Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. James Shields.
There's a slight bit of controversy with the way Francona has set up the Sox rotation for their 4th ALCS in 6 years. Matsuzaka in Game 1, Beckett in 2, Lester in 3, Wakefield in 4. This means that for Jon Lester - the hottest pitcher on the planet - to have two starts, the series would have to go 7 games. My ideal rotation would have been Beckett-Lester-Matsuzaka-Byrd. But maybe Tito wanted to give Beckett an extra day of rest, didn't want to sit Matsuzaka for 9 days, and the reasoning that Byrd would be better out of the bullpen makes some sense.
Daisuke was a liability in the ALDS, going 5 innings and allowing 3 runs. In the regular season against Kansas City or Oakland, that kind of start was good enough to win. Not in October, and not against the Rays.
Daisuke has a good track record against Tampa Bay hitters. However, two have hit him very well.
Dioner Navarro - 3/18 (.167)
BJ Upton - 1/13 (.077)
Carl Crawford - 3/11 (.273)
Jason Bartlett - 1/11 (.091)
Akinori Iwamura - 9/24 (.375)
Carlos Pena - 5/16 (.313), 2 doubles, homerun, 7 walks
Daisuke made 3 starts against Tampa Bay. He went 1-0, pitched 15 innings, allowed 13 hits, 5 earned runs, walked 11, and struck out 17. The number that really bugs me is that 15 innings pitched, or 5 innings a start. All three of his starts lasted 5 innings. In two of those starts, he threw 101 pitches. In the other one, it was 102 pitches.
Matsuzaka's allowable pitch count will be high for Friday's start. Think 120 and possibly more, if he's effective. The Red Sox need him to go at least 6, and preferably 7. The Rays took advantage of the Sox bullpen throughout the season, and those opportunities need to be limited.
Against James Shields, the Red Sox have been either feast or famine.
JD Drew - 5/15 (.333), 2 doubles, homerun
Dustin Pedroia - 5/10 (.500)
David Ortiz - 7/14 (.500), 4 doubles, 2 homeruns, 1.214 slugging, PWN3D!!!1
Kevin Youkilis - 0/17 (.000)
Jason Varitek - 1/10 (.100)
Coco Crisp - 2/10 (.200)
Jacoby Ellsbury - 1/10 (.100)
David Ortiz is more important in this series than he was against Anaheim. The Sox need some power from him. Maybe facing Shields will help get him back on track.
Shields was 9-2 in Tropicana Field, with a 2.59 ERA. But he was 2-2 against the Sox with a 5.85 ERA. He threw a 2 hit shutout against the Sox in April. HOWEVER, since that complete game, he's pitched 11 innings in 3 starts against the Sox, allowing 18 hits, 4 walks (2.00 WHIP), and 13 earned runs (10.64 ERA).
The Sox have a very good chance to win this game. Shields can be touched for a few runs, and forced to leave early. I think Daisuke will go 6 innings, scattering some hits and walks, but not giving in. The bullpen will rattle some nerves, and let Tampa get close. But Papelbon will close the door. 5-3 Red Sox.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool