The late 2011 MLB season has been a story of hot and cold teams. In the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays have been red hot and the Boston Red Sox have been playing…well, I guess they’ve been playing, but more on par with that one team on your high school schedule you’re thankful you play twice every season. However, we’re 159 games into a 162 game season, and aside from the first 8 games of the season and this recent Mets-esque stretch, the Red Sox have been one of the best teams in the MLB this season.
As it stands right now, the Red Sox are holding on for dear life with a 1-game lead in the Wild Card. So here’s how we’re going to look at it: both teams have three games remaining against the best and the worst of the American League East – the Yankees and Orioles, and we’re breaking down each of the matchups in a predictive preview of their remaining games.
Boston Red Sox (Josh Beckett) @ Baltimore Orioles (Tommy Hunter)
At a glance, this looks like a no-brainer. Beckett is heaving a great bounce-back season and Tommy Hunter has been serviceable – but suffers from the terrible communicative disease that is Oriolepitcheritis. However, Beckett got knocked around by Baltimore last start – held out for a bit too long at 7.1 IP and piling up 6 earned runs. Beckett is the key to this game- and though his numbers versus Baltimore (career and 2011) are meager at best. Tommy Hunter’s stats versus Boston are not favourable, either – 2W, 1L in 17.1 IP for an 8.10 ERA (a bit misleading, eh?).
Calling it: A slugfest deep into the Baltimore night – Red Sox pull it out in a battle of the bullpens.
New York Yankees (Hector Noesi) @ Tampa Bay Rays (James Shields)
Listen: if you think the Yankees are going to throw this series so that the Rays make it in and the Red Sox do not – you obviously haven’t thought of the implications. This is simpler than everyone thinks: the playoffs come down to pitching. The Rays have it, and the Red Sox do not. Why face Price/Hellickson/Shields/Moore/Davis when you can face Lester(maybe not)/Lackey/Miscellaneous? It makes no sense for the Yankees to lay down and take it from TB in this series.
On to the game – as much as I despise the blowout-aided douchery that is James Shields, it looks like a Rays win here. Shields has been great this years and Noesi is still a little green – not to mention Tampa’s season would get a huge boost with a home win tonight.
Calling it: Shields goes 8+ IP, less than two runs. Longoria and BJUpton go yard. Rays win.
Red Sox – 90-70
Rays – 89-71
Boston Red Sox (Erik Bedard) @ Baltimore Orioles (Zach Britton)
Oh boy. If you’re going to be attending this game, bring a bucket for the home run balls. Bedard’s numbers versus his old mates (though I doubt they see it that way) are not bad – only three earned runs, but only 10 IP. Britton has been…just plain awful, awful, awful, awful versus the Red Sox – 9 runs in 6.1 IP this season. Even with Bedard’s hatred of baseball I don’t see the Orioles pulling this one out – but crazier things have happened (do you recall Moses and the Red Sea?)
Calling it: Red Sox win a barn-burner. At least three HRs hit in this game (Gonzalez, Ellsbury, Reynolds x2).
New York Yankees (Bartolo Colon) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Jeremy Hellickson)
Rays take it. Bartolo Colon has been exposed – getting obliterated by the Rays in his last start and giving up 5 or more earned runs in 4 of his last seven.
Calling it: Rays pummel the Yankees B-Team behind Bartolo Colon, Hellickson remains serviceable and Rays get another day to decide their fate.
Red Sox – 91-70
Rays – 90-71
It’s the final day of the season – and it’s a must win for the Rays – who need to sweep the best team in the American League and the Red Sox need to win to eliminate the Rays or face a possible play-in game. To switch this up a bit and avoid any potential spoilers – we’ll start with Rays/Yankees.
New York Yankees (Undecided) @ Tampa Bay Rays (David Price)
David Price made a name for himself a few years back carrying the Rays down the stretch pitching big games, effectively schooling the Kevin-Long Bombers to a 3-1 record over 50IP from 08-10 versus NYY and serviceable against them this year (1-1, 4.26 ERA). This game will likely come down to Price’s run support, which will come down to the Yankee’s decision of who to start – and Joe Girardi has made it clear the team will be resting it’s regulars.
Calling it: Price takes down the Yankees easily with the season on the line – should get some decent run support.
Boston Red Sox (Jon Lester) @ Baltimore Orioles (Alfredo Simon)
I really wish this was a more exciting matchup than it is. Throughout writing this article, I only checked on the matchups once it was time to write them down. As much as I’d like to call this one for Baltimore and force the 1-game play in, I cannot. Alfredo Simon is just not very good and with an offense like Boston’s, I fail to see how Baltimore stands a chance in this game with all that the Sawx are playing for.
Calling it: Boston breaks out, clinch American League Wild Card.
Boston Red Sox – 92-70
Tampa Bay Rays – 91-71
So that’s it. Sorry, Rays fans. Better luck next year. Keep in mind this is based on both the Rays and Red Sox sweeping this series against the Orioles and Yankees – both teams which can easily play the part of spoilers right now – especially the Orioles, who man-handled the Red Sox as recently as last week.