This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The Boston Red Sox head into Baltimore hoping to build upon their resurgence. Since being swept in a four game set by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox have won 7 of their last 9 games including a 3 game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Too Close For Comfort
Over the last 9 games, every Red Sox game has been decided by 3 runs or less. All 7 Red Sox victories were decided by 2 runs or less, including the 12 inning, 8-7 victory over the Texas Rangers last Wednesday. While all of the pre-season reports on the Red Sox emphasis on pitching and defense, it’s slightly alarming that the team has matched up so well with the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles while struggling to contain the offensive juggernauts of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
This concern may be unfounded, as it appears Jon Lester has rebounded from his annual April slump to start the season. Over his career in April his record is 3-6 with an ERA of 4.76 in April, easily the worst of the entire season. Coupled with Clay Buchholz’s strong season to date, and the feeling that John Lackey and Josh Beckett will rise to the occasion, the latest surge by the Red Sox might be an indication of what we should expect here on out.
Dice-K In, Wakefield To The ‘Pen
Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his 2010 debut on Saturday after making several rehab starts with the Pawtucket Red Sox. His spot in the rotation bumps Tim Wakefield to the bullpen, which he hasn’t worked out of since 2004 and not regularly since 2002. The guess here is Wakefield will stay on a similar schedule for pitching as Dice-K does for his rotation spot, in the event he struggles at all. Considering Wakefield’s previous back injuries, his age, and his general dislike of working out of the ‘pen, the Red Sox may use him in the long-man role. Since the new ownership took over in 2002, the Red Sox have not employed a long-man in a set up role. Basically, this is unchartered territory for the team since they don’t regularly have relief pitchers throw more than 2 innings on a regular basis.
The 5th spot in the rotation may be a revolving door, depending on unforeseen injuries, and right now Daisuke Matsuzaka is walking through that door.
The Boston Red Sox may sweep the Baltimore Orioles this weekend, or at the very least take 2 of 3. A strong performance from the starters is key, but there is also the concern for the slumping bat of David Ortiz. Already limited to platooning against right handed pitching, if he contonies to struggle, the questions will get louder about whether or not Big Papi will regain the power that he discovered in June of last season.
Every series is important, but the Red Sox should also tune up this weekend in preparation for the next two series when they host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees.