The Red Sox and Rays face off in Game 5 of the ALCS tonight in a must win game for the Sox.
I'll admit, the Rays are a really good team and one that has never gotten their due respect this season. Everyone (including me) has waited all year long for them to burst their bubble and plummet to the bottom of the division. But it never happened. They have consistently defied the odds and are one game away from going to the World Series.
But I still can't decide if the Rays have played that good during the ALCS, or if the Red Sox have just played that bad. Besides Dice-K, the Sox pitching has been atrocious. Beckett has been very un-Beckett like this post season. And Jon Lester has looked nothing like the Lester of old against the Rays. Tim Wakefield's knuckler was hanging so much that it would have been easier to just put the ball on a tee and let the Rays hit it from there.
The hitting hasn't been much better at all. Besides Youklis, Pedroia, and Bay, there isn't anybody that is hitting very well. Ellsbury has been so bad that he got benched. Ortiz hasn't been the same since Manny got traded. And Varitek isn't even hitting .200. Although Mark Kotsay played well in Game 4, I'd still like to see Sean Casey playing first base. I believe that he is a better hitter than Kotsay and would put a spark in their lineup.
One thing that really has been frustrating me is the way the Red Sox are constantly looking at first pitch strikes. The Rays pitchers are grooving pitches to them and the Sox are letting them go by every time. The Rays hitters, on the other hand, are jumping all over first pitch strikes if they are given to them. I'd like to see the Sox take advantage of some of those pitches and make the Rays pitchers work a little.
If the Red Sox are going to extend this series, they are going to have to put some runs up on the board by not leaving runners on base. I believe in Game 2 they left 13 runners on base that night. They have been outscored 31-13 in the past three games.
If Beckett and Lester return to form and can quiet the Rays offense, the Sox will have a chance. But first, Dice-K needs to get a win tonight.