Who's on Tap?:
Jeff Suppan (2-2, 4.63 ERA) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-0, 2.45 ERA)
Dave Bush (1-4, 6.06 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (3-2, 4.25 ERA)
Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (4-3, 4.21 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
The Red Sox players haven't seen the Brewers in quite some time, so any stats I throw at you are pretty hard to swallow. Nevertheless, the Brewers are tossing three right-handed off speed pitchers who rely on location and contact to get by. But lately, that location has been off a bit, which is going to be an enormous benefit to the Red Sox, who are more than willing to take their walks. Look for David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury to have a phenomenal series. The Brewers only have one serviceable lefty in their bullpen with the call-up of Zach Jackson today, leaving only Brian Shouse to face the two if the time presents itself. Josh Beckett is poised to have a big game against the undisciplined crew and I suspect Dice-K will continue to struggle with his command, but will benefit from the same problem.
The Brewers are going to be hurting for someone to step up in this series. Ryan Braun is an obvious pick in this one to go after the Green Monster, but he'll likely be trying to hard to make it really happen. The obvious pick would be Prince Fielder, who has hit the ball on the screws quite a few times in the past week, but has yet to be rewarded. But ultimately it's going to be Rickie Weeks who is going to have a big series if the Brewers have any thoughts about challenging the defending champs. Weeks is well below the .200 BA mark, and would be in danger of losing his job if Bill Hall wasn't doing any better. How these guys haven't been put on the bench for a few games straight is beyond me. Throw Mike Cameron under the bus as well and three of Brewers nine starters are under the Mendoza line. Weeks will be the first to break through that and is poised to make a bit of a run. On the pitching side, they're in trouble. Villanueva will likely have the best start and will keep his spot, while Bush keeps looking over his shoulder at Seth McClung.
Keys to Victory:
For the Sox, it's up to Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to set the table. Both have healthy averages, on-base numbers, and good enough speed to challenge the arm of Jason Kendall. In the end, if they get on base at a good enough clip, the Brewers are in for a long a east coast trip. Other than that the Sox need only to continue to what they have done all season, which is stay patient and at least one of the 3-6 hitters will get the job done against a contact pitching staff.
For the Brewers to win, their offense is going to have to explode. While they had some offensive success against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Brewers offense is still in a slump. Only Corey Hart and Ryan Braun have had any sustained success. You might be able to include Kendall in that bit considering the his .283 average. But beyond these three, not a single every day player is hitting above .255, leading to a team average of .241 and a god-awful OBP of .316, which is 14th in the National League. How these guys are only one under is amazing. If these bats ever take fire, they may be able to compete, but until then the key to any victory this weekend will rely on their bats.
After getting embarrassed by the Dodgers this week and having to jump on a plane right after, the Brewers team looks like they're headed for yet another pit of doom, especially in Boston. The Brewers will be lucky to take one in this series, and if they do it will be tonight with Dice-K struggling with his control. The pitching will likely look good for a good portion of the game, but the big inning will undoubtedly haunt the Brewers as their command becomes more and more questionable. Weeks really has a shot of getting back above the Mendoza line this weekend if he can hit around .400, but that's wishful thinking. He'll approach it, while Bill Hall will drop even further, spurring fans screaming for the sacrificing of defense for offense in the likes of Mat Gamel. Ultimately, Mike Lowell, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz will have impressive series and this will carry the Sox back to their winning ways since losing five of their last six.