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Rotation set; Matsuzaka to pitch Game 1

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  October 8, 2008 12:34 PM

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The pitching matchups are set.

Terry Francona announced the Red Sox' rotation for the ALCS at a press conference at Fenway Park this afternoon, and Rays manager Joe Maddon later confirmed his plans during his meeting with the media at Tropicana Field.

Here's the breakdown:

Game 1: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. James Shields
Game 2: Josh Beckett vs. Scott Kazmir
Game 3: Jon Lester vs. Matt Garza
Game 4: Tim Wakefield vs. Andy Sonnanstine
Game 5*: Matsuzaka vs. Shields
Game 6*: Beckett vs. Kazmir
Game 7*: Lester vs. Garza
(*if necessary)

Francona said he set the rotation by trying to limit complications -- everyone gets enough rest, no one gets too much. His primary rationale was, the top three pitchers will each throw two games if the series goes seven games, so the order is not of primary importance.

"That's the way we're set up to go," Francona said. "The reasoning is actually pretty simple. I thought this was how it would shake out, even before we did the media after we beat [the Angles]. We just needed to take the proper time and think it through.

"You could get into a lot of details, but there really didn't need to be. The way it lined up was appropriate. Again, for us, those three will pitch twice if it goes to seven. In the end, as long as they're pitching, the order isn't as important. So then you go, 'OK. What's best for them?'

"It gives people rest – not too much rest, not too little. This is probably the best way. We didn't want one going on eight [days rest], one guy going on regular. Keep everybody somewhat in line. Rest at this time of year is huge. We'll take advantage of it while trying not to give too much.

"Guys that pitched 1, 2, and 3 are lined up for 5, 6, and 7. Nobody is going to throw three. So having those three twice is really what's important, regardless of how they lined up."

Francona, as he has in the past, did not stress pitching his best pitchers early in the series, the logic beind simple: If you need a great pitcher to win, say, Game 6, then you're doomed, anyway, so it's best to ensure proper rest. Francona felt no need to throw Lester – the dominant force of the ALDS who pitched 14 innings without surrendering an earned run – on regular rest in Game 2.

"It's best of seven. It's not best of six," Francona said. "The idea is to win the series, not win Game 6. I never quite understood that philosophy. Our idea, the way we set it up, is to win the series. If it's such a big deal to pitch [Lester] in Game 6, what happens Game 7? We'll give the guys the rest they need and set it up for the entire series. And then if you're losing, don't panic."

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Maddon told the Tampa media that he's comfortable with the order of his rotation, though there's a chance he could use Sonnanstine before Game 4 and have Shields make his second start of the series on short rest.

"Theoretically perfect would be those four guys in a row [as we have it]," Maddon said. "[Shields] in the first game because he normally gets a little deeper in the game, Kaz in the second game if he runs into bit of a pitch count problem you have the bullpen fresher. [Then we have a day off] . . . and we know about Garza, but [Sonnanstine] has done consistently well this last month or so I don’t want to subtract Andy out of the mix either."

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