Up 1-0, Rays hope Kazmir can keep momentum going

Updated: October 1, 2008

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Scott Kazmir will try to push the Rays out to a 2-0 lead in their ALDS with the White Sox.

Kazmir has to keep ball in the park

A look ahead to Friday's games:

White Sox at Rays

Scott Kazmir will try to build on the momentum the Rays got from their Game 1 win. Earlier this season, it looked like Kazmir, not James Shields, would be the Rays' postseason ace. But a little more than midway through the season, Kazmir hit a wall and has been unable to fully bounce back. He'll be given the ball Friday as the Rays look to go up 2-0. One significant concern for Tampa Bay: The White Sox hit more home runs than any other team in baseball in the regular season, and Kazmir showed a propensity to give up home runs late in the year.

Kazmir, 2008 regular season
First 15 Last 12
W-L 8-5 4-3
ERA 2.80 4.48
IP per start 6.0 5.2
Pitches per start 103.5 99.3
HR allowed 8 15

Red Sox at Angels

Dating back to 2007's American League Division Series, the Angels' offense has been feeble against Red Sox pitching. The Angels have lost 10 straight postseason games to the Red Sox, and to snap out of that funk they desperately need to score some runs. Of course, Boston's pitching might have something to do with that, although moves like Vladimir Guerrero's eighth-inning baserunning blunder in Game 1 seem to indicate the Angels are forcing the issue a little bit.

Angels' Offense (past four postseason games vs. Red Sox)
Runs 5
BA .207
HRs 0
K-BB 30-8

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 1 l Sept. 28 | Sept. 25 | Sept. 24 | Sept. 23 | Sept. 22

MATSUZAKA QUIETLY PICKING UP WINS

I'm not sure there's been an 18-game winner in the major leagues who has gotten less acclaim than Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka. It's amazing to me that he can have this kind of winning percentage (18-3, .857) and people don't seem to be in any rush to make a bigger deal out of him. The reason is he throws so many pitches and is so tortuous to watch at times. After five innings, he usually has tossed about 100 pitches. I keep asking around: Why is he like this? Why does he nibble so much when his stuff seems to be better than that? Guys keep telling me it's kind of the way it works in Japan. Pitchers will not give in under any circumstances, and there is something very commendable about that. He's not going to give you something to hit if he doesn't have to. He is going to nibble until he gets the pitch he wants, even if it's 120 pitches in six innings.

So he's not exactly fun to watch. In fact, he's difficult to watch sometimes, but the results usually are pretty darn good. Right now, the Red Sox have a 1-0 series lead, and Matsuzaka hasn't lost a game on the road all year, so he's in a good spot pitching Game 2 against the Angels. Despite all the history of hype surrounding him, he somehow has been kind of the forgotten man in the rotation between Jon Lester and his great story and, of course, the stellar postseason résumé of Josh Beckett. I remember I went to a spring training game in 2007 when Matsuzaka was a rookie, and I got to the ballpark at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game, and there were no open seats in the press box. Everyone was there to see him pitch. Now, things clearly have calmed down. I think that's helped him and the team.

The Angels haven't hit well in the postseason recently. They are very much a free-swinging team, and Matsuzaka could benefit from that. If he's not going to be around the plate all the time, they are not a patient team that's going to sit back and make him throw strikes. Mark Teixeira might make him throw some pitches, but the rest of the lineup is just not going to do that.

Personally, I think the pitch limit here in America is way too strict. People freak out when Johan Santana throws 125 pitches, which is the most he's ever thrown in the majors. We're making a big deal that CC Sabathia is throwing on three days' rest. I understand we haven't conditioned these guys to do much more than that, but I feel that when you really, really need a guy to go out there and throw 138 pitches to win the game and win the pennant, it's not too much to ask. In fact, I think if you asked most guys whether they could throw 138 pitches, they'd say, "Give me the ball -- let's go." I think they are willing to do more. We just need to ask them.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian, Eric Young, Eduardo Perez
12:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian, Eric Young, Eduardo Perez

BBTN MINUTE: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE CUBS?

THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Shane VictorinoShane Victorino did what few thought possible given the events of the past couple of weeks -- he got to CC Sabathia. Victorino drilled the first grand slam in Philadelphia Phillies' postseason history as the Phils beat Sabathia and took a 2-0 National League Division Series lead. Victorino finished the day with the slam and a pair of doubles.
BAD
CC Sabathia style=• Yes, the unhittable, untouchable, indomitable Sabathia was knocked around Thursday. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, five runs and four walks in his first loss against a team other than the Cubs since joining the Brewers.
UGLY
• The Cubs committed four errors in a 10-3 loss to the Dodgers before an unhappy crowd at Wrigley Field. The first two came in the second inning, leading to five runs for the Dodgers. By the time the night was over, each Cubs infielder had contributed an error. The four errors tied an NLDS record.

RUSSELL MARTIN EXPLAINS DODGERS' SUCCESS

STAT OF THE DAY

Inside EdgeAccording to Inside Edge's scouting data, in October, dominant pitchers (and their dominant offerings) often rule the day. Here's a look at the playoff starters who generate the most swings and misses with each major pitch type:

BAA on ground balls up the middle with RISP
Pitch Type Pitcher Miss pct. of swings
Fastball Scott Kazmir 23.8
Curveball Chad Billingsley 43.3
Slider Rich Harden 47.7
Changeup Rich Harden 45.5

DICK VITALE TALKS ABOUT RAYS' WIN