Series Preview - Braves @ Red Sox (June 19-21)
June 19th - Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.54) vs Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-4, 7.55)
This game is probably going to be a national holiday in Japan, with 2 of the country's most heralded pitchers going at it. In Kawakami's last start against Baltimore on Saturday, he did his job well enough, allowing 2 runs in 5 innings, striking out and walking 3. Kenshin was in line for the win until Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan had the gall to show their faces on the mound, and that took care of that. Of note, KK's OPS against is a whopping 300 points higher on the road than at home, and his BAA is 100 points higher. Not good.
Daisuke Matsuzaka no longer seems to be the golden child of Boston. Since coming off the DL on May 22nd, Dice-K has not pitched 6 innings, and has allowed fewer than 3 runs in only one start. In his 2 interleague starts this season, against the Mets on 5/22 and the Phillies on 6/13, he's allowed 8 runs on 12 hits in 9 innings...also of note is that in the Philly start, he had an insanely low 2:14 GB:FB ratio. Really, 2 ground balls? Thats wild. Righties are MURDERING Matsuzaka this year to the tune of a 1.224 OPS, but as everyone knows, the Braves lineup is chock full of lefties...who are "only" OPSing .927 against him. Ho hum
June 20th - Derek Lowe (7-4, 4.08) vs Josh Beckett (7-3, 4.15)
Approximately 10 seconds of research tells me that this is Derek Lowe's return to Boston, 5 years after helping the Red Sox break THE CURSE and win their first world championship in eleventy billion years back in 2004. Lowe has a lifetime ERA of 3.12 at Fenway Park, and is allowing only a .642 OPS there. D-Lowe had a stretch of 6 straight quality starts ruined rather rudely by Baltimore on Sunday, allowing 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings, raising his ERA by more than half a run. Lowe had his dominant first start of the season, but since, its hard to think of a good adjective to describe his work...how about "effective"? Yeah, that works.
Josh Beckett has been christened by Peter Gammons as the best pitcher in forever, because he played in Boston and BEAT THE YANKEES WHEN IT COUNTED ON THEIR HOME TURF back in 2003 with the Marlins. Beckett's time with Boston has been spotty, with one BAD season, one GREAT season, and 2 solid-average seasons, one of which is currently ongoing. Like Lowe, Beckett had a quality start streak busted in his last start...his was a streak of 7, and it was broken when the Phillies blasted him for 6 earned in 6 innings. Even with his early season struggles, Beckett's strikeout numbers are still high, and he should be able to put his poor start on Sunday behind him and get back on the right track.
June 21st - Jair Jurrjens (5-5, 2.89) vs Tim Wakefield (9-3, 4.39)
JJ should be well rested after his outing on Tuesday was cut short after 2 innings due to rain in Cincinnati. The Surgeon has lost his last 3 starts, despite recording season high strikeout numbers in 2 of them. This is his Boston debut, as it was with Kawakami. Since joining the Braves, Jurrjens has allowed 2 earned runs in 25 innings of interleague play. I don't really have a lot to say about JJ...he's having a great year thusfar.
Tim Wakefield on the other hand...my first thought when I looked at him is "holy crap, Tim Wakefield has 9 wins?!" which beats home the point that wins are a stupid statistic. Wakefield is having a strange year...in 4 starts, he's allowing 5 or more runs, and his other 9 starts are quality. Boom or bust for him, I guess. Career against the Braves, he's 3-4, 5.03 with a WHIP of 1.688. Hmmm...interesting. You know what you're getting with Wakefield: the knuckleball. He's allowing a lot of hits this season and walking a bunch of guys, which is standard for him, but not to the level he's used to.
I'd really like to see the Braves make a move with the pitching to bring up Barbaro Canizares to be the DH this weekend, but I don't think thats going to happen unfortunately. I'd imagine the DH situation will resemble what it did in Baltimore last weekend: Prado getting 2 or 3 starts, Chipper DHing a day or 2, and maybe Diaz getting the other day. Thats all that really makes sense, since the other bench players can't hit a lick, and you kind of want your DH to have some pop. Oh, and I figured this was worth a shot...in his career versus Boston, Garret Anderson has a line of .302/.333/.476. Look at that, a good hitting line from Garret! Alright! And Casey Kotchman...327/.383/.561! YES! THE BRAVES MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE!
Boston's offense horrifies me. They have 2 bona fide superstars in Kevin Youkilis, who is the nadir of every nameless Braves position player this year, and Jason Bay. JD Drew's batting average is a little low, but he's still a hair short of OPSing .900. Then you have guys like Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, and of course, the slowly waking up from hibernation David Ortiz...if he really gets going, this team could be really dangerous. Of the team, only Lowell really doesn't walk a whole lot, so the Braves pitchers need to throw first pitch strikes and keep the Red Sox from being patient and waiting for their pitches.
Can the pitchers continually pound the zone and throw strikes?
Can the former AL bats spark the offense?
Can David Ortiz fully awaken with a roar?
Can Daisuke not get shelled all around Fenway Park?