Friday night, Game 2 (also in Anaheim) will see clutch playoff-tested co-ace and 17-game winner Josh Beckett go up against the younger but impressive 16-game winner Jered Weaver. Beckett will be looking to atone for a lousy 2008 postseason that saw him post an ugly 8.79 ERA in three starts, including ALDS Game 3 against Anaheim in which he allowed four earned runs over five innings.
This year’s ALDS Game 3, at Fenway Park on Sunday will see youngster Clay Buchholz make his playoff debut and will face Angels lefty Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has a mediocre 4.89 ERA for 2009 but since coming over in a trade from the Rays, in six starts, his ERA is 1.73 and owns a 2-2 record.
Buchholz, on the other hand had two lousy starts (13 earned runs) at Fenway to close the regular season last week against Toronto and Cleveland but has allowed three earned runs or less in 12 of his 16 starts, all of it coming post-All-Star break. Thus, he deserved this start over Dice-K, who has been solid in his return from the DL but hasn’t pitched long enough to earn it. That said, Kazmir has a definite advantage over Buchholz in league and playoff experience.
Pitching match-ups for Game 4 Monday in Boston haven’t been finalized yet but the Angels will start another lefty Joe Saunders (16-7, 4.60 ERA), while the Sox could start Lester again just as they did last year. Or less likely, Sox manager Terry Francona will take a chance on Dice-K (4-6, 5.76 ERA), even though he pitched six impressive scoreless innings against these Angels September 15. Saunders has had the fortune of a good offense score behind him but if it’s Lester he’s up against, as I think it will be (just like the ’08 ALDS), a betting man (which I’m not) would smartly pick him and the Sox in this game.
Red Sox Health And Roster Moves
The core of the Red Sox are much healthier going into the 2009 ALDS than they were at this time last year. Josh Beckett (17-6, 3.88 ERA), who in 2008 struggled and missed time due to back and elbow issues has been durable for much of 2009, as he made 32 starts, struck out a career-high 199 batters and pitched a career-high 212 innings. He had some mild back pain recently but got a cortisone shot to take care of that and is by all accounts healthy.