Jon Lester And The Red Sox Down Cardinals In Game 1
Mike Napoli smashed a bases-loaded double off Adam Wainwright in the first inning, clearing the bases. The Boston Red Sox were in control from the get-go, and downed the St. Louis Cardinals 8-1. Sox starter Jon Lester turned in another excellent postseason outing, going 7.2 shutout innings, surrendering just five hits and a walk while striking out eight. This game was over early, so I’ll just provide notes of interesting things.
Wainwright didn’t pitch too poorly, but he looked a little worn down. He’d thrown 265 innings before the start. His fastball averaged just over 92 miles per hour, which is down from the 94 he was pumping up through the ALCS. The curveball wasn’t quite as nasty either, generating just three whiffs out of the 35 times he offered it.
Lester came out throwing gas like he has this postseason, touching 95 several times in the first inning. He didn’t maintain that pace but pounded the zone, throwing 68% strikes. Interestingly, he threw first pitch strikes to only 15 out of 28 hitters. The eight strikeouts tied a postseason high.
David Ross is an excellent pitch-framer, and a look at the strike-zone map confirms my suspicions that he stole a few strikes for Lester. He’s criminally underrated, and was a great sign for the Sox this offseason.
Red Sox hitters handled the heat pretty well, which was something of a question mark going into the series. Of the 26 heaters 94 or above which they saw, they whiffed just twice. Four balls were hit between the lines, one of which were David Ortiz‘ home run off Kevin Siegrist, and another was Daniel Nava‘s double off Carlos Martinez. The home run was the first Siegrist has surrendered to a lefthanded hitter. Going back to 2008, that’s only the second home run Ortiz has hit off a lefty fastball that left the hand at 96 or more.
Speaking of which, when is Nava going to start against a righthander? The Nava/Jonny Gomes platoon was excellent all season with Gomes managing a .795 OPS against lefties, and Nava producing a .894 OPS against righties. However, it looks like John Farrell has scrapped that approach in the postseason. The Sox have won every game Gomes has started this postseason, but he has just a .176/.250/.233 line. Either Farrell knows something I don’t, or he’s giving a whole lot of weight to Gomes’ sparkplug presence.
Xander Bogaerts continues his patience and plate discipline thing. He didn’t fare too well at the plate tonight, but he saw 18 pitches in four trips. I guess a .727 on-base percentage was too much to ask, but he should be starting every game this series.
Didn’t David Freese used to be clutch? His first two postseason trips were incredible, but he has just a .195/.250/.293 line this year. After he grounded into the bases-loaded double play to end a Cardinals rally in the 4th, the Sox chances of winning shot from 85 to 95 percent. Just goes to show how fickle clutch hitting can be.
John Lackey and Michael Wacha square off tomorrow. Wacha’s been nearly unhittable this postseason, Lackey had one of the best years of his career in 2013. Notice how the former beer-guzzling, fried chicken-eating lazy bums that were Lackey and Lester in 2011 are being lauded as fierce competitors this year? Nothing has changed, the difference is that they’re pitching well again.