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BOSTON (CBS) – If you like good pitching, then you are going to love the Red Sox-Rays ALDS.
While the Red Sox have a solid starting rotation of their own, Tampa comes in with one of the best in baseball. And what better way to start the postseason than with dueling aces in Game 1?
Friday’s Game 1 at Fenway Park pits lefties Jon Lester against Matt Moore. Here’s a quick snapshot of both pitchers this season:
Jon Lester: 15-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 177 K in 213.1 IP
2013 vs. Rays: 4 GS, 2-1, 4.32 ERA, 28 H, 12 ER in 25 IP, 21 K, .280 BAA
Matt Moore: 17-4, 3.29 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 143 K in 150.1 IP
2013 vs. Red Sox: 2 GS, 2-0, 1.80 ERA, 5 H, 3 ER in 15 IP, 12 K, .102 BAA
Those are some scary numbers put up by Moore against the Red Sox, especially when you see that .102 batting average against. David Ortiz is the only one to put up good numbers against the 24-year-old, going 6-for-13 for his career and 2-for-6 this season with a home run. Stephen Drew has two hits in five career at-bats against Moore, but after that no Sox player is hitting above .200 against him. Jacoby Ellsbury is 0-for-6 for his career, and Dustin Pedroia has just two hits in a team-high 14 at-bats against Moore.
But, the Red Sox might be catching Moore at a good time. He’s always had a rep of being a bit wild (and his AL-leading 17 wild pitches this season confirms that), and Moore has had a tough time with his command since returning from an elbow injury a month ago. Though manager Joe Madden has said Moore has is “effectively wild,” he walked 20 batters in 29 innings in September.
If Moore is wild on Friday, the patient Red Sox could run up his pitch count and chase him early.
As for Lester, he is coming off a red hot September in which he went 3-0 in five starts. He finished 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his final 13 starts of the season, though he didn’t have the luxury of facing the Rays late in the year. His last start against Tampa came back in July, when Lester allowed just two runs over 6.1 innings en route to a 6-2 win.
While Lester is the postseason ace of the staff, he is just 2-3 in the playoffs and his worst loss came to the Rays back in Game 3 of the 2008 ALCS. Tampa got to Lester for four runs over 5.2 innings in that game, as the Rays took a 2-1 series lead with a 9-1 win. Lester was also the losing pitcher in the deciding Game 7 in Tampa, but it’s hard to blame the lefty for that one after allowing three runs over seven innings in the 3-1 loss.
A few Rays have put up good numbers against Lester, with Desmond Jennings 9-for-25 (.360) and the ageless Jose Molina 9-for-26 (.346) against the southpaw in their careers. Rookie Wil Myers made the most of his three at-bats against Lester in July, collecting a double and home run, but those came in a losing effort.
Lester has had some success of his own against a pair of the Rays’ bigger bats, holding Evan Longoria to a .220 average in 50 at-bats (though three of his 11 hits against Lester have left the park) and Ben Zobrist to a .188 average with 18 strikeouts.
Of course, none of this really means anything in the playoffs. All the slates are clean and everyone goes back to zero on the stat sheet.
But the Red Sox feel confident with Lester on mound, and if they’re patient at the plate, can get to Moore. It won’t be easy, but nothing is when it comes to October baseball.