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How the Red Sox Can Win

If you'd told Red Sox fans a week ago their team would be facing elimination in Game 5 at home, they'd probably have said you were crazy. Turns out you weren't, because Boston's inability to hit with runners on base and a staggering onslaught of Tampa Bay offense, particularly at Fenway Park, has the Red Sox a single loss from a long offseason.

So what do the Sawx have to do to stay alive tonight? It's not hard to figure out:

1) Have Daisuke Matsuzaka throw an efficient, long outing: Another effort like the one the Japanese ace authored in Tampa Bay on Friday would set Boston up for a very manageable number of runs scored to win. Matsuzaka can be infuriating for fans because of his penchant for walks, but he has a knack for wriggling out of the jams he creates for himself. In fact, a big part of the reason Boston blew away all other bids for his services in 2006 was because of his competitiveness under fire. Well, now would be a good time to tap into it.

2) Hit someone!: Game 5 starter Scott Kazmir would be a good place for the Red Sox to begin resurrecting their offense, and there's no time like the present. Sure, Kazmir is traditionally considered the Rays' ace, but he's been surprisingly susceptible to Boston's bats in his last two outings against the Red Sox, both in the teams' final series of the regular season and in Game 2. Interestingly, both of those matchups were in St. Petersburg, and Kazmir has fared pretty well at Fenway in his career (4-4, 3.02 ERA in 11 starts). Boston needs to get to Kazmir and get to him early, scoring off him before the Rays have a chance to summon their formidable -- and deep -- bullpen.

3) Relieve some of the pressure early: The last two games at Fenway have sounded like a catacomb, with fans staring at Rays routs in stunned silence. If Boston can jump to an early lead, they can remind their fans that they've done this whole "comeback from 3-1 down" thing before and are capable of pulling off the feat again.

4) Give the Rays something to think about: After all, that's what Boston can achieve tonight. By staying alive for another day, forcing the series to re-locate back to Florida, these Red Sox can tap into the mystique forged by the 2004 and 2007 Sox squads before them. That may not be enough to set up a psychological advantage at Tropicana Field, but it would slow the Rays' steady surge and ebullient confidence that's been pouring onto the Fenway turf this week.

Can Boston pull off all four of those goals? Sure. Will they? We'll all have to stay tuned to find out. If they don't, months of difficult transitional questions lie ahead.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 16, 2008; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  Rays , Red Sox  
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Next: Lineups, Forecast From Fenway


I'll move this up to this entry because I think this graphic is pretty cool
comparing Kazmir and Dice-K performances and the opposing hitters stats vs. each of them.

Dice-K has been mostly effective this year v. Rays, except one start in July. Not in the graphic but Dice-K is a better road pitcher than home this year, with a home ERA still just 3.34. Second half he averaged about 1 fewer walk + hit per game than first half. His 2d half ERA ERA "climbed" to 3.18. Averaged 6+ innings per start 2d half, 6 1/3 if you throw out his last short tune up.

Overall, Kazmir's season got worse as it went along. Pre All Star - ERA 3.04, WHIP 1.17, post All Star - ERA 4.02, WHIP 1.39. Breaking it down a little further, May - June combined ERA of 2.28, July -August combined ERA of 4.10, September over 5.19 (using ESPN's split tables).

Posted by: PTBNL | October 16, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

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