Playoff Baseball is Here

With 34 games remaining in the Boston Red Sox season, and with them being 5.5 back of a playoff spot, it is fair to say that playoff baseball has arrived in New England.  The Red Sox will be in Tampa Bay for the weekend for a pivotal, make or break the season series against the Rays.  If the Sox are swept, the season is over.  It is imperative that they take 2 if not 3 games from the Rays.  These facts are not lost on Sox management.  This was evident by moving Jon Lester back in the rotation to tonight’s game instead of having him pitch Wednesday night against the Mariners.  Dice-K conveniently came down with a back issue, Kevin Cash was conveniently brought back to the active roster on Tuesday so he could catch Tim Wakefield Wednesday night.  This allowed the Sox throw 2 of their aces in Lester and Buchholz against the Rays instead of just Buchholz.

The Sox will throw Lester, Buchholz, and Lackey against David Price, Matt Garza, and James Shields.  All 3 of these matchups are marquee matchups but none is better than the gift we have tonight.  Jon Lester and David Price to open the most important series of the season is perfect for the severity of the situation.  Lester is fresh off getting smacked around by the Blue Jays in his worst career start while Price is trying for that elusive 16th win as he has been dealt no decisions his last 2 times out.

While this series is going on, the Yankees will have their hands full with the Chicago White Sox this weekend.  There is a lot of potential for the Red Sox come Monday to be in a prime position as is related to a playoff spot.  Unfortunately, there is also a ton of potential for them to be out of the thing altogether when they wake up Monday morning. 

There are several key aspects to this series but there are two that are most concerning to me.  The Red Sox need to limit the Rays’ running game.  It seems every time the Sox go down to Tampa they are victims of larceny.  Tampa loves to steal bases and with Victor Martinez behind the plate it will be of the utmost importance for the Sox pitchers to keep Tampa baserunners close to the bag and stop the Rays from creating scoring opportunities.  The other main concern is the bridge to Bard and Papelbon.  Is there any reliever in the bullpen that a Red Sox fan can trust?  I even have a hard time trusting Papelbon! It is crucial for the Sox starting pitchers to get through the seventh inning.  If they can’t then, there will be a lot of bars in the New England area collectively holding their breaths on each pitch with the likes of Delcarmen, Atchison, and Doubront on the mound.

Lastly, I will leave you, the faithful readers of NTCF, with some food for thought.  Many of you know that I was a huge Johnny Damon fan when he was with the Red Sox.  I, like many of you, felt betrayed when he went south to suit up in pinstripes. When I heard the Sox won the waiver claim on Damon, I was ecstatic and hopeful he would comeback to Fenway.  We all know how that worked out.  Yes, I was somewhat disappointed.  But then I stepped back from the situation and did some thinking.  Here are Johnny’s stats this season:

In 115 games Johnny has hit .269 with 7 home runs and 41 RBI’s with an on base percentage of .359.

In 94 games Darnell McDonald has hit .273 with 8 home runs and 31 RBI’s and an on base percentage of  .340.  Not to mention that Darnell races horses and smashes windshields.

Would Johnny have been an upgrade or a downgrade?