Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lester is More

So, that’s why people in the Red Sox organization were split on whether Lester or Papelbon was the better prospect. He appears to be right on the verge of “getting it”, if he’s not there already. I know last night’s performance was against the Orioles. But, it was still a great performance. On the road, coming off an embarrassing weekend, the Sox needed a quality start from Lester. They got even more than that. He went seven inning of 1-run ball. Even more impressive are the four hits and one walk. Lester has been keeping his walks down so much lately, I almost feel funny mentioning them. It’s starting to become the norm, as opposed to something to be excited about.

This brings Lester’s record to 5-1 following a Red Sox loss. His ERA in those situations is well below 2.00. I know that many of those situations aren’t “we need a stopper” games, but it sure does help to stop a losing streak of any length. If momentum really is tomorrow’s starting pitcher, I like seeing Lester’s name in the boxscore.

Have I reached the point this season where I’m more confident going into a Lester start than I am with a Beckett start? I’m pretty close. I’m still at the point where I assume a good Beckett outing, and I hope to get a good Lester start. But, that’s starting to change. Especially on Lester’s end. That’s really what separates the elite pitchers from the rest of them in my book. When Beckett, or Schilling, take the mound, you expect a good outing, and know the Sox should be in a good position to get the win. When vintage Pedro took the mound, you knew the Sox would win. When Lester or Dice-K take the mound of late, I’m not quite at the “expect” a good outing stage. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a good. But, if they blow up I’m not shocked. If Beckett blows up I’m shocked. If vintage Pedro blew up, I feared injury. It’s the difference in pitchers that makes one an ace, and others top pitchers. Lester’s not an ace yet…Beckett’s pretty close…but he sure should be soon.

This weekend displayed a glaring weakness of the Sox entering the stretch run. For some reason, they can’t figure out how to beat Toronto. Now, some of that is the presence of Halladay. Some of that is Burnett. I get that. The problem is that the Sox face the Blue Jays nine times from here on out. It’s not easy to make up a 4.5 division gap, or hold a 1.5 game wild card lead if you’re playing 25% of your games against a team you can’t seem to beat. Add to those nine games six against the Yankees that you just know they’re going to split and six against Tampa that are up in the air. This could get pretty dicey. Frankly, their entire remaining schedule scares the crud out of me. In addition to the games I just mentioned, they have the rest of the Baltimore series, they have three against division leading Chicago. Then three more against Baltimore, three at Texas, and four against Cleveland. Not many places to make up much ground. Yikes. Tampa Bay better remember that they’re Tampa Bay pretty darn quickly. A quick estimate puts an optimistic 23-14 finish for the Sox. That puts them at 95-67, which is a dang good mark. But, that means the Rays only need a 20-18 finish. Ick. If Beckett continues to struggle, this could be a long September.

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