This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In the preview heading into the Red Sox/Rays 4 game series over the weekend, my Series Notes suggested that the Red Sox would split the set behind strong Jon Lester and John Lackey starts. Not only did Lester and Lackey struggle, they were smacked around to the tune of a combined 15 runs on 16 hits. Outscored 24-9 over 4 games, the Red Sox limp into their series against the Texas Rangers. Though the Rangers are coming off a sweep of their own at the hands of the New York Yankees, expecting an automatic series win is out of the question.
From the series with the Tampa Bay Rays:
The Good: Since Scott Atchison gave up a pair of runs in his 2 innings of work on Saturday night, the Red Sox bullpen collectively has thrown 10 and 2/3rd innings of scoreless baseball in relief over the final 20 innings of the series. Jason Varitek has shown early signs that he is thriving in his role as a backup. Playing in the Rays series was his first appearance since April 10th, and Tek responded with three hits including a homer on the series opener.
The Bad: The Rays stole early, often, and regularly against both Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez. The Rays racked up 10 stolen bases over the series to Boston’s total of zero! Coupling the stolen bases with 16 walks issued by Red Sox pitchers and 5 errors by the Red Sox defense, the Rays simply ran all over the Red Sox.
The Ugly: Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was signed during the off-season, in part, to provide some breathing room for the development of the outfield prospect Josh Reddick. For at least the next 2 weeks, it looks like Reddick will be giving Cameron breathing room to recover. After the Rays series concluded, the Red Sox announced that Mike Cameron was headed to the disabled list due to an abdominal tear and Josh Reddick will be taking his spot on the roster.
As the Red Sox prepare for the upcoming series against the Texas Rangers, they have to be expecting a reverse of fortune in the field, on the mound, and at the plate.
April 20, Colby Lewis vs. Tim Wakefield
Colby Lewis has not seen a lot of the Red Sox hitters over his 6 year career. Though, Colby Lewis hails from the same school of baseball that Red Sox pitcher Scott Atchison comes from and recently returned to the major leagues for the first time since 2007. Like Atchison, Lewis spent the last two seasons playing in Japan. In a small sample size from his earlier season, the Red Sox collectively have 6 hits in 34 at bats with 9 strikeouts. David Ortiz has the best success, homering off Lewis in 2 of his 4 at bats, the last coming in July of 2003. Perhaps Ortiz finally finds his home run stroke with the help of Colby Lewis.
Tim Wakefield, on the other hand, has quite a bit of history with a few players on the Texas Rangers. Vladimir Guerrero has 9 hits in 21 at bats against Wakefield, including 5 home runs. He has been intentionally walked 5 times, more than any other hitter who has faced the knuckleballer. Simply put, Guerrero owns Wakefield. Only Michael Young has more hits off Wakefield, though spread out over twice as many at bats as Guerrero. Young heads into the Red Sox series riding a 4 game hitting streak where 3 of those games were multi-hit games. Of the rest of the Rangers lineup, only Josh Hamilton has had much success against the Red Sox starter, with 2 hits in 6 at bats.
April 21st, Matt Harrison vs. Josh Beckett
On Wednesday, Matt Harrison faces the Red Sox for the first time since 2008, when he earned the victory for Texas in a 15-8 September game by pitching 6 innings of 4 run ball. Other than Adrian Beltre, no Red Sox hitter has faced him extensively. Beltre has 4 hits in 10 at bats including a home run, and Mike Lowell had a pair of hits in 3 at bats against the Texas starter. This might be a good opportunity to squeeze a few at bats in for Lowell.
Josh Beckett has faced many of the Rangers hitters at least a few times, and a number of them have at least a hit in a few at bats. Vladimir Guerrero has whacked 8 hits off Beckett in 31 at bats, including 2 home runs, but Beckett has struck him out 7 times as well, limiting him to a .242 average against the right hander.Though the Red Sox struggled against the Rays, Beckett pitched well in his last game out, and if last season is any indication, Beckett has trended towards righting his ship after a few rough early starts.
April 22nd, C.J. Wilson vs. Clay Buchholz
C.J. Wilson has kept the Red Sox off-balanced over the years as a relief pitcher, and 2010 marks his return to the starting rotation for the first time since his rookie year in 2005. Adrian Beltre has had some success with a home run in the few at bats against Wilson, but by and large the Sox have been fairly quiet as a lineup.
In an extreme small sample size, the Rangers collectively hit Buchholz to the tune of .364 with 12 hits in 33 at bats. Two years ago and a day, on April 21st 2008, Buchholz made his first start against the Texas Rangers and threw 6 scoreless innings in an 8-3 victory in Texas. Vladimir Guerrero has 4 hits in 9 at bats against Buchholz, and is always a threat for the long ball.
Fess Up: As noted above, and the results speak for themselves, I was wrong in the assessment that the Red Sox would split the series against the Rangers. Worse than that, both Lester and Lackey were lit up in their matchups against the Rays.
Series Prediction: The Rangers are coming off a three game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, and mainly because their starting pitching failed in spectacular fashion. Not unlike the Red Sox in the final two games of their series against the Rays. The Rangers offense has also been quiet, which means this series could turn into a series of high scoring slobberknockers if neither team’s pitching staff can right their ships. Based on Tim Wakefield’s previous years with early season success, and Josh Beckett’s relatively solid start to the season, it is likely the Boston Red Sox will take 2 of 3 from the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park.
Thanks to K.P. for the Fenway Park photo!