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October 27, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

World Series Game Four Preview: Red Sox at Cardinals

by Craig Goldstein

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Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) vs. Cardinals (Lance Lynn) – 8:00 p.m. ET

PECOTA Odds of Winning: Cardinals 53.6 percent, Red Sox 46.4 percent

Red Sox vs. Lynn (R)

Cardinals vs. Buchholz (R)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (L)

Matt Carpenter, 2B (L)

Shane Victorino, RF (R)

Carlos Beltran, RF (S)

Dustin Pedroia, 2B (R)

Matt Holliday, LF (R)

David Ortiz, 1B (L)

Matt Adams, 1B (L)

Daniel Nava, RF (S)

Yadier Molina, C (R)

Xander Bogaerts, 3B (R)

David Freese, 3B (R)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (S)

Jon Jay, CF (L)

Stephen Drew, SS (L)

Pete Kozma, SS (R)

Clay Buchholz, RHP (L)

Lance Lynn, RHP (R)

I’m rolling with the same lineups as last night despite the distinct possibility that Jonny Gomes could play over Nava (though Farrell has been consistent in stating that Nava would play in St. Louis), Bogaerts could sit in favor of Will Middlebrooks or heck, Middlebrooks and Bogaerts could play with Drew on the bench, though that seems less likely. On the St. Louis side of the lineup, it’s possible that Daniel Descalso sees time at either third base or shortstop in place of Freese or Kozma, though it’s hard to see that as an upgrade in either scenario.

The real questions come from Boston’s supposed starting pitcher. Buchholz has been experiencing fatigue, and while the Red Sox coaching staff has been consistent in saying he’ll start, reports continue to state that he has not looked good when throwing warmups at less than full strength. PECOTA is unaware of Buchholz’s compromised status, so the Cardinals’ advantage above might actually be understating the issue. Of course, Buchholz has pitched at less than full strength before (generally with subpar results), and those results are built into PECOTA’s calculations, so if a healthy Buchholz takes the mound on Sunday, the odds above might be underrating the Red Sox.

If Buchholz’s health isn’t the primary factor in this game, it will likely come down to Lance Lynn’s ability to control the volatile Red Sox offense. Boston absolutely cleaned up against right-handed pitchers throughout the 2013 season, to the tune of an .818 OPS. The mitigating factor here is that that particular Red Sox team mostly had David Ortiz at DH and another above-average hitter (in this case Mike Napoli) in the lineup. While Michael Wacha’s dominance may come as no surprise (a surprise in and of itself, somewhat), Lynn shutting down the Red Sox offense would catch me off guard.

I expect the Red Sox to continue to put men on base, and I expect the Cardinals to do the same against a less-than-whole Buchholz. This one could easily devolve into a battle of the bullpens, and with Boston’s being stretched after a short start from Peavy, that would mean a lot of Ryan Dempster. As much as we all love Canadians, I think most Red Sox fans shudder at that thought. The only factor going in the Red Sox’ direction when it comes to the bullpens is that Shelby Miller has yet to be located despite his presence on milk cartons around the country. While it’s admirable that the Cardinals are working a man down in his honor, it could come back to bite them if Lynn has a short outing.

In the past a prediction has appeared at the end of one of these posts, but I’m no moron (not for this reason anyway). After last night (and these playoffs, really) I’ve learned my lesson. Let’s just hope this one doesn’t come down to an umpire’s interpretation (correct or incorrect) of the rules.

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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