Previewing today's games
Of the 54 teams in major league history to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series, 19 lost Game 3 (the Phillies became the 20th last night). Of those 19, 12 held on to win the series. Given that history, the Phillies are still in excellent shape, especially considering that for the Brewers to even make it back to Philadelphia for Game 5 they'll have to survive a Suppan start today.
Suppan is a postseason veteran who posted a 3.00 ERA in nine postseason starts with the Cardinals from 2004 to '06. The most notable of those starts saw him pitch seven dominant innings in a Game 7 win over the Mets in the 2006 NLCS. That's a long time ago, however. In his last five starts of the regular season Suppan posted an 8.44 ERA and gave up seven home runs. Worse yet, the eight regulars in the Phillies' lineup have hit a combined .363/.388/.664 against him in their careers. The only positive indicator for Suppan entering today's Game 4 is that he pitched a gem against the Phils in late April, holding them to five hits and one run over seven innings. The one run in that game came on a home run by
The key matchup on the other side of the ledger pits Phillies starter Blanton against
Though the pitching matchup again suggests that the Phillies will finish off the Brewers today, there's reason to hope for the other result. If the Brewers can pull out a win today, this series will be decided in Philadelphia on Tuesday with
Of the four teams that fell behind 2-0 this year the White Sox may have the best chance of winning the series. The Pale Hose return home today, where they were a major-league-best 19 wins better than their road record, and have Danks,
Today marks the second time in the last week that Danks has taken the mound at U.S. Cellular Field needing a win to save his team's season. In Tuesday's one-game playoff against the Twins the 23-year-old turned in a star-making performance, holding Minnesota to two hits and three walks over eight shutout innings despite entering the game with a 7.91 ERA in four previous starts against Minnesota this season. Danks had far more success against the Rays this year, posting a 1.86 ERA in three starts while striking out 20 against just three walks in 19 1/3 innings.
Once again, Rays manager
The man looking to put the Sox away, Garza, is another reason why the Sox look likely to play again tomorrow. Garza's been decidedly unimpressive on the road this year, going 4-5 with a 4.53 ERA and allowing 10 more home runs than he did at the Trop. Worse yet, two thirds of the Chisox lineup (
The difference in this series thus far has been extra bases. The Sox and Rays have similar numbers of hits and strikeouts in the same number of at-bats, and both teams have just three walks, but the Rays have eight extra-base hits and three stolen bases to Chicago's three and none, giving the Rays 17 more bases by those two measures alone. The White Sox stole the second-fewest bases in the league during the regular season and aren't likely to start running now, but they also slugged 67 points higher at home than on the road, which is another reason why this series stands a decent chance of returning to Florida.
The big question mark in this game is Beckett. To this point in his career Beckett has been one of the most dominant postseason pitchers in history (6-2, 1.73 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 4.95 H/9, 10.16 K/9 and three shutouts in nine starts, including one against the Angels in Game 1 of last year's ALDS), but those numbers were compiled in the 2003 and '07 postseasons, which just happened to follow his two best regular seasons. This year Beckett was unexceptional during the regular season, as the numbers above attest. Things get worse when you look at his numbers at Fenway Park this year (5-5, 5.65 ERA) and his performance in two starts against the Angels (7.43 ERA, 20 hits in 13 1/3 innings). On top of all that, Beckett's start tonight was pushed back from Game 1 due to an oblique strain he suffered during a routine bullpen session on the final Friday of the regular season.
Beckett threw 67 pitches in a side session on Thursday, prompting pitching coach
If Beckett's still a bit gimpy, however, the Halos have hope. Third baseman
Like the other ALDS, extra bases have made the difference in this series. The Angels have just one extra-base hit to Boston's nine and no steals against Boston's three.