ALCS Game 4 Preview: Wakefield vs Byrd

Tim Wakefield was on a roll when his back brought him to his knees at the end of August.

After a bad outing in Los Angeles on August 7th, the knuckleballer found his stride and pitched about as good as any pitcher could manage. In his next three outings—against Tampa Bay (home on August 13th, away on August 20th) and Chicago (away on August 25th)—Wakefield threw twenty-two innings of shutout baseball during which he allowed only nine hits and six walks while striking out seventeen batters. In five starts since he missed his outing on September 1st (bad back), he is 1-2, 8.76—he pitched 24 2/3 innings during which he allowed THIRTY-NINE hits and seven walks while striking out only seven batters.

He hasn’t pitched since a seven inning outing against Minnesota on September 29th in which he allowed four runs… for the season, he was 17-12, 4.76—he pitched 189 innings in which he allowed 191 hits and 64 walks.


Which Tim Wakefield will show up tonight at Jacobs Field? Terry Francona has said that Wakefield ‘deserves’ his start tonight… I can remember John McNamara saying that Bill Buckner ‘deserved’ to be on the field for the last out of Game 6 in the 1986 World Series, too.

Paul Byrd was 15-8, 4.59, during the regular season… he pitched 192 1/3 innings, allowing 239 hits and only 28 walks. He was 2-3, 5.21 in September—allowing forty-eight hits and seven walks in thirty-eight innings pitched. He was 1-0, 3.60 in the ALDS —in five innings pitched, he allowed eight hits and two walks.

Byrd was 1-0, with a 1.50 ERA against the Red Sox this year—allowing two runs (one earned) on nine hits in six innings pitched.

When Byrd is on he’s pretty good… when he is off he can be brutal.

What has prompted Terry Francona’s love affair with J D Drew… what has Drew done to earn this misguided fealty? Is it just his $70 million contract and the fear of ‘losing him’ for the next four years?

In the interim, the Sox are in the LCS, they are desperate for runs, and Jacoby Ellsbury is sitting on the bench… with Bobby Kielty sitting right next to him.

Entering play tonight, Kielty is a career .333 against Indians starter Paul Byrd (10-for-30), with FOUR home runs and EIGHT rbi… Drew is a career .200 (2-for-10) with no extra base hits and two rbi. Yet Drew is starting in right field…

I don’t care whether anyone else likes me saying it: from a strategic standpoint Francona couldn’t manage his way out of a wet paper bag!

Red Sox hitters across the board have had great success against Byrd in their one-on-one matchups… aside from Kielty, other Sox hitters have the following career numbers:

Coco Crisp: 5-for-11 (.455), with two walks
Mike Lowell: 8-for-20 (.400), with 1 HR and four rbi
Julio Lugo: 4-for-10 (.400)
Jason Varitek: 7-for-18 (.389), with 1 HR and two rbi
David Ortiz: 8-for-26, (.308), with 2 HR and six rbi

On the other end, Manny Ramirez is 2-for-14 (.143) with 1 HR and two rbi.

Indians starters haven’t fared so well against Tim Wakefield in their careers… of those slated to start the game, their career numbers are less daunting:

Victor Martinez: 3-for-5 (.600), with 1 HR and one rbi
Kenny Lofton: 18-for-66 (.273), with 1 HR and seven rbi
Casey Blake: 1-for-5 (.200), with 1 HR and one rbi
Jhonny Peralta: 1-for-6 (.167), with 1 HR and three rbi
Travis Hafner: 0-for-7
Grady Sizemore: 0-for-2

Tonight’s lineups:

Boston Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Coco Crisp, CF
Doug Mirabelli, C
Julio Lugo, SS

Cleveland Indians

Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Casey Blake, 3B
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Kelly Shoppach, C

Tim Wakefield: “The whole month of September was all four days in between starts it took me to get ready to pitch that fifth day, or sometimes that sixth day. It just got to a point where you just keep grinding it out as much as possible, and when the season was over with, I needed rest. There’s nothing structurally wrong or anything, I just think it’s wear and tear, and I can’t pinpoint exactly what caused it to start hurting. I know it just hurt”.

To get ready for tonight’s start, he threw a simulated game last Tuesday… he worked five innings and threw 77 pitches. Afterwards, he pronounced himself fit for tonight.

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