Sunday, October 12, 2008

2008 ALCS after game 2

When Terry Francona set his ALCS rotation against the Rays, his logic was that the starters for games 1-3 would also start games 5-7. With last night’s extra-inning loss, Dice-K is now guaranteed for game 5, which would be the final series game at Fenway Park. The problem now is Josh Beckett. What we saw last night is that, for whatever reason, Beckett is not quite right. Either he’s still hurt or just isn’t sharp. Whichever it is, unless Boston sweeps the next three games, we’re looking at Beckett starting game 6, back at Tropicana Field next Saturday. It’s also entirely possible that the season will be on the line.

Dilemma #1: Do you want last night’s version of Josh Beckett starting that do-or-die game? If he was vintage 2007 Beckett, hell yeah. If it’s the Josh Beckett we’ve seen recently, not so much. The alternative would be to put Paul Byrd on the hill, which might conceivably be no better, and possibly much worse.

Dilemma #2: In the postseason, David Ortiz has 4 hits, no homers and 1 RBI in 23 at bats. He’s 0 for the ALCS. Jason Varitek is hitting .143 in the postseason. Jacoby Ellsbury is .207 in the same time period, with an on base percentage of .258. This is when you expect to face superior pitching, and although Pedroia, Youkilis and Bay are doing their part, the rest of the team has been handcuffed. What options do hitting coach Dave Magadan and manager Terry Francona have at their disposal? Not many. At this point, the lineup is set, and replacing Ortiz, ‘Tek and Ellsbury in the batting order with Sean Casey, Kevin Cash and Coco Crisp won’t improve the offense.

It’s still all about pitching, so seeing Jon Lester taking the mound for game 4 is hugely reassuring for Red Sox faithful. His tendency to get his team into the late innings will help take some pressure off the bullpen, and (I sincerely hope) keep Mike Timlin off the mound in important situations.

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