|ALCS Game 4|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on October 16, 2008
That’s exactly where they were last year when they faced the Cleveland Indians - and improbably they came back to win the ALCS as well as go on to win the World Series. So, in theory, the Red Sox have the Rays exactly where they want them.
Of course the Rays are not the Indians, and these Red Sox are not the Red Sox of last year. Oh and did I mention that the Rays have outscored the Red Sox 31-14 over the last three games and 31-16 in the series and that should scare the Red Sox.
If you are looking for an explanation, you can attribute half of Tampa’s success to better hitting, greater speed, and just managing to put everything together. The other half of their success can be attributed to Boson’s pitching. Aside from “Dice K” Matsuzaka, who threw a shutout in game one, the Red Sox pitching has pretty much been awful.
Injured Boston ace Josh Beckett couldn’t fill the shoes of former injured ace Curt Schilling and keep the Tampa bats silent. Nor could future ace Jon Lester, nor knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Those three starters yielded 17 runs, which means the bullpen hasn’t been much better and with game five coming up that puts a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The Japanese media will be out in force for this game, because in the history of MLB, there probably hasn’t been a game as important pitched by a Japanese star. And that adds even more pressure for Matsuzaka. That makes today the day where we really see what Matsuzaka is made of.
Matsuzaka doesn’t seem the type to crumble, but for him to succeed he’ll need pinpoint control to compensate for stuff that scouts generally regard as average to slightly above average at best. Throw away that report card. Matsuzaka is the best starter the Red Sox have and he’s a warrior, unlikely to crumble under the pressure.
The way that Tampa is swinging the lumber he’ll have to be on top of his game. The Red Sox are counting on it, after all they have history on their side, and now that they are down three games to one with the their backs to the wall, they have the Rays just where they want them.
Now if only they can convince the Rays to pretend that they are the 2007 Indians.