On Wednesday, Maddon explained his rationale, underscoring that his staff had even before the ALCS began considered starting Kazmir in Game 5, if the proper cards fell into place. (Due to off-days on Sunday and Wednesday, Kazmir will be pitching on his regular four days' rest). "We like the fact that he's pitching with an open day following, [giving us] the ability to utilize the entire bullpen," he said in reference to Kazmir's propensity for throwing a lot of pitches early in games -- he hasn't reached the seventh inning since July -- and the resulting likelihood that Maddon will need to call on his bullpen early and often.
"We also like the idea of him pitching here, and we like the idea of Shields being able to pitch at home, if necessary," Maddon added. Kazmir had a 4.50 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox at Fenway this season, and a 14.63 ERA in two starts against them in St. Petersburg. Shields, meanwhile, yielded a combined 11 earned runs in just 4.2 innings in two Fenway starts in `08, but allowed two earned runs over 15.1 regular season innings against the Sox at home. He continued the trend in Game 1, as Boston mustered two runs and six hits in 7.1 innings, even though they ended up with their only victory of the ALCS thus far.
There are other factors at play here -- not least of which is Kazmir's history with the umpire who is scheduled to be behind home plate in Game 6,
Maddon denied on Wednesday that he had based his decision to swap Kazmir and Shields' spots in the rotation based on the umpiring personnel. "That was just coincidence ... it had nothing to do with it," he said. Maddon has proven himself to be the straightest of shooters, and we should take him at his word here, even though the thought that at the least Kazmir might have tightened up with Cousins behind the plate and tried to be "too perfect," as they say, must have crossed his mind.
Whatever the case, Maddon will now counter Boston's hottest pitcher, Matsuzaka, with a starter in Kazmir who's anything but a sacrificial lamb -- he was, after all, an All-Star this year, and despite his recent struggles he has the ability to be as dominant as any pitcher in baseball -- and if that doesn't work out, he'll then have his finest clutch pitcher, "Big Game" James Shields, throwing in the place in which he feels the most comfortable against the struggling