Welcome to the first of many series against the team that most of us consider our biggest rivals. Here are the match-ups and quick scouting reports although we are familiar with all parties involved.
4/16 Wade Davis vs. Josh Beckett
4/17 James Shields vs. Clay Buchholz
4/18 Matt Garza vs. Jon Lester
4/19 Jeff Niemann vs. John Lackey
Josh Beckett is in his 10th major league season, fifth with the Red Sox, and has yet to turn 30 years old (5/15/80). Nothing has really changed with Beckett except his bank account, which will have $68 million dollars added over the next four years. He has struggled so far this season and has just five strikeouts in 11.2 innings. That said, he's still a great pitcher and his mid 90's fastball seems just fine. In addition to the heater, Beckett still has a hammer curveball and a decent change-up.
We've been hearing about Clay Buchholz even before he threw a no-hitter way back in 2007. He's made just 31 starts for Boston over the last two years, but finally looks like he's ready to be a permanent member of the rotation. Buchholz, now 25, still has a mid 90's fastball, but is showing his slider more and more each season at the expense of his curveball. He still throws the curve a fair amount and backs his fastball and slider with a change-up.
The lone lefty starter for either team in this series, Jon Lester still scares me more than any other Red Sox pitcher. According to his early season 3.64 FIP, his 2010 ERA of 7.20 is not a true indication of how he's pitched this season. Lester slightly elevated walk totals in his first two starts, but is still striking out nearly a batter per inning. The Rays line-up is filled with free swingers so this should be fun. Yet another Boston starter with a mid 90's fastball, Lester also throws a pretty nifty cutter. His off-speed stuff consists of a curveball and a change-up which are also pretty good.
The Rays are facing John Lackey for the first time as a member of the Red Sox, but we are all familiar with the former Angels ace. Lackey sports a shiny 1.42 ERA after two starts, but has more walks (6) than strikeouts (5) so far. He is the only Boston starter in this series that averages less than 92 mph on his fastball. In addition to the fastball, he mixes in a slider, curveball, and change-up with the curveball being the most effective.
This should be fun...