Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Overwhelmingly Paramount Game 3

Two games-to-none leads have been overcome with regularity in the World Series. You might just ask the 1996 Atlanta Braves, the 1986 Red Sox, the 1985 Cardinals, the 1981 Yankees, or the 1978 Dodgers. All of those comebacks, of course, started with a loss in Game 3. Baseball Prospectus has a nice article (subscription required) on how important Games 3 tend to be. That is why I am not so keen to celebrate, as others on Soxtalk.com or the Sox e-mail list seem to be.

And I think Sox fans should prepare themselves for a loss in Game 3. This series has not gone quite like I expected it to so far. I thought the pitching matchups would favor the Sox in Games 1 and 2 (with Contreras having an edge over Clemens at home), but I never thought that it would be Clemens struggling so much and that Pettite would quite the Sox bats. In pretty much every scenario, however, I saw the Sox losing to Roy Oswalt in Game 3.

Oswalt is a very good pitcher in his own right. He has won 20 games two years in a row. He has a sub-3.00 ERA pitching in a hitter's park and with a less than stellar defense behind him. He is also largely an unknown to the Sox, and the Sox seem to do poorly the first time they face a pitcher who throws hard (see Santana, Ervin). Those factors, added to the Astros' terrific home record and absolute need to win Game 3 makes this a real uphill battle for the Sox.

Jon Garland pitches again on long rest. Like Contreras and Buehrle, he is himself largely an unknown to the Astros. Only Mike Lamb has any real number of plate appearances against Garland, having gone 1 for 9 against him while he was with the Rangers. You cannot say enough about how Garland pitched against the Angels in Game 3 of the ALCS in Anaheim. However, he still did give up 2 runs on Orlando Cabrera's home run. I have a very bad feeling that if Jon gives up another 2 runs in this game, he will take the loss.

There are a handful of Sox with at-bats against Oswalt. Podsednik is a not-so-great 6 for 23. On the other hand, Pierzynski is an astounding 5 for 8. I know that Ozzie is likely to use Carl Everett first of the bench, but I'd rather see Timo Perez hitting off of Oswalt. Timo is 4 for 7 in his career off of Oswalt, and Oswalt is the type of pitcher I can see Timo hitting. And there are very few of those. For some reason, I can also see Uribe matching up well against Oswalt; maybe it's because Uribe is hot right now or that he seems to hit fastballers well.

If there is any one thing the Sox can do to win this game is to get to Oswalt early a la games 3 and 4 against Anaheim. I thought Dye's double to drive in Podsednik in Game 3 of the ALCS was one of the key hits of the series - it got the Sox on track, Lackey off kilter, and then Konerko labeled one to put the Sox up 3-0. Getting Scotty on and around would be a blow to the Astros - especially with Podsednik's heroics in Game 2 - and would go a long way to winning the game.

The Astros are -190 favorites to win Game 3, which equates to the oddsmakers saying that the Astros have a 64% chance of winning. I'm inclined to agree with that, and I would even make the Astros a bit bigger favorites, perhaps -210 or so. But I'll be rooting with what voice I have for the Sox as underdogs again.


Comments-[ comments.]
They changed their minds during the angels series, two of them I believe.
No one changed their mind for the Series. ESPN changed the columnists that they showed up there. Gary Gillette picked the Sox. His pick isn't being shown (I think that Stark replaced him, as the bigger name).
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