When Cleveland and Boston lined up for this series, people assumed that the first two games would be pitchers duels. Beckett and Schilling versus Sabathia and Carmona looked good on paper, but as the old saying goes, “you don’t play on paper.” Now that the series heads to a game five with Boston down 3-1, it will be extremely interesting to see what these big guns do the second time around.
During the regular season, rarely does a pitcher face the same team for consecutive starts. When it does happen, the advantage is thought to be with the hitters. Familiarity is a good thing if you’ve got a bat in your hands. Now you’ve got Sabathia taking the mound in game five after he was awful in game one. (Not to mention that he wasn’t all that good against the Yankees, but twelve runs from your offense can hide that). Do you think the Red Sox hitters aren’t comfortable against him right now? Maybe being out of Fenway will help C.C. Maybe he’s just due. Or maybe the possible Cy Young winner will struggle again. I’ll go with the latter.
OK, say Beckett and the Sox win game five. What do we get in game six from the next round of studs? Carmona is a kid. I think nerves got to him in game two and if he struggles early in game six, it might not be much better. Remember, his dominant start against the Yankees was in Cleveland. His first ALCS start was on the road, as will his next one, if he has a next one. If you doubt how much it bothers some people to pitch away from home when the crowd is against you, just look to see the great measures that Detroit took to make sure that Kenny Rogers never pitched away from home in the playoffs of ’06. And Rogers was a 41-year-old veteran. Carmona is a kid.
As far as Schilling, he was one of the great post-season pitchers of this generation, but he doesn’t have that kind of stuff anymore. I know he ripped through a toothless Angels line-up in the ALDS, but the Indians aren’t the Angels. Could he have a solid outing? Sure. Would I bet any money that he’s going to go six or more and give up three or less? I wouldn’t. Not a dime.
I think this is another example of how we sit around and talk about how things are going to unfold and then turn out to be totally wrong. We all thought that this would come down, especially in games 1,2,5 & 6, to which offense could do anything against the other teams big starters, when in fact it’s come down to which big starters, other than Beckett, can give his team anything close to what they expected. Heck, Jake Westbrook has been the best starter of all. Who thought that would happen before the series started?
Sometimes quality starts are downplayed as a stat because people think that three earned runs through six innings isn’t that good. What do you think Francona would give right now to get a quality start from someone other than Beckett? I’m rooting for Cleveland to win the series, but I would love to see Carmona, Schilling and Dice-K take the mound again just to see what the do.
But then again, the Rockies haven’t lost two games in the last month. What makes any of us think that they can lose four in a week?