- Derek Lowe (4-1, 2.39 ERA/4.58 SIERA) vs. Josh Beckett (2-3, 4.45/4.03)
- Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.04/5.95) vs. Clay Buchholz (3-1, 9.09/5.15)
- Josh Tomlin (1-2, 4.67/3.61) vs. Felix Doubront (2-1, 5.29/3.91)
- Justin Masterson (1-2, 4.89/4.75) vs. Daniel Bard (2-4, 4.83/4.74)
Game one of the series will be high drama as two former teammates will match up against one another. Derek Lowe returns to the place he called home for seven seasons and became a living legend in helping the Red Sox break the curse. He’s been a revelation for the Indians in the early goings of 2012, as his 4-1 record and 2.39 ERA attest. Expectations were low for Lowe in 2012 and he has absolutely blown them out of the water.
Meanwhile, onetime ace Josh Beckett will take the mound for the Red Sox. He’s had a rough go of it the past few seasons, but on occasion he’s shown glimpses of the great hurler he once was. For Beckett it comes down to commanding the strike zone and forcing hitters into pitcher-friendly counts. Unfortunately for him, as we’ve examined in depth, the Indians are the most patient team in baseball and aren’t going to chase pitches out the strike zone. In other words, they aren’t going to make things easy for Beckett.
Game two will feature the enigma otherwise known as Ubaldo Jimenez against Boston’s Clay Buchholz. At this point I don’t really know what else there is to say about Jimenez. He’s going to walk people, he’s going to insist on throwing his splitter whether it’s working or not, and he’s going to throw a ton of pitches before the end of the fourth inning. Then again, who knows? Maybe Jimenez will surprise us with a dominating performance for a change in what might be the most high-pressure environment in all of baseball.
Buchholz, on the other hand, is a onetime stud prospect who went 17-7 just two seasons ago but now appears to be regressing before our very eyes. Despite posting a 3-1 record, he’ll come into Friday’s game boasting an ERA over 9.00 and career worsts in strikeout, walk, home run, and hit rates. We’re about 30 hours out from this game and already I think I can hear the Boston fans booing him off of the mound. What’s wrong with him? No one seems to really know, but whatever the case the Sox need him to rebound if they want turn their season around.
Game three on Saturday will allow us to marvel once again at Josh Tomlin. How he’s doing what he’s been doing this season with his arsenal of pitches is absolutely mind boggling. He’s currently striking out over seven batters while walking fewer than two and allowing under .8 homers per nine innings. Granted, his record doesn’t reflect how well he’s pitched, but anyone who’s watched him can tell he’s beginning to turn a corner in terms of both his ability and what he means to this team. I thought Justin Masterson would be the pitcher I most looked forward to seeing every five days this year, but it’s quickly becoming Tomlin.
Boston will send Felix Doubront to the mound. I will admit this right now: I had never heard of Felix Doubront up until five minutes ago. It’s nice to see what close to $150 million can buy. Anyway, Doubront is a decent pitcher but nothing spectacular. Odds are he’ll give the Red Sox five-to-six innings and keep things close before giving way to the bullpen. If nothing else, he’s been absurdly consistent for them in 2012. Call me crazy, but this might be a game where the Indians’ offense could have a field day.
The final game of the set will pit Justin Masterson against Daniel Bard. For Masterson the keys are simple: throw strikes, stay ahead in the count, and avoid walks. When Masterson looks locked in that’s exactly what he does. It’s why he’s looked so much better in his last two starts, particularly through the first four or five innings. Prior to that he was allowing walks to come back and bite him in the…well you get the point. Masterson needs to make the Red Sox work for their baserunners.
As for Daniel Bard, the setup man-turned-starter has made a decent transition to the starting rotation. Many doubted whether or not he could be successful as a starter and while the results have been mixed so far, Bard has shown glimpses of what could be. Unfortunately, his promotion to the starting rotation has created an enormous hole in the Red Sox bullpen that they have struggled to fill. So the question remains: Should Bard remain a starter or does he hold more value as a late inning reliever?