For once, the matchups actually came through for the Red Sox.
All too often during the first couple of weeks, the Red Sox would come upon a favorable pitching matchup. They historically killed the opposing pitcher, and their starter historically killed the opposition. And then somehow everything would go awry, with the Sox making some middle-of-the-pack southpaw look like Cy Young while their man recorded more homers than innings pitched.
Today, in the annual Patriots Day Game, it was Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Ricky Romero. A terrible matchup at first glance, an amazing one at second:
You might think that the Sox are going with Daisuke over Lackey because they want to waste his disaster game against one of the better young pitchers in all of baseball. You might think this is a game the Sox are just punting. You would be wrong. This is a game the Red Sox can win--perhaps even should win.
You see, nobody shuts down the Blue Jays like Daisuke does, and nobody hits Ricky Romero like the Red Sox do.
Take a guess at who has the best OPS against Daisuke Matsuzaka on the Blue Jays. The answer is Aaron Hill. Now take a guess at what that batting line looks like, keeping in mind that there's almost always at least one guy on a team that looks like Albert Pujols against any given pitcher. .350/.450/.550? No. .300/.400/.500? Guess again. .280/.350/.450? Too high.
The correct answer is .200/.259/.480 in 27 plate appearances. That is the best the Blue Jays can muster against Matsuzaka. As a team, they've hit .153/.205/.297 against him over 128 plate appearances with 36 strikeouts and 8 walks. They make Daisuke look like what we thought he could be.
Meanwhile, Ricky Romero can look forward to facing a lineup with four guys who have an OPS over 1.000 against him in 12-or-more at bats. Add in Jacoby Ellsbury (.885 OPS), Jed Lowrie (1.100 in six appearances), Jason Varitek (three walks in four trips to the plate) and maybe give Carl Crawford a day off in favor of Mike Cameron, and you've got the perfect group for taking out Romero.
So what happened? Daisuke allowed one hit and one walk in seven scoreless innings, and the Red Sox chased Romero in the fifth inning with five runs to his name.
Who did well against Romero? Exactly who we could have expected to: J.D. Drew (2-for-2 with a walk and a triple against the starter), Dustin Pedroia (1-for-2 with a walk), David Ortiz (1-for-1 with two walks) and Kevin Youkilis (1-for-3 with a double that came just short of a home run).
Oh, yes, and there was Jed Lowrie, who drove in two men with a two-out single in the first, picked up another hit in the third, and then sealed the deal on Romero by blasting a curveball into the second row of Monster seats for his second home run. He even added a fourth hit in the later innings. The legend, as they say, grows.
Lowrie was not alone in his offensive production, though. The Red Sox managed eighteen baserunners, and saw two more balls leave the park off the bats of Kevin Youkilis and, amazingly, Jacoby Ellsbury. Adrian Gonzalez, who had looked foolish against Ricky Romero, added a double to end the day on a positive note, and even Carl Crawford finally came through, pounding a double high off the Green Monster and receiving a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd which had produced a smattering of boos earlier in the game.
The only blemish on the day for the Sox was a home run from Yunel Escobar off of Tim Wakefield in the ninth inning. Otherwise, it's hard to imagine a game going much better.