October 8, 2013
ALDS Game Four Preview: Red Sox at Rays
With the Rays having staved off elimination yet again at the hands of unlikely hero Jose Lobaton, the two division rivals will continue their series for one more game in Tampa Bay. Here is a look at the PECOTA odds and projected lineups for Game Four:
Projected Starting Lineups:
For the first time in the series, PECOTA is siding with the Rays by enough of a margin to notice. The biggest reason for this is that it hasn’t watched Jeremy Hellickson pitch over the past couple of months. This is just one of the many reasons I’m envious of PECOTA. He’ll be opposed by Jake Peavy, who may have some rust to shake off; he hasn’t pitched since September 25 (that’s 12 days of rest for those of you counting at home).
Surely, Peavy is anxious to get out there and get a good taste of the postseason in his mouth. In his career, he’s made two starts under the bright lights and they’ve both been outings he’d like to forget (even if they were a long time ago). In 2005, Peavy pitched Game One of the NLDS and gave up eight runs in less than five innings en route to a loss. The following year, he again pitched Game One of the NLDS and gave up five runs and didn’t make it out of the sixth inning. Thankfully for Peavy, he’s not facing the Cardinals today, as both of those starts came against the Redbirds.
In two starts this season against Tampa Bay, Peavy had two quality starts—though they were of the basic variety (three earned runs in each without making it through the seventh inning). And considering how his opposition has fared recently, another quality start of any kind could be more than enough for the Red Sox to end this series at four.
That opposition, who has a 7.02 ERA since the calendar flipped to August, comes in the form of the enigmatic Hellickson. The entire second half of the season has been particularly unkind to the homegrown right-hander, as he’s transitioned from “pitcher who is getting unlucky” to “pitcher who is unwatchable.” His strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from 3.7 in the first half to 1.6 since. His FIP jumped from 3.74 in the first half (nearly a run lower than his ERA) to 5.21 in the second half (more than a run lower than his ERA).
Most importantly, Chris Archer (the man who Hellickson gets the start over) has been very good in that same time frame. His 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 3.39 ERA, and 3.97 FIP are all vast improvements over what Hellickson has put up. Archer did walk nine batters over 8 2/3 innings in two consecutive starts against the Red Sox back in June, but he’s improved since then. With that said, Joe Maddon is likely to have a relatively quick hook with Hellickson—especially since Archer has only thrown 1 1/3 innings this series (all in Game One).
Finally, one injury note to watch for, even though it’s something that appears very minor. Wil Myers had to leave Game Three with a leg cramp, but is expected to be in the starting lineup in Game Four. If he were to somehow miss the game, the Rays would likely shift Matt Joyce into the field and replace him at DH with famed post-season hero Delmon Young.
Matchup to Watch: