Well, they’re not playing particularly well, that’s for sure. The Red Sox lost for the 5th straight time last night, and for the second night in a row the problem lay with starting pitching. While Michael Bowden won’t be on the postseason roster, so his start doesn’t really matter, Clay Bucholz most certainly will. In fact, he will probably start game 3 of the ALDS. This does not bode well for us if he pitches like he did last night.
Bucholz started incredibly slowly last night, giving up 4 earned runs in his very first inning of work. This put the Red Sox in an immediate hole from which it was difficult to climb out of. In fact, it took until the 8th inning for them to get back into it at all, putting up 5 runs and clawing their way back into the game. Alas, even though they loaded the bases in the 9th, Youkilis struck out looking and the Red Sox lost once again.
Clay Bucholz is a young pitcher, and that means he is prone to inconsistency. He started off strong, faltered for a few starts, then was excellent. This, though, was a very poor start from him. If it’s just a one-off bad start, ok. But if he’s about to enter a slump, we’re in trouble. The 3rd pitcher in a postseason roster often pitches game 7 of a 7-game series. And frankly, I’m not yet confident in Bucholz’s ability to rise to the occasion were he to be called upon. He can pitch well, but he isn’t Jon Lester or Josh Beckett yet, and that worries me.
Offensively, I think the Red Sox are just about ready for the playoffs. No one is mired in a prolonged slump except for Varitek, and I’ve gone on the record multiple times as having said that Varitek should be played as little as possible this postseason. I know he was great for a long time, but Victor Martinez is just a better hitter and we need him, Youk and Lowell all in the game to put our best offensive lineup out there. A middle of the lineup that contains Martinez, Youkilis, Ortiz (who is looking great these days), Lowell, Bay and Drew is as dangerous as there is. Add to it the speed of Ellsbury and the competent hitting of Gonzalez and Pedroia (sorry Nick Green, but you’re done) and you have as good a lineup as there is in baseball: well rounded, fast, and strong.
And that’s why I think this team will survive the Angels. They have a stronger 1-2 punch in starting pitchers Beckett and Lester than the Angels do, and their lineup is just as strong. They don’t run the bases as well, but they make up for it in power and hitting ability. I think they can out-slug the Angels, which will make all of their running ability null and void.
As for the Yankees, I’m not so sure. The Yankees lineup is more powerful, and their 1-2 punch of Sabathia and Burnett is as strong as Beckett and Lester. We’ll have to see who can knock out whose starting pitcher first. But I think we’re looking at a rematch of the 2004 ALCS. I can’t wait.