Red Sox vs. Indians Preview 10/2
|10.02.09 at 3:01 pm ET|
In 2004, it was Derek Lowe who resurrected the Boston Red Sox pitching staff in the ALCS to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to New York Yankees. In 2007, it was Jon Lester who walked off the mound a World Series winner in Game 4 against the Colorado Rockies a year after battling cancer. Now, in 2009, the Red Sox need Daisuke Matsuzaka to be the next X-factor in the playoff rotation behind the daunting trio of Josh Beckett, Lester, and Clay Buchholz.
When Daisuke (3-6, 6.08) took the mound on Sept. 15 to make his first start since landing on the disabled list back in June, dozens of questions surfaced as to what role the Japanese right-hander would play — if any — on the Red Sox’ (92-67) postseason roster. Even the Sox had their doubts about his potential contribution. Three starts later, Matsuzaka has proven that he has regained the dominant form that made him an 18-game winner a year ago.
Posting an abysmal 1-5 record with an exorbitant 8.23 ERA before his DL stint, Matsuzaka has since recovered and impressed in his return going 2-1 with a minuscule 1.96 ERA. His lone defeat came last Saturday when he was outdueled by Yankees ace CC Sabathia in a 3-0 loss. Though his only mistake was a Robinson Cano solo home run, Matsuzaka was still tagged with the loss despite hurling seven strong innings of one-run ball.
Last night, the Red Sox snapped a six-game losing skid by defeating the Cleveland Indians, 3-0, thanks to the brilliant outing of Lester and his 6 1/3 shutout innings. Tonight, the Sox entrust the ball to Matsuzaka as he makes his final regular season start.
In his two career starts against the Indians, Matsuzaka owns a 1-1 record with a 4.26 ERA. He has yet to oppose the Tribe this season. At home this year, Matsuzaka has struggled to a 1-4 mark and an appalling 6.58 ERA, though he did win in his Sept. 15 return by turning in six shutout innings with five strikeouts against the Los Angeles Angels.
With nothing left to play for except to escape the shame of finishing last in the Central division, the Indians (65-94) send left-handed pitcher Jeremy Sowers (6-10, 5.09) to square off against the Sox. A former 2006 first-round draft, Sowers has yet to fulfill expectations with Cleveland. In 70 career starts (71 appearances), the Vanderbilt product has compiled an 18-29 record and a less-than-mediocre 5.12 ERA.
Not having won since Sept. 4, Sowers looks to end the season on a positive note, especially after suffering the shortest outing of his career on Sept. 19. That day, he was pounded for six runs in one-plus innings of work.
Here is how the two pitchers have fared in their careers against their opponent’s batters:
Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Indians batters
Travis Hafner (6 career plate appearances) 2-for-6, 1 double
Jhonny Peralta (6) 0-for-6, 2 strikeouts
Kelly Shoppach (3) 2-for-3
Jeremy Sowers vs. Red Sox batters
Brian Anderson (12 career plate appearances) 1-for-11, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Kevin Youkilis (9) 5-for-8, 2 doubles, 1 home run
Mike Lowell (8) 1-for-7, 1 double, 1 walk
Dustin Pedroia (8) 3-for-6, 1 walk
Alex Gonzalez (7) 1-for-6, 1 double, 1 strikeout
Nick Green (7) 2-for-7, 2 doubles, 1 strikeout
Rocco Baldelli (6) 1-for-5, 1 double, 1 walk
Jason Bay (6) 1-for-4, 1 double, 2 walks
J.D. Drew (6) 0-for-5, 1 walk, 1 strikeouts
Jason Varitek (5) 1-for-4, 1 home run
Jacoby Ellsbury (4) 2-for-4, 1 double
Casey Kotchman (3) 0-for-3
Jed Lowrie (3) 2-for-3, 1 double
David Ortiz (3) 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
George Kottaras (2) 0-for-2
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