Mailbag: Why pitch to Ortiz in big spots?
Reporter Mychael Urban answers questions about the ALDS
Why didn't Angels manager Mike Scioscia walk David Ortiz in the third inning with one out and a runner on second? With the history he has with John Lackey, I would think that the Angels would rather take their chances with Manny Ramirez. Instead, Ortiz hit a two-run bomb that broke open the game. I know that Manny is dangerous, but Ortiz is too clutch, especially when it comes to big games.
-- Will C., no hometown provided
That's an excellent question. Big Papi entered the series 10-for-26 (.385) in his career against Lackey, and six of those hits had gone for extra bases, including two homers. And hey, with a base open, why not put Ortiz on and take your chances in a righty-vs.-righty battle with Manny? Ramirez missed a lot of time down the stretch and might not have his timing completely down.
Here's your probable answer: Manny entered the series 10-for-23 (.435) in his career against Lackey with seven extra-base hits, including four home runs. Scioscia didn't address this question specifically in his postgame comments, and initially I was disappointed that he wasn't even asked the question. But once I saw the numbers I just laid out for you, I figured out why.
Do you think that with Daisuke Matsuzaka getting some much-needed rest as of late that it's reasonable to expect him to pitch some dominant games for the Red Sox in the postseason like he did early in the year?
-- Thomas H., no hometown provided
It's certainly reasonable, but that doesn't mean it'll happen. The postseason is such a different beast than the regular season, and it's no small factor that this will be Dice-K's first encounter with the beast. Matsuzaka has done a nice job of handling the pressure that comes with having the eyes of two baseball-rabid nations -- Red Sox Nation and Japan -- trained on his every move all year, but it's possible that the extra helping of pressure that October represents might get to him.
That said, I do expect him to pitch well, and the extra rest he received down the stretch will help. He made each of his final three starts on at least five days of rest as opposed to the standard four -- he got eight days once -- and threw the ball extremely well his last time out, allowing two runs on six hits over eight innings against the Twins on the final Friday of the regular season.
Why did Scioscia shut down Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero in the Texas series (Sept. 24-26)? The Angels could have pushed for home-field advantage. They had the best record at home in all of baseball during the regular season, and at the time they were tied for best overall record. If they can't get out of the first round, those guys will have all winter to rest. I think it was a bad move by Mike.
-- Brian B., Riverside, Calif.
Entering that series, Anderson had played in 47 of the previous 48 games, including 40 in left field. Guerrero had been dealing with triceps tendinitis since Sept. 6, and he's still dealing with it now. Scioscia, whose club had clinched the AL West title in its previous series, decided to rest his regulars for a couple of days in an effort to have them at full strength for the playoffs, and it's likely that the following two facts played into his decision:
1. In 2002, the Angels were the Wild Card entry and didn't have home-field advantage in either of their AL playoff series. They won it all.
2. In 2004, they won the AL West and had home-field advantage over the Red Sox in the ALDS. They got swept.
If if the Red Sox advance to the ALCS, will Tim Wakefield pitch out of the bullpen, or will he go into the rotation? What will the Red Sox's rotation look like for the ALCS?
-- Justin S., Jacksonville, FL
Word on the street is that ... OK, it's not really the word on the street. It's the word according to Ian Browne, MLB.com's Red Sox beat writer. I just like saying stuff like, "Word on the street ..."
Wakefield would have worked out of the bullpen in the ALDS had he been healthy, because the day off between the first two games allows the Red Sox to go with a three-man rotation of Josh Beckett, Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling. Obviously Wakefield is not healthy right now, having been left off the first-round roster as a result of back issues, but the Red Sox are confident that he'll be ready by the time the ALCS rolls around, and if the Sox are in it, Ian tells me they'll move Wakefield back into the rotation. How the rotation lines up simply depends on how long the series against the Angels goes.
Be honest: Do you really think the Angels have any shot at winning this series? I can't see them beating Beckett, and they'll have to face him in Game 4 -- if it even gets that far.
-- Ronnie T., Orange, Calif.
Absolutely, I think they can win the series. It'd be a massive upset, in my opinion, because the Angels aren't close to the team they're capable of being without Vlad at 100 percent and without Gary Matthews Jr. at all. But we've all been watching October baseball long enough to know that anything is possible at this time of year.
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Now, if Dice-K beats Kelvim Escobar in Game 2, I'll have a different answer. I know it's trite to say, but this game is the key to the whole series. If the Angels lose, they'll need to beat Schilling in Game 3 just to get to Beckett, and beating those two in consecutive games will be awfully tough. If the Angels win on Friday, they'll head home with a lot of confidence, the series tied, and the Rally Monkey ready to rock.
Will the Red Sox keep shortstop Julio Lugo another year, or will they, like usual, get rid of him and watch him have a great year somewhere else?
-- David W., no hometown provided
Well, given that Lugo's got three years left on a four-year deal worth a reported $36 million, it's unlikely that the Red Sox will be able to deal him somewhere without eating a big chunk of change. And more important, I don't think they want to deal him. They made a long-term commitment to the guy, and while I understand your concern based on the rotating door at shortstop in Boston over the past few years, I think they'd really like to see Lugo put a jam in that door.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.