Previewing today's ALCS game
Sonnanstine made a great leap forward this year, shaving nearly a run and a half off his rookie year ERA from 2007 with the help of the Rays' vastly improved defense and a reduced home run rate. He's also the only starter that the Rays will throw in this series who wasn't significantly better at Tropicana Field than on the road. That is best and most applicably exemplified by his two starts against the Red Sox --both of which came in September -- one at home, one at Fenway Park. In the two starts combined, the 25-year-old right-hander allowed just two runs, both unearned, while striking out 12 in 13 innings. The better of those two starts (7 IP, 7 K, 0 BB) was the one in Fenway.
Opposing Sonnanstine will be 42-year-old knuckleballer Wakefield, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 28, when he tossed five shutout innings at home against a Yankees lineup populated by minor league call-ups. The right-handed Wakefield is a postseason veteran who would have been the MVP of the 2003 ALCS had he not given up the series-ending home run to
Things don't get much better for Wakefield when you look at his 5.87 ERA in three starts against the Rays this year, all of which took place in Florida. That number was inflated by his last start against Tampa Bay on Sept. 17, when the Rays roughed up Wakefield for six runs in 2 1/3 innings, connecting for three home runs (
Of course with the way the Rays have been stinging the ball in the last two games it may not matter who's pitching or where. After being shut out in Game 1 Tampa Bay scored 18 runs and launched seven home runs in Games 2 and 3 combined, hitting .307/.356/.617 as a team. Despite all that offense the Rays have still scored off only four Boston pitchers in this series: