Monday, October 13, 2008
On Saturday night the Rays survived a slugfest deep into the night to even up the season and give them hope. They did so behind massive efforts from their bullpen including Dan Wheeler and they benefited from drilling Jonathan Papelbon and forcing him out after an inning and a third. Had they lost their names could effectively be etched on a tombstone, but now they have life they have a chance but the road to the World Series starts off with the hardest of climbs.
Josh Beckett has been one of the best postseason pitchers of all time but he's obviously not himself. Dice-K has a solid ERA and is rock-steady under pressure but he always works the count and never lasts deep into the game, and with so many base runners he's bound to give up some runs. Timmy Wakefield is off and on with his stuff and could potentially the Rays have had success against him this season.
This season Jon Lester has emerged as a potential ace. He finished the year with 16 wins a 3.21 ERA and 152 Ks in 210 innings. But it's his postseason track record that is already becoming something to marvel at. Since Jon Lester's first outing in the postseason he has not allowed a single earned run. In this scoreless stretch he's thrown 22 2/3 innings and most times looked unhittable. If those numbers look scary then I'm sure the fact that Lester was 11-1 at home with a 2.49 ERA and 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA against Tampa aren't helping either.
If Lester wasn't enough to worry about there's always Papelbon lurking in the back of the bullpen. He may have struggled a couple of weeks this year when he was overworked but he is effectively morphing into this generations Mariano Rivera. He himself is working on a massive scoreless streak of 22 innings, but unlike Lester he has yet to give up even an unearned run ever in the postseason. Nothing nada zippo. You don't score on the Papelboner.
All signs today point to a Red Sox victory. If the Rays lose they'll still have a chance but they will certainly have a difficult path to victory. If they win however they may just have crossed the most difficult stretch on their way to the World Series.