The Sox kick off the final 3-game series of their nine game interleague stint, and I think we are all a little relieved. The results from the past two series haven’t exactly been stuff to get excited about, but the Sox are going up against one of those teams that we’re supposed to beat, so I feel a little better about this series. What’s that? Our first loss was to the Pirates? Oh. Well, there’s still reasons to hope! Adrian Gonzalez is coming off a ridiculously good month, going .404/.478/1.185 in June. It really looks like he’ss adjusted to his place in the organization perfectly. Youk could possibly return to the lineup tonight, but if not then Drew Sutton will surely be glad to fill in again after going 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored the other night. I also expect to see Varitek in the lineup since Wakefield is pitching.
Pitching Matchup: Tim Wakefield (4-3, 4.54 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (4-6, 3.36 ERA)
Have I mentioned lately that Tim Wakefield is some sort of warlock? Guys been pitching since 1992 and he’s still getting spot starts. Crazy. What’s crazier is that in then 19 years that Wakefield has been pitching, the Astros are the only team he hasn’t beat that he also hasn’t played for. (2 games against the Pirates have been 0-1 with a no decision, and he’s never played against the Red Sox) Given this stat, it’s hard not to think he’ll walk away with the W tonight. Wake isn’t exactly the most reliable pitcher, though. He has no real impact on the teams Win Probablitity (WPA is a statistic I’ll cover soon!) and his fastball and curveball are looking really bad this season. Luckily, his knuckler sitll dances all over the place.
Bud Norris is actually pretty good, but stuck on a bad team. He’s kind of all over the pace when it comes to allowing runs, with 6 games this season where he’s given up one or less earned runs, and 5 games where he’s given up 4 or more. This is only his 3rd season as part of the Astros at the major league level, so he very likely still has some learning to do. First, the good: he doesn’t give up a lot of home runs (0.91 HR/9) and strikes out almost one per inning (9.09 K/9). His slider is also moving pretty well out there. Now, the other side of that coin is that his other three pitches (fastball, changeup, and a curve he barely throws) are not looking great. His changeup especially has been getting rocked. He still has some more to develop at the major league level to become a truly good pitcher.
Keys to a Sox victory tonight lie in them getting the jump on Norris before he can get started, and playing a strong outfield defense for the tonf of pop ups, liners, and bloops Wake will surely be giving away. Good luck and go Sox!