency first. The Sox are 2-4 in their last two series against two not-so-scary teams and the rotation is starting to unravel a bit. As it stands, the Sox are in second place, a half-game behind the Yankees with the Rays coming on strong having won eight of their last ten games.
This series is what it is, another series in which the Sox need to win more games than they lose. Can they do it?
Josh Beckett will oppose Cliff Lee tonight, having not pitched since June 15th due to neck stiffness and an illness. Beckett is in the midst of a terrific season, but I’m just a little worried that he’ll not be as sharp as possible due to the layoff. He’ll have to be sharp given that the chances of the Sox doing damage to Cliff Lee seem slim. Lee has only allowed one earned run in his last four starts. Then again, Lee has a 4.06 career ERA against the Red Sox. This game might be the most important one of the series, as Wednesday’s match-up doesn’t favor the Sox.
Why doesn’t Wednesday’s match-up favor the Sox you ask? Because John Lackey is pitching, that’s why. Lackey has allowed 16 earned runs in 23 innings since coming off the DL (5.87 ERA). Facing Lackey will be Vance Worley, who has a 2.83 ERA through 35 innings of spot starts. However, his ERA may be a bit misleading given his 1.6 K/BB rate and four walks per nine innings. A good chunk of his success has come against struggling offensive clubs, so there is a good chance that the Sox put up some runs against him. If Lackey can at least keep the Sox in the game, there’s a good chance that they can come out winners in this one.
Jon Lester is scheduled to go head-to-head, lefty-on-lefty with Cole Hamels in the final game of the series. In his last two starts, both against national league teams, Lester allowed 15 hits in 14 innings. The good news is that the meat of the Phillies offense happens to be left-handed and lefties are only hitting .218 against Lester this season with a 3.8 K/BB rate. Then again, the Red Sox have some important bats that happen to be left-handed as well. Hamels has a 7.3 K/BB rate against left-handed hitters. Even though David Ortiz has fared much better against lefties this season, these two lefties are two of the best in the bigs. That should be enough to keep him on the bench and available for a pinch-hit situation in the late innings. I personally just can’t bare the thought of Adrian Gonzalez floundering around in the outfield, so hopefully that’s a situation that can be avoided.
This is going to be a fun series to watch and these are important games for the Sox to win, just as all their games are. While this could actually end up being a World Series preview as far as the two teams are concerned, I have a feeling that both rosters will look a bit different come October.
The Phillies look like they might try to add some pitching depth, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. They also might look to add an outfielder should Raul Ibanez continue to struggle as he has for most of the year. The Sox have some tough decisions to make too. What should they do about the situation in right field? Do they try and add a starter and or bullpen depth? Time will answer those questions, but for the time being the Sox just want to keep from losing their third straight series.