Hey, it's never too early to second-guess the Red Sox, right? We really don't have a choice, when it seems that the Sox might be on the verge of anointing a new ace. Take it away, Sean McAdam ...
- But when the Red Sox open the playoffs in less than two weeks, their plan is to start Jon Lester -- and not Josh Beckett -- in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Beckett would start Game 2, to be followed by Clay Buchholz in Game 3.
The Red Sox have yet to make that declaration publicly, of course, since the team can't clinch a postseason spot until tomorrow while playing the Yankees in New York at the earliest. But the team's pitching rotation for the final week of the regular season sets up for just such a deployment and multiple clubhouse sources confirm that Lester is the team's first choice to open the playoffs.
There are other reasons for the decision, too, not the least of which is Lester's excellence throughout the season. Since May 31, Lester is 11-2, 2.13; in that same span, Beckett is 14-7 with a 3.42 ERA, more than a run higher than Lester.
Lester has been far more consistent throughout the season. Beckett has had seven starts in that span in which he gave up more than three earned runs, while Lester has had just one.
This makes sense because Lester's been better over the last few months, and also because he's (probably) slightly better than Beckett, right now (though they're very close, statistically).
A couple of reasons this doesn't make sense to me:
One, the Angels have just one pure left-handed hitter (Bobby Abreu) in their lineup. Usually it's Abreu, three or four switch-hitters, and four or five right-handed hitters. (Granted, the Angels have actually hit slightly better against lefties than righties this season, which might be anomalous or might be due to their switch-hitters preferring lefties.)
And two -- and credit for this goes to a commenter here -- if the Red Sox play the Yankees in the ALCS, Lester would be best-suited to pitch in Yankee Stadium. If he starts Game 2 of the Division Series, he would then be available to start Games 2 and 6 of the LCS, both in New York. However, if he starts Game 1 and (potentially) Game 5 of the Division Series, he wouldn't be ready to pitch until Game 3 of the LCS, back in Boston.
Sean McAdam's no fool; if he says Lester's going to be No. 1, then he probably will be. Red Sox management ... well, they're no fools, either. If they've decided on Lester for Game 1, they've got plenty of good reasons. It sure is fun to talk about, though.