Rays Up Two Games to One

“Boston Red Sox Pitchers” for $200: The guy considered by teammates to be the American League’s best pitcher.  Answer: Who is Jon Lester?

“Boston Red Sox Pitchers” for $400: This left hander went 16–6 with a 3.21 ERA in 2008.  Answer: Who is Jon Lester?

“Boston Red Sox Pitchers” for $600: This man no–hit the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.  Answer: Who is Jon Lester?

“Boston Red Sox Pitchers” for $800: Closed out the 2007 World Series with a dominating performance in hitting–happy Coors Field.  Answer: Who is Jon Lester?

“Boston Red Sox Pitchers” for $1,000: The man who got lit up like a bonfire by the Rays in game three of the 2008 ALCS.  Answer: Who is Jon Lester?

I’ve swept the board.  For that matter, so have the Rays, at least for one glorious evening.  They destroyed the Red Sox 9–1 in enemy territory to take a critical two games to one series lead.  Matt Garza came back from his Division Series implosion to pitch incredibly well in the biggest game of his life to this point.  He went 6+ innings and allowed one run on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts.  The Red Sox starter looked more like Jon Arbuckle than Jon Lester as he allowed five runs, four earned, in less than six innings.  This included home runs from B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria that both cleared the Green Monster.  Upton’s actually went beyond the wall, beyond the seats, and almost beyond the street.  Did his labrum magically heal itself last week?  He’s suddenly banging out Dave Kingman home runs at a rapid rate.  He has yet to fail any drug tests.  Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena topped off a game in which every starter had a hit with their own late home runs off Paul Byrd.  For Rocco, it’s yet another confidence builder in his long road to recovery.  Six months ago his career as a whole was in jeopardy, and look at him now.  He’ll have what B.J.’s having.

Edwin Jackson pitched well in relief, lighting up the radar gun as high as 99 MPH.  How did the Dodgers fail to make him a good late inning stopper?  He looked like he had unlimited potential in that role.  With David Price likely to join the starting rotation next year and maybe a spot (Troy Percival’s?) opening up in the bullpen, it’s likely Jackson may attempt this transition for the second time in his career.  And hopefully the last.

I’ve also heard a growing vocal minority clamoring for a move to the bullpen by, of all people, Scott Kazmir.  The chief complaint is that he doesn’t go deep enough into games, which is a very valid point.  Leading the league in pitches per inning this year at over 18, Kazmir rarely sees the seventh and eighth innings.  A host on The Killer B’s on ESPN 1470/1040 compared him to Dwight Gooden: unbelievable talent, overworked, psychologically burned out, talent gone.  A lot of fans would like to see him as a closer.  But with the stats Kazmir puts up as a starter — remember, he’s a two-time All Star — who could replace him?  Jeff Niemann?  Wade Davis?  I don’t know about this issue and what direction it should go in.  I’ll be thinking about it and researching it further.  If we had another Price, the decision would likely be obvious.  But there can be only one, so it’s much more difficult.  I’ll render my verdict sometime before next season.

But pertaining to more immediate matters, the Rays have the momentum and the lead they needed to carry on to game four, where Andy Sonnanstine goes up against one–time Tampa Bay stopper Tim Wakefield.  I think with his working pace and the way he throws strikes, Sonnanstine matches up well with the Boston lineup.  We’ll see if I’m right and he can bring the lead to 3–1 and set up Shields to bring home the pennant.  Until next time, go Rays.


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