Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Toronto the Red Sox' Achilles Heel?

It often seems that, no matter how good your team may be, there is a team out there that you just can't beat. That team may not even be having a very good season. For Boston a few years back, that team was the Baltimore Orioles. For the Yankees, they have had struggles with the Angels and even the Devil Rays over the past few years. This year, it seems to be the Blue Jays who own the Red Sox. That is not good news. Why? Because the Sox, who have a 2-6 record against them so far, face the Blue Jays 10 more times right in the middle of this year's playoff run, starting with 3 games in Toronto later this week.

To make things worse, the Red Sox were the only team in the AL East to lose yesterday. While the Blue Jays pounded the Sox 15-4, the Yankees were busy roughing up the Royals 15-6 and the Orioles battered the Tigers 16-8. The Rays won over the Rangers, even though they could only muster a paltry 7 runs. So, yes, the Sox dropped a game to everyone yesterday. Before you relax, I haven't gotten to the wild card race yet. Yes, BOTH the White Sox and the Twins won their games yesterday. So, every team that mattered won on a day the Sox got clobbered!

Josh BeckettNow, how could this happen with Josh Beckett on the mound? Good question. Beckett only lasted 2 1/3 innings, giving up 8 earned runs on 8 hits. Yes, the relief pitchers who came in after Beckett also had forgettable afternoons. Of the 6 pitchers used, only the last one (Jonathan Papelbon) escaped without surrendering a run. But, that dis not really matter, the 8 runs Beckett gave up were more than enough to ensure the victory for Toronto. The rest of the runs were just stat padding.

What worries me when a true ace pitcher, like Beckett, has such a terrible day, is the possibility of injury. When Roger Clemens was a regular on the Fenway mound, I remember more than a couple of times when he'd have a seemingly inexplicably bad game, only to hear a day or two later he was hurt and skipping a start, or going on the DL. Generally, an ace like Beckett does not get quite as roughed up unless there is a problem. However, I do have my fingers crossed (fingers with no blister issues), that it was simply a bad day for Josh. Perhaps he did not get enough sleep, was fighting a cold, or just had a little stiff back. This is certainly not the time of year we want to see Beckett need to get any time off.

So, the Sox will head down to Baltimore for three games, and look to their 2008 saviour, Jon Lester, to right the ship. That won't be easy, as the Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound to face Lester. Guthrie is in the middle of an incredible run for a pitcher. He is 10-8 with a 3.18 ERA, but he has won 7 of his last 8 decisions, and leads the AL with 18 quality starts. If everything goes as expected for these two pitchers, we should see a low scoring pitchers battle with both starters lasting deep into the ball game. Don't be surprised if this one comes down to a 9th inning score to settle things.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Fenway West said...

I'm not worried about Beckett, he'll be fine. You were right about the Sox missing Texas!

Rooster said...

As long as there is no physical injury, Beckett will do fine, I agree. I hope that's the case. Only he knows for sure.

Little worried about not playing well on the road, and possibly losing more ground before September hits.

the blue state blogger said...

Well, Beckett this year has not been the Beckett of last year, despite some very fine performances. He has just not been consistent, and has looked more like the '06 Beckett than the '07 Beckett.

Which makes me think it's regression, not injury. He's looked like this before and been perfectly fine.

Rooster said...

That's exactly what I'm hoping, BSB. I always look for a physical issue when a good player pitches so poorly, and hope it is just a bad day.

Seemed to me that in '06 they had him change his pitch selection and approach to try and ensure his blister issues would not recur. Then, last year they stopped doign that and let him go more back to what he was used to. He pitched a lot better, but did have a blister issue or two that did not keep him out long.

Wonder if that is something? Maybe staying away from certain pitches to make sure he's ready for October?

But, it could always just be a bad day.

Soxlosophy said...

the jays were well out ahead of 97 mph fastballs; they were looking for them. beckett's pretty predictable, and maybe he was too strong with an extra day of rest, throwing a little harder with less movement, making them pretty hittable, despite the velocity.

Rooster said...


Well, looks like it was more than just being too strong. Numb fingers would certainly affect his ability to locate precisely.

Hope the numbness is not a symptom of a bigger problem! Probably just needs a chiroprator visit.