Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lester Shuts Down Phillies' Potent Offense

Apparently Jon Lester stopped by this site yesterday and got the info he needed to pitch to Ryan Howard. Howard had almost single handedly destroyed Red Sox pitching the night before, and we did not want to see a repeat of that performance. But, Howard seemed vulnerable to left handed pitchers throwing curve balls, so we devised a strategy that Lester worked to perfection en route to a Red Sox 3-0 victory.

Jon LesterRyan Howard stepped to the plate to face Lester in the first inning with a man on second and two outs. Following the game plan I outlined, Lester started him off with a curve ball to get him thinking, and followed that up with a fastball and a change up to show him some different speeds and keep him off balance. Then, two curve balls in a row, both of them in the dirt, brought the count to 3-2. Howard was thinking fastball, Lester threw change up, Howard struck out swinging. In the 4th inning, Lester fed Howard 3 curve balls and a change up to bring the count to 2-2. With a pitch to waste, Howard was surely thinking curve ball (or change up), but instead got a fastball that we swung at and missed for his second strikeout.

Ryan Howard Strikes OutHoward had one more chance to get to Lester in the 7th inning, but two straight change ups, followed by two straight curve balls resulted in another swinging strikeout. Looks like we have solved the mystery of how to pitch to Ryan for a left handed pitcher. But, what can you do if you are a right handed pitcher? Well, if you are Jonathan Papelbon, you challenge him with power versus power. Papelbon did not try any fancy tricks in the 9th to strike out Howard for a fourth time in the game, but he did need 8 pitches to get there, finally blowing a fastball past his swinging bat.

Lester was brilliant, shutting down the Phillies through 7 innings, with Hideki Okajima turning in another strong inning in the 8th, and Papelbon wrapping up the 9th for his 20th save of the year. Much different results from the night before.

Coco CrispThe offense came, once again, from Coco Crisp who belted a 2 run home run off of the crafty Jamie Moyer in the 2nd inning. Coco has been turning on the power recently with home runs in 3 games in a row! Julio Lugo drove in the 3rd Sox run in the 6th inning. Crisp had singled and stolen second base. With two outs, Lugo doubled to give the Sox an insurance run, one they would not need.

So, the series between these two powerhouses is even at one game a piece. Justin Masterson will try to win the series this afternoon for the Red Sox before a timely day off tomorrow. The Red Sox will take advantage of the day off to heal some wounds and get some rest. Kevin Youkilis is mending well from a back spasm, but will probably get today off as a precaution, and the day off tomorrow will ensure he'll be ready to return to the lineup.

Speaking of back issues, the Red Sox opted to err on the side of caution with Bartolo Colon, who strained his back swinging at a pitch on Monday. No major damage was done, but the Sox are afraid that Colon may alter his delivery to compensate for a stiff back and possibly put his recently healed shoulder at risk. So, they had opted to put Colon on the DL. This is good news for Justin Masterson, who will surely get to extend his stay with the big club while Colon rests up. To fill Colon's spot on the roster, the Red Sox called up right handed reliever, Chris Smith, from Pawtucket. Smith will add some insurance to the bullpen, but will only stick around until Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from the DL on Saturday.

But, Josh Beckett is scheduled to pitch Saturday! Well, the Sox are trying to build in a breather for Beckett. With the day off tomorrow, and Dice-K's return, the Sox are doing some juggling to get Beckett a little preemptive rest. Dice-K will take Beckett's start on Saturday, Lester will pitch Sunday on regular rest, and Beckett will get the ball on Monday against the Diamondbacks.

Got all that? The way things are going, I think we can expect more nagging injuries, more call-ups, and more role players getting a chance to contribute all through the season. The good news is that the Red Sox have a deep enough roster to make that work. So, now that the Celtics have joined the Red Sox as world champions, just sit back and enjoy some great baseball!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I plan on doing Rooster! I'm watching the pre-game show, and Gordon Edes just said that "This is the golden age of Boston Sports." We're so spoiled lol.

Do you think that Coco's brawling brought out this HR power in him? It's nice to see! Also, while I understand Dice-K taking Beckett's start on Saturday, I kind of don't understand Lester going on Sunday again before Beckett.

Baseball in the afternoon after a Celtics Championship?- I love it :)

Anonymous said...

And a 3-run homer by (who else?) JD Drew in the first?- I love that too!

Anonymous said...

OMG - Make that back-to-back homers by Drew & Lowell. What a game!

Rooster said...

Caroline, I suppose it is possible the brawl got Coco's fire started. But, Cincinnati and Philly are both home run friendly parks, that may contribute too.

Geez, Drew went 0-4 last night, but he's on fire today, a HR and a double!

Go Masterson! Get the win!

the blue state blogger said...

Go Jon! I've been pretty hard on him, but he's making a believer out of me!

Rooster said...

BlueState- It is very true. Lester has been getting very consistent and very confident. I'm impressed at his development!

Nice win today for the Sox - and a day of rest.