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World Series 2013 Game 4 Match-Up: Craig Breslow vs Matt Carpenter

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Lefty specialist Craig Breslow will be tasked with trying to get out one of best hitters in the game in Matt Carpenter many times in this series making his ability to contain the Cardinals lead-off man a major key for the Red Sox.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter was one the best players in the game in 2013. He hit .318/.392/.481 for the season and lead the National League in hits and runs scored. As the Cardinals lead-off hitter, there is no way to get around having to pitch to him multiple times and the best the Red Sox can hope to do is contain him early and match him up against a lefty specialist any time the leverage index creeps up. This is what Boston has tried to do in the first three games of the World Series, but to this point, it hasn’t exactly worked. With Clay Buchholz battling fatigue and likely to be on a short leash, every thing points to the match-up between Carpenter and Farrell’s most trusted lefty reliever, Craig Breslow, playing a central role in Game 4.

Carpenter hasn’t been as productive in the playoffs as he was in the regular season, hitting .261/.333/.435 against the Dodgers in the NLCS and going 3-13  without an extra base hit so far in the World Series. He has still managed to make a few key at-bats count, however, and those at-bats have both come against Breslow. He drove in the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly off the Red Sox lefty in Game 2, setting in motion the play that cost Boston that game. In the seventh inning of Game 3, he got his third hit of the series off Breslow and then came around to score a go-ahead run (that didn’t hold up) on Matt Holliday’s double. Unless Farrell suddenly decides Breslow is shot, this match-up is going happen again soon and when it does, it is likely to play a major role in the outcome of the game.

Going with a lefty against Carpenter and the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran is an obvious necessity late in games. In 2013, Carpenter was 25 percent better against righties than he was against lefties. Of course, he still hit .294/.353/.467 against southpaws, so labeling him as vulnerable to LOOGYs is totally inaccurate. Getting the platoon advantage against Carpenter won’t completely stop him, but it does drop his OBP by 57 points and his slugging by 20 while forcing the man behind him to hit from is weaker side so in close games, pitting him against Breslow is a no-brainer.

Breslow famously posted something of a reverse split this season, allowing lefties to put up a .310 wOBA against him compared to a .263 from righties, but with higher strike out rates, lower walk rates and a career platoon split closer to what we would expect that is much of an indication of his true abilities. Most importantly, Breslow has been able to induce tons of pop flies and allow few home runs against lefties in his career, making him ideal for these tough late inning spots. Facing off against Carpenter is a challenge for a pitcher like Breslow who hardly overpowers hitters,  but Breslow can go to his cutter and sinker to try to induce weak contact and keep Carpenter off-base.

With both bullpens being made to work in Games 2 and 3, the match-ups between key hitters and relief specialists on both sides is likely to play a major role in the rest of the series. John Farrell has leaned heavily on Breslow in these playoff and with one of the game’s best left-handed hitters at the top of the Cardinals line up, he will have to put his faith him again if the Red Sox are going to win.

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