The Cubs are going into this game looking to take the series and set up a potential sweep. The Red Sox are looking to avoid a potential sweep and hopefully take over the Cubs today and tomorrow. The Red Sox know they need to win here and continue enlarging the gap between them and the struggling Yankees, while keeping pace with the Orioles. It will be hard, as the Red Sox, losers of 15 of their last 26, go head to head with winners of 11 of the last 13, paced by Zambrano, their ace (even when Wood and Prior are healthy).
The pitching has been terrible, as they now sport a 5.04 ERA, highest since 5.12 on April 14. They had got it down to 4.11 by May 10, but since then have had a nice little 6.20 ERA to bring it to 5.04, led by Alan Embree’s 7.00 ERA.
Jason Varitek (and David Ortiz) was a bright spot during last night’s game (and can hardly be blamed for the pitching woes as virtually every instance of struggling has been on the pitcher – Arroyo with his lefties, Embree with his suckiness) and was profiled by The Sporting News in their most recent issue. Do you remember when I contended that Tek was the best catcher, perhaps more so than Ivan Rodriguez? Well, TSN supposedly agrees with me.
“He’s kind of the model right now,” says one American League executive. “He’s a plus offensive catcher, works well with a staff. He brings a lot to the party–leadership, preparation, throwing ability. Go right down the list and put a check mark next to everything.”
Fans agree, as he is leading the All-Star voting to start at catcher for the AL.
For us to win today, Johnny Damon needs to play a part in this. He needs two runs to get 1,000, but has not scored in the last nine games. Leave your comments before, during, and after the game as the Red Sox will attempt to squeak by fireballer Carlos Zambrano and hope Wade Miller doesn’t give up any bombs to the NL-leading team in home-runs.
If I had to give a prediction, I’ll say it’ll be a nice little offensive game, with the Red Sox pulling it out. We have three anchors in the bullpen, Timlin, Myers, and Foulke who can shut the Cubs down. Yesterday showed that the Red Sox couldn’t hit Maddux, but could hit the relievers. Zambrano comes with hard stuff and doesn’t have a ton of movement, and the Red Sox need to (especially Mark Bellhorn) learn to take their bat off their shoulders, and connect. They don’t do well against rookies who don’t know enough to play nice around the strike zone, so the Red Sox keep taking strikes over and over. The same applies to junkballers, who live in the strike zone so the Red Sox again keep taking strikes. Zambrano has 71 K and 31 BB, while Maddux has 50 K and 11 BB, so the advantage is already trending the Red Sox’s way.