After the thrilling sweep of the Angels that announced that the Red Sox’s pitching staff is indeed legit and that the offense was just slumbering before, the Sox now have a great opportunity in front of them to do some serious damage to the hopes of the other AL East teams playoff chances. From now until the end of April, 13 games total, the Red Sox play intradivision rivals.
The Red Sox head to Toronto now for a three-game set against the Blue Jays (Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Tavarez go) and then return home to host the Yankees (Schilling, Beckett and Matsuzaka get the nod) and then the Blue Jays join us for a two-game set. After that, we jet off for two games in Baltimore, then a three-game tango in the Bronx.
At the end of this 13-game dance, the Red Sox may have a comfortable lead in the division.
Consider for a moment that the Blue Jays are missing their starting left-fielder, closer and third-baseman. Reed Johnson hit .319/390/.479 last year and was primed at the age of 30 to finally get over 500 at-bats for the second time in his career, first since 2004. That’s changed, as he’s out until at least July.
Also changing is the removal of closer B.J. Ryan, who Mike Lowell likened to Jonathan Papelbon. There is no refuting the fact that Ryan is an elite closer, and losing Ryan for 4-6 weeks and possibly the season if Tommy John surgery is indeed needed.
Power-hitting third baseman Troy Glaus, who hammered 38 HR in his return to the AL last year, was off to a rousing start before being detained by a sore heel that he has already been sidelined a week with.
The Blue Jays are missing a middle of the order threat, a tablesetter, and a closer. That’s like the Red Sox losing Julio Lugo, Papelbon and Manny Ramirez. The Blue Jays are an excellent club, and this may derail their season, which is a shame because they’ve made tremendous strides as of late. However, if the Red Sox can jump on this and capitalize, it would be one less team to worry about in September. Pennants may not be won in April, but they can certainly be lost.
The Yankees don’t have starting left-fielder Hideki Matsui and they’ve lost starters Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina. That doesn’t even factor in Jeff Karstens, who was supposed to open the year in the rotation or bullpen, but is on the DL. Heralded starter/future reliever Humberto Sanchez is on the DL.
This means that the Yankees are slated to pitch Andy Pettitte in the opener and end the series with Double-A 24-year old lefty Chase Wright getting the call. Wright is making his major league debut today against the Cleveland Indians. Last year, as a 23-year old, he pitched in High-A ball with a minuscule 1.88 ERA in 37 games, 12 of them starts, logging 119.2 IP. The year previous, he was in mid-A ball and logged a 3.75 ERA in 144.0 IP. The year before, as a 21-year old in mid-A ball, he had a 5.44 ERA. Quite a turnaround of events in three years!
Wright leads the AA Eastern League with 19 strikeouts in 14 innings, so he’s been having some success. Pending Pinstripes has this to say: “He