Previewing today's game
Game 2 of the NLCS shapes up a lot like Game 1, only this time it's the Dodgers sending out the dominant young ace and the Phillies trying to keep things close with a veteran on a hot streak. The only significant difference between Chad Billingsley and the other two 24-year-old aces making names for themselves in this postseason is that
Billingsley's weakness is occasional wildness. He led the Dodgers in wild pitches, hit batsmen, and walks this year, handing out 80 free passes, which translated to 3.59 walks per nine innings (though that rate shrank to 3.39 BB/9 in those final 28 starts). That's hardly an alarming walk rate, but it's worth keeping an eye on. It's also informative to note that Billingsley's almost twice as likely to walk a lefty than he is a right-hander. That matters because of the patience of Phillies lefties
Myers was given a brief minor league assignment in early July to adjust his mechanics, including keeping his front side from flying open. After returning to the majors, he reeled off 11 starts over which he went 7-2 with a 1.80 ERA and just four home runs allowed, holding opposing hitters to a .216/.266/.308 line. Myers' final two starts of the regular season were duds, but he turned in a strong performance in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Brewers. Myers got into a first-inning jam in that game, but escaped after allowing just one run to score. He then retired 15 of the next 16 Brewers he faced before allowing another lone run in the seventh on a double and a pair of productive outs. Myers faced the Dodgers twice in August, holding them to three runs on 14 hits in 14 innings while striking out 16. In 24 career confrontations with
The latter of Myers' two August starts against the Dodgers took place in Philadelphia with Billingsley starting for the L.A., the exact scenario we have for this afternoon's game. Billingsley walked five Phillies in that contest, but two of them were two-out intentional passes to Utley and were followed by inning-ending fly-outs by Burrell. Myers scattered eight singles, a double, and three walks across seven scoreless innings while striking out eight, while Billingsley allowed three runs on seven hits over six frames.
The Rays and Red Sox have already met 18 times this year, with the Rays winning ten of those games. As a result, there are no secrets between these two teams, nor much love lost. Shields has already faced Boston four times this year alone. In two starts at Fenway Park, Shields was beaten severely, and almost literally, allowing 11 runs on 13 hits in just 4 2/3 innings spread over two starts, the latter of which ended after the first batter of the second inning when Shields plunked Coco Crisp, igniting a brawl and earning an ejection and a six-day suspension. That brawl was the culmination of tensions that had been building in that three-game series (which the Sox swept), starting in the first game when three batters (two Sox, one Ray) were hit by pitches, and continuing the next night when Crisp slid hard into Rays second baseman
Shields' starts against Boston in Tampa were a very different story. Shields won both, holding the Sox to two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks over 15 1/3 innings while striking out 12. The first of those two was a two-hit shutout. That home-road split is an extreme example of Shields' tendencies over the season, as he posted an ERA more than two runs lower at home than on the road. If you take out those two Boston starts, Shields' road ERA drops nearly a run to 3.96, but that's still almost 1.4 runs higher than his home mark.
Overall, Shields went 9-2 at the Trop, with a 2.59 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, a 4.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and allowed just nine home runs in 17 starts. He made his first career postseason start in Game 1 of the ALDS at home against the White Sox. Though Shields gave up three runs in that game, they were the product of just one bad inning and one good swing by
Matsuzaka faced the Rays three times this season, each of them typical Matsuzaka outings. In each of his three starts against Tampa Bay, Matsuzaka lasted just five innings, but threw more than one hundred pitches. In those 15 innings combined, he put 13 men on base via a walk or hit-by-pitch. Two of those starts resulted in no decisions lost by the Red Sox. The last saw Matsuzaka get the win thanks to the 13 runs scored by his offense. Matsuzaka's Game 2 ALDS start against the Angels was more of the same: five innings, 108 pitches, three walks, and a no decision.
Matsuzaka, whose innings total this year was the lowest in major league history for a starting pitcher who won 18 or more games, has a habit of foisting things off on his bullpen and his offense. Shields should be able to keep Boston's lineup in check (worth noting:
The Red Sox wrapped up the ALDS against the Angels with three games that were decided in the victor's last at-bat, two of which saw the Boston 'pen blow an inherited lead only to be picked up by the offense, and one of which, the 12-inning Game 3, saw the pen take the loss (though only after contributing six scoreless innings). Righties