OK, I’m writing this entry a little prematurely. The Sox are up 5-0 in the 7th, which means there’s still plenty of time for them to blow the lead, as they did 3 nights ago. But I’m gonna go with my gut and assume they win this game. So here’s what I saw:
Bucholz is quickly rounding into an excellent pitcher. I’m very proud of how he’s seized the opportunity granted to him after the All-Star Break and just ran with it. He’s turned into a clear #3 starter. He needs to work on his control a little bit, but his pitches look good. His fastball can get as high as 97 mph. His curve ball has good movement and his change-up takes enough off to make it deceptive and difficult to hit. I would trust him to start a game for us in the playoffs, even if that spot was the 7th game in a series, as the #3 pitcher is sometimes called upon to do. I’d say give him one more start to get some more experience, but don’t be afraid to go with him in the playoffs.
As for the #4 starter, I think at this point it’s a toss-up between Wakefield and Matsuzaka, and there are definite disadvantages to both pitchers. I question the ability of either pitcher to go deep into games: Wake for health reasons and Dice-K because … well … he’s Dice-K. This means extra pressure will be put on Beckett, Lester and Bucholz to go deep into games, otherwise our bullpen will get destroyed come playoff time. With Wakefield you also have to worry about who’s going to catch him. I don’t like seeing Victor Martinez anywhere but behind the plate (as I’ve said in the past, Youk at 1st, Lowell at 3rd, V-Mart at catcher is the Sox best alignment for those positions), but he has super limited experience catching Wakefield, and you can’t have passed balls in the playoffs and expect to win. Then again, Jason Varitek has a history of difficulty catching Wakefield, not to mention his giving up several passed balls in key situations this season already. Your third option is George Kottaras, but he’s not good with the rest of the staff and hasn’t learned to really hit yet. As of now, he’s too easy an out to be included on the post-season roster, especially if you want to carry an extra pitcher to account for the lack of durability of your #4 pitcher. Overall, I say go with Wakefield just because this may be his last year. I also think he still can get you more outs than Dice-K can.
Offensively, when this team has its correct lineup on the field, they can score runs with the best of them. Victor Martinez has done a great job lengthening the middle of the line-up, making a string of 4 or 5 tough outs in the middle there. And Alex Gonzalez has answered the call for a quality shortstop on our roster. He can even hit, which is a wonderful bonus for the #9 hitter. Alex Gonzalez is like getting a brownie, then discovering it’s covered in cream-cheese frosting. The Sox have made some bad pick-ups in previous years, but this year everyone has worked out pretty well. Even Bily Wagner, who so far has proven me completely wrong.