Okay. The division is Boston's. I concede. The playoffs are within reach for the Yankees, if only because Seattle has stumbled at the same time the wheels have fallen off the Bombers' wagon. They also play a much tougher September. As a Yankee fan, I have to hope for a big series against the Sox to keep hope alive. I apologize for betting against our favorite Japanese import here, but it's killing time or its dying time and I gotta put my best judgment aside in favor of blind, stupid hope.
Matsuzaka versus Pettitte
I'm sure he'll pitch a complete game shutout on 5 hits and a single walk with 11 Ks, but I'm a fan and I'm going to wear my underwear backwards and my rally cap tonight. Sigh.
Surprisingly, Daisuke was lit up by the young Devil Rays in his last outing. I say "surprisingly" because the Rays have taken a real nosedive this month, often struggling to score runs. The outburst against Matsuzaka in his last start was one of the few games in recent weeks when the Manta Rays were able to put any runs on the board. It won't happen again.
I'm going to use my last Daisuke versus the Skates prediction again. I'm sure I'll get it right this time. I was just ahead of myself.
The Yankees will lose again in Anaheim and the division will be all but sewn up at the end of the night.
Ray of Hope
Thanks to the Devil Rays, the Red Sox are putting a disappointing series against the O's to bed. The Rays look fair on paper and always give me hope that they will emerge from the cellar of the AL East one day, but in reality they are just awful. Matsuzaka is looking to get that elusive 14th win against the bumbling rays today and doesn't have to face the opposing team's ace on this occasion.
This is a good opportunity to continue to lower his ERA and increase both his VORP and ERA+ to help his statistical case for those who follow such things. Right now, Daisuke's VORP stands at about 42 and his ERA+ is 126. Those numbers are excellent and are helping to make Theo's case for splashing on the posting fee. I was looking at Daisuke's stats, comparing them to the other pitchers in the Majors with at least 100 innings pitched. He is near the top of the league in several categories, but hasn't cracked the upper echelon of pitchers in baseball yet, mainly due to the walks he's allowed so far. His K-rate is over 9, but that is offset by a lot of free passes. It's the same story every time when discussing Daisuke's shortcomings, but the walks have prevented him from being truly elite. Carlos Zambrano is similar in the respect that both men throw upwards of 110 pitches per start. Those starts rarely go beyond 6+ innings because both men waste a ton of pitches to get their big strikeout totals. Both men are very young, as far as starting pitching goes, and need to learn to forgo the strikeout in favor of a few easier outs. As they get older their success will depend on it.
For now, the Rays are looking to get to Daisuke quickly in this game. They are starting Andy Sonnanstine, who is 1-8 with a 6.35 ERA. The Sox offense could stake Matsuzaka to a big lead early and it will be smooth sailing from there. I imagine that will be the case and I also imagine that you'll see Gagne get back on the horse in this game and he'll pitch lights out.
Loyal readers know that I'm a Yankee fan. As a group, Red Sox fans and the many Yankee fans that drop by to read my work here are intimately familiar with the AL East. The fact is, with the exception of a few odd years, the Sox and the Yanks have been the class of the division and have seen little in the way of stiff competition from the other clubs since the early 90's. The Jays occasionally jump up to surprise, but the Orioles and the Rays have been laughing stocks for longer than I care to remember right now.
As a Yankee fan, I see the Orioles as a sad case of poor investments coupled with mind-bogglingly unconscious management. The owner is in denial, the parade of decision-makers haven't made very good decisions, and the farm is dry. Whenever the Bombers head to Camden they are greeted by droves of Yankee fans in the stands. This happens in a lot of markets with respect to both the Yankees and the Sox, but nowhere does the phenomenon hold truer than Baltimore in recent years.
This is a once proud franchise that can boast a number of history's greatest teams and many of its most celebrated players. These days that is easy to forget as good teams travel to the Inner Harbor to enjoy crab cakes, beer, and scoring obscene amounts of runs against the O's. The Red Sox are in town to do some damage and try to stretch the lead in the division a bit after seeing the Yankees gain ground while feasting on the runts of the litter in the AL. Matsuzaka gets Bedard in what promises to be the most compelling game of the series.
Despite playing in one of the best hitters parks in the sport, the Orioles are an abysmal offensive club. The OBP is fair, but the Orioles don't hit for power and are generally only able to score runs by scrapping via the single or walk and the stolen base. Essentially, the Baltimore boys are a station to station ballclub. The only threat that these birds offer Daisuke is the potential for a big day on the basepaths. Steals are a problem for Matsuzaka and baserunners have seemed to bother him all year long. That said, I just don't see the Orioles having enough to beat our hero. Here's my prediction:
There is the potential here for a stellar game, however. I think there is an 8 inning, double digit K, shutout performance lurking in this situation, but I'll stick with my prediction above. Go Matsuzaka, go!
I'm in the US finally. I have little time to get my prediction in before gametime, but I'll post a quick one now. From here until the rest of the season, I hope to be more active at MW and write a bit more frequently.
For today, let's base our prediction on the past performances Daisuke's had against the Pilots....er...Mariners.
The big ERA is mainly a product of a drubbing on May 3rd when he gave up 7 runs and 5 walks in 5 innings pitched. I think he'll be very good tonight and give the Sox 7 solid innings. Here goes: