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Unexpected Relief

As the trading deadline approached during the 2007 season, the Red Sox were interested in acquiring power-hitting outfielder Jermaine Dye from the White Sox. Chicago wanted a pitching prospect named Justin Masterson in return, and the Red Sox balked at the move.

Boston won the World Series anyway, and if it is able to beat Tampa Bay tonight in Game 7 of the ALCS, it will return to the Fall Classic largely because of Masterson.

The tall, bald sling-shot throwing 23-year-old has made nine appearances this postseason, the most for any pitcher on the Red Sox' staff. He has a 1-0 record with a 1.96 ERA, and although his innings have hardly been clean ones (he's allowed 10 hits and five walks in the playoffs), he has gained the implicit trust of Manager Terry Francona.

In fact, it can be argued that Masterson -- who began his major league career this year as a spot starter -- has pitched the two most important innings of the Red Sox' season. After Boston rallied from a 7-0 deficit to the tie game in the eighth inning in Thursday night's Game 5, he was called upon to pitch the ninth. Predictably, two of the first three batters reached base and after going to 1-0 on Carlos Pena, Masterson induced a 4-6-3 double play ball with his sinker.

Then in last night's Game 6, with Boston nursing a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning, Masterson hit No. 9 hitter Jason Bartlett on a 3-2 pitch and went 2-0 on leadoff hitter Akinori Iwamura. After a visit from pitching coach John Farrell, Masterson retired Iwamura, B.J. Upton and Pena on nine pitches.

Impressive.

By Tom Heleba  |  October 19, 2008; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

Which starter would you throw against Boston?

A: Regular season - 4 GS, 22 innings, 1-1, 4.50 ERA, WHIP around 1.2 (including one 9/08 start 4.2 innings, 3 ER, 2 HR);

B: Regular season - 2 GS, 13 innings, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, WHIP around 1.4 (both starts in September.

Both have started 2 games in the postseason. B's ERA is a run better than A's in his two starts. B has thrown 2 good starts in the postseason, but A had the slightly better start v. Boston.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 19, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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