After a 1-1 series with Chicago, the Boston Red Sox return to Philadelphia for three games to mark the beginning of 2010 interleague play. This year, Boston has struggled against tough competition from the expected New York and Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. They are currently in fourth place in the best division in baseball. In recent years, the Phillies have been less than stellar during interleague play. Boston is currently missing two of its star players: Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett are currently on the disabled list. Also worth noting, the Phillies enter the weekend with the best record in the National League. Last year, the Phillies lost their sole series to Boston in Philadelphia 1-2.
GAME ONE: John Lackey (4-2, 4.86) at Cole Hamels (4-2, 4.29)
While Lackey has pitched well overall so far in his debut season for the Sox, he has struggled in May and has been less than stellar in his last three outings. In his last start against Detroit, he went seven innings giving up five runs on nine hits earning the loss. His last win was on May 10th against Toronto, but even in that outing he didn’t fare well giving up six runs on eight hits, while only pitching six innings. It will be Lackey’s first visit to Philadelphia, and he has made only one career star against the Phillies: a win, giving up five hits in five and third innings. While he hasn’t faced the entire starting lineup, most notably Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino, those he has faced are batting .317 against Lackey. The line includes one home run from Placido Polanco, three doubles and five runs batted in from Raul Ibanez, and from the bench, two hits in four at bats and two RBIs from Ross Gload. Hamels was one strike away from throwing six scoreless innings before allowing back to back homers against Milwaukee Sunday. He pitched well enough to earn the win, allowing two runs on six hits, three walks, and struck out three in six and two thirds innings. However, in May, Hamels has a 3.20 ERA in three starts, a sign that Hamels is back on track for the season. In Hamels’ last three starts, he is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA. While he has never faced Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, and David Ortiz; the current lineup is batting.213 against him. They are 13 for 61 with three home runs and three RBIs. While Lackey and Hamels stats make this a pretty even matchup, based on their last three starts, the matchup favors Hamels.
GAME TWO: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-1, 7.89) at Kyle Kendrick (2-1, 5.24)
While Matsuzaka made one of his best starts in a Red Sox uniform earlier this month, 2010 has been somewhat of a struggle. His best outing on May 11the against Toronto, he threw a season high seven innings; giving up just one run over three hits. In his other three starts he has not made it past the fifth inning and averaged four runs per game. He is also struggling on the road, going 0-1 with a 12.54 ERA. Last year at Citizens Bank Park, he gave up four runs on seven hits earning a no decision. The current lineup is batting .239 against him with just one home run (Raul Ibanez) and five runs batted in. On the other hand, Kendrick had his best outing of the season, going eight innings while allowing two earned runs on Monday against Pittsburgh. In his last two starts he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Additionally, he has only walked six batters in his last four starts after walking nine in his first four starts of the season. He has only faced the Red Sox once, in relief last June, an ugly outing on a very short call up from Lehigh Valley. Those who have faced him in minimal plate appearances (35) are batting .290 with six hits, three home runs, three RBIs, and three BB. He has never faced Beltre, Ortiz, or Marco Scutaro. Phillies should look to attack Matsuzaka early, and Kendrick should hope to build on the successes of his last few outings.
GAME THREE: Tim Wakefield (0-2, 5.31) at Roy Halladay (6-2, 1.64)
Veteran knuckleballer Wakefield is replacing Beckett in the rotation and the righty is in pursuit of career win number 190 and his first win since July 8th, 2009. He has made five starts for Boston this year, and in those starts is 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA. His last start was May 12th against Toronto where he held the Blue Jays to three runs on five hits over seven innings. While he has never faced Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies are batting .212 against Wakefield going 18-58 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Jayson Werth and Juan Castro have the hot bats against Wakefield, batting .500 and .667 respectively. And Wakefield? He’s not too bad of a hitter for a guy who doesn’t get much practice. In 103 career at bats, he is batting .126 with a home run and four RBIs. Halladay is coming off of a loss for which he did not earn; going a complete game against Pittsburgh allowing two earned runs. His pitch count of 132 pitches is one less than his career high mark and is currently the most pitches thrown by any MLB pitcher so far this season. It was his fourth complete game of the year, and has not allowed a home run in 32 and 1/3 innings. He will be facing a team he is quite familiar with; lifetime, Halladay is 14-14 with a 4.28 ERA with six complete games against the Sox. The Red Sox are batting .262 against Doc with 100 hits in 381 at bats. He has allowed just 14 home runs, 57 runs batted in, 32 walks, and 72 strike outs. Ortiz has six home runs and 24 RBIs in 99 ABs. Mike Lowell also has three home runs in 30 ABs.
Former (Almost) Phillie Returning: I know it’s a stretch, but don’t forget the batteries, J.D. Drew is in town.
Should be a beautiful weekend down at the Bank. Flyers aren’t back in town until Monday, so enjoy some lighter traffic if you’re heading down. Saturday’s matchup will also be a nationally televised prime time game on FOX.