If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? What's the sound of one hand clapping? When a team scores a lot of runs, is that the result of good hitting or bad pitching? These are age-old existential questions, and the Rays look to answer one of them tonight as they come off a record-setting offensive outburst in Games 2 through 4 of the ALCS to a rematch against Matsuzaka, who shut them out for seven innings in Game 1.
The Rays have scored 31 runs over the last three games, hitting .325/.391/.667 while blasting 10 home runs and stealing five bases in as many attempts. Conversely, Red Sox pitchers have combined for a 10.33 ERA over those three games.
There were hints of this in the ALDS. The Rays' offense was effective but nowhere near this potent, hitting .297/.351/.507 with six home runs and seven steals in eight tries in their four-game victory over the White Sox. Meanwhile the Red Sox's pitchers entered the ALCS with plenty of questions.
That's good hitting
Yes, Lester had an off night on Monday and was not only overdue for one but had also thrown 60 1/3 more innings on the year coming into that start than he had thrown all of last year in the minors, majors, and postseason combined. Still, beating up
So is tonight the night Matsuzaka finally gets his? He has had a tremendously frustrating season from an analytical perspective. He didn't pitch deep enough into games to have earned his 18 wins (he has averaged less than six innings per start, and the only pitcher in major-league history to win 18 games in a season with fewer total innings was the Pirates'
Matsuzaka's trick has been his performance in clutch situations. With runners in scoring position opponents hit .164/.288/.288 against him this season. With the bases loaded they went 0-for-14 (albeit with four RBIs resulting from a walk, a hit-by-pitch and two sacrifice flies). In Game 1 Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the first inning but picked up two outs along the way and got
On the other side of the ball, with his team one win away from the World Series, maverick
Say Matsuzaka's immovable object is able to resist the Rays' forceful offense tonight. If Maddon had started Shields he could have lost a squeaker like he did in Game 1 (2-0). That would have sent the series back to Florida, where the Rays' Game 6 starter would have been Kazmir, who not only pitched poorly in his previous start in this series, which also came at Tropicana Field, but only lasted 5 1/3 innings in his ALDS start against the White Sox. In that scenario a surprising Red Sox win tonight could have snowballed into a repeat of Boston's comeback from a 3-1 deficit against Indians in last year's ALCS, with Kazmir stumbling in Game 6 and exhausting the bullpen in the process, leaving
A mistake sometimes made by managers in the postseason is saving a pitcher for tomorrow when there might not be a tomorrow, but that pertains to teams on the brink of elimination. Maddon and the Rays are on the bring of eliminat
Besides, it's not as though the Red Sox would have simply rolled over for Shields. The Sox may have been blown out in the last two games, but they pushed across three runs in the final three innings of Tuesday's Game 4 and plated eight in Game 2.
It's entirely possible that the Sox will find new life by pounding Kazmir tonight. If that happens, Maddon will be in for an awful lot of second-guessing, but if the Rays' offense continues to roll and Tampa Bay eliminates Boston tonight either because, or despite of, Kazmir's performance, well that just proves Maddon's a genius, right? Or is that another existential question?