The Red Sox are in desperate straits, as their West Coast road trip has gone about as well as expected, but worse than needed.
Fresh off pair of disappointing losses to the Mariners that knocked the Red Sox down to five games back in the Wild Card race, set for three games against probably the best team they'll face on this 10-game trip. A team which just picked up one of the premier starters in the game-ERA be damned-and will start him against us tonight. Oh joy!
Haren has never exactly been the flashiest of aces, but he's certainly been one of the best. He hasn't posted an xFIP of four or greater since 2004, and has been downright dominant in the last two years. 2010 hasn't been so kind to him so far, but that's easy to blame on a .350 BABIP and a 13.9% HR/FB rate. His ERA? 4.60. His xFIP? 3.38. Let's not confuse the matter: Dan Haren is an ace. The Red Sox can only hope that his bad luck continues.
It doesn't get any easier in game two, either. Instead, the Red Sox draw the Angel's first ace in Jered Weaver. A breakout season has pushed Weaver into the upper echelons of American League pitchers. Second only to Brandon Morrow in his strikeout rate, among the league leaders in walk rate, and not even particularly high in his line drive rate, Weaver is every bit a Cy Young contender between his 3.22 ERA and 3.14 FIP.
Joel Piniero isn't as good as the other two, but is no slouch himself. The American League hasn't been as easy as the National League for Piniero, though he is striking out more batters (still on the low side at jut 5.7 K/9). He keeps the ball in the zone, though not as often as usual,and generally that's been enough of late to keep the Red Sox down.
Then again, the Red Sox will not be the same team as they have been recently, thanks to the return of Victor Martinez. If the difference between Varitek and Martinez was huge last year, the difference between Martinez and this year's replacements could be even bigger, as Kevin Cash, Dusty Brown, and Gustavo Molina displayed an impressive level of ineptness at the plate over the last month.
The Angels, on the other hand, are nothing special offensively themselves. After Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli, the absence of Kendry Morales is killing the Angels' lineup, which relies on an aging combo of Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui to fill out the middle of the order. Getting Brandon Wood out of the everyday lineup helps, but there's no cure-all forthcoming for this team until Morales is all better.
The Red Sox need to win this series, if not sweep it. The unfortunate fact is that this is not a group of pitchers that that's any easy task against.