All it took was Josh Beckett to conclude his impersonation of Brad Penny the American Leaguer, Clay Buchholz to show he can beat a club besides the Blue Jays and Daisuke Matsuzaka to prove he’s worth 730 million yen.
After five months of peaks and valleys, the Red Sox’ starting staff looks like the best in the business — just as most experts predicted it would be before the season began. That bodes well for the postseason. Though nothing is guaranteed (Boston’s magic number is 14), the only way the Rangers are taking the wild card is if the Red Sox don’t show up to the ballpark for the rest of their games.
With that in mind, let’s see how the Red Sox’ playoff rotation stacks up against the seven other playoff contenders (if the season ended today) and how those pitchers have fared in September:
Red Sox: Josh Beckett (1-1, 4.00), Jon Lester (3-0, 0.86), Clay Buchholz (2-0, 1.80), Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0, 0.00)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (2-0, 2.14), A.J. Burnett (1-1, 6.38), Andy Pettitte (1-0, 5.73), Joba Chamberlain (0-1, 4.50)
Tigers: Justin Verlander (1-1, 3.00), Jarrod Washburn (0-1, 10.50), Edwin Jackson (2-0, 5.40), Rick Porcello (2-0, 3.79)
Angels: John Lackey (1-1, 1.05), Ervin Santana (0-1, 3.38), Joe Saunders (2-0, 2.19), Jered Weaver (2-1, 3.48)
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright (2-1, 3.79), Chris Carpenter (2-1, 4.29), Joel Pineiro (1-1, 4.05), John Smoltz (0-1, 5.73)
Phillies: Cole Hamels (2-1, 2.08), Cliff Lee (2-1, 4.74), Joe Blanton (0-1, 9.28), Pedro Martinez (3-0, 1.66)
Dodgers: Chad Billingsley (0-2, 5.63), Randy Wolf (1-0, 3.21), Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 3.46), Clayton Kershaw (0-1, 1.50) or Jon Garland (2-0, 3.32) or Vicente Padilla (2-0, 1.56)
Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 5.94), Jason Marquis (1-2, 5.50), Jorge De La Rosa (2-0, 1.50), Jason Hammel (0-1, 4.19)
Which foursome would you prefer in the playoffs?
In a five- or seven-game series, when every pitch is critical, no player is more important than the starting pitcher. As the saying goes, momentum is the next day’s starter. And it’s tough to find four better pitchers than the Red Sox have – especially the way each of them has been dealing down the stretch.
In September, Boston’s top four starters have combined to go 7-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 10 starts. That’s easily the best numbers of any of the current playoff teams.
The Angels are second at 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts, the Dodgers are third at 6-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 14 starts (six pitchers), and the defending world champion Phillies are fourth at 6-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 11 starts.
The other four current playoff teams are in different hemispheres:
Rockies: 4-4, 4.28 in 12 starts
Cardinals: 5-4, 4.31 in 11 starts
Yankees: 4-2, 4.48 in 11 starts
Tigers: 5-2, 4.64 in 11 starts
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, but pitching wins championships. The Red Sox have plenty of that, and their Grade A arms are peaking at the right time.
Beckett is hitting his spots again and sports a 2.90 career ERA in the postseason.
Lester is building a strong case as the most dominating left-handed starter in the game.
Buchholz has big league confidence to go along with his top-shelf stuff.
And the Dice Man is a man on a mission with a chip on his shoulder.
This foursome makes the Red Sox a team to be feared come the postseason. If the starters can deliver quality starts, Boston’s bullpen – which sports the lowest ERA in the AL – can turn out the lights.
The dream is alive in Boston, and it’s much closer to possible than impossible this year.