Matthew Pouliot

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Three

Red Sox make no adjustments in ugly loss

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How is the best way to deal with an inconsistent, pitcher-friendly strike zone?

Apparently, it’s to keep the bat on one’s shoulder or maybe just swing halfway and hope for the best.

The Red Sox succeeded in running up Anibal Sanchez’s pitch count in Saturday’s 1-0 loss, but that was their only victory of the night. Even though they were no-hit until there was one out in the ninth, the outcome wasn’t finally decided until Xander Bogaerts’ popup to short.

It was just the 10th ball put into play by the team all night.

Mostly, the Red Sox relied on umpire Joe West in the hopes of reach base via the walk. It worked six times, and with another ump, they might have been the beneficiary of one or two more free passes. But putting the game in the ump’s hands is never the best of plays.

It’s no surprise the Red Sox were a bit rusty after three days off, and while the Tigers may call Sanchez their third starter, the guy did lead the AL in ERA this year. It was no easy assignment with the way Sanchez’s slider was working. Still, the Red Sox took more half-swings than swings in the first six innings. It was a poor display from the team that led the AL in runs scored this year.

The Red Sox also took zero advantage of the terribly hobbled Miguel Cabrera at third base. Only two players showed bunt in the game. David Ross did it twice in an at-bat, pulling back both times before coaxing a walk. Shane Victorino finally dropped one down in the sixth, but incredibly, he pushed it down the first line and did it terribly, giving Sanchez an easy, one-pitch out. Cabrera, the likely AL MVP, looks like he can hardly move out there, but the Red Sox never tested him.

The Red Sox will probably come out better in Sunday’s Game 2, but with Max Scherzer on the mound, the runs won’t come much easier. It’d help to get on the board early, maybe by putting bat to ball once in a while.

Down 2-0 in NLCS, Dodgers appear doomed

Carl Crawford
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Not even 24 hours into a seven-game series, the Dodgers’ World Series hopes are already on life support. By failing to secure either of the first two games with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, they’ve become huge long shots to defeat the Cardinals in the NLCS.

If there’s any reason for the Dodgers to take heart, it’s that the matchups haven’t dictated the series so far. The Dodgers figured to have the edges in the first two games, even with the series in St. Louis, because they had their big two going and the Cardinals were starting Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha. Obviously, it didn’t work out as they’d like. But they can psyche themselves up by claiming their own underdog status now, especially against Adam Wainwright in Game 3.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers now have to beat Wainwright once if they’re going to win the series. And Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t appear up to that kind of task during a shaky NLDS start against the Braves. Rumored to be battling elbow and/or back problems, he gave up four runs in three innings in that one.

But Monday’s Game 3 will be practically a must-win game against a pitcher who is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 career innings in the postseason. A victory will be even more improbable if Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers’ best hitter, can’t go after injuring his ribs on a HBP in Game 1 and missing Game 2. Ramirez’s absence played a huge role in Saturday’s 1-0 loss; he’s performed as well as anyone in the National League when healthy this season.

Without Ramirez, the Dodgers could well go down quietly from here. Yasiel Puig seems lost at the plate, Andre Ethier is limited and Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco was a disaster at the end of the regular season. Things couldn’t possibly have broken better for the Cardinals.

Austin Jackson must turn it around against Red Sox

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics - Game Two
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The Tigers escaped the ALDS against the A’s despite scoring more than three runs just once in five games. They’re going to need to do better than that against the Red Sox, and it will have to start at the top with leadoff man Austin Jackson.

Looking lost at the plate, Jackson went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts on Thursday to finish the ALDS 2-for-20 with 13 strikeouts and just one walk. He scored one of Detroit’s 17 runs in the series.

Jackson fared far better in the regular season against the Red Sox, batting .478 and scoring seven runs in the six games in which he played. Overall, the Tigers were 4-3 against the Red Sox, despite being outscored 43-34.

(20 of those runs the Red Sox scored came in one game, the last played by the two teams back on Sept. 4. The Tigers’ starter in that one, Rick Porcello, isn’t part of the postseason rotation.)

The rotations for the ALCS have yet to be announced, but they’ll probably shake out like this:

Games 1 & 5: Anibal Sanchez vs. Jon Lester
Games 2 & 6: Max Scherzer vs. John Lackey
Games 3 & 7: Justin Verlander vs. Clay Buchholz
Game 4: Doug Fister vs. Jake Peavy

Those pitching matchups are obviously the Tigers’ biggest advantage in the series, while the Red Sox hold edges offensively and defensively.

One way for the Tigers to even those up would be to have Jackson starting getting on base in front of Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers were 43-24 when he reached base twice in a game this year, which is actually a better winning percentage than they had when Miggy homered (.642 to .625).