We may or may not receive the rotation from Red Sox manager Terry Francona later this morning. Given Francona’s typical postseason procedure, he may decide waiting until the Sox arrive in Tampa is most advantageous. Amalie Benjamin looked at the Red Sox possibilities this morning and arrived at one conclusion: The Sox need to decide between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett for Game 1 of the ALCS.
Arguments can be made for both. Let’s do that now.
The argument for Matsuzaka
Beckett did not look himself Sunday night in his ALDS Game 3 start after returning from a 13-day layoff caused by his strained right oblique. So it would be prudent to give him a fifth day of rest and try to return him to his typically dominant playoff form. You would also give Lester an extra two days off by saving him for Game 3, and imagine what he could do on six days’ rest.
Matsuzaka may be maddening at times, but the results carry more weight: He went 18-3 this season with a 2.90 ERA. While he may have lasted just five innings in Game 2 of the ALDS and allowed eight hits, he gave up just three runs and left with a two-run lead in a game the Red Sox eventually won.
OK, OK, Matsuzaka isn’t exactly the most consistent and reliable starter. So why would you want him pitching Game 7? Might as well pitch Matsuzaka first and fifth and set up Beckett and Lester for Game 6 and Game 7.
The argument for Beckett
Injury or no injury, he is still Josh Beckett, one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time. If the Red Sox think he is healthy enough to pitch, then he is healthy enough to pitch on normal rest. With a start under his belt, he should be more effective and set a dominating tone for the series.
Putting Matsuzaka on the mound is like shooting an arrow into the air. Forget Game 3 – Beckett and Lester are the two most consistent options. By throwing Beckett first, you can pitch Lester on normal rest for Game 2 and ensure he’ll pitch two of the first six games.
In a seven-game series, Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Lester will each pitch twice. But if the series goes six games, you don’t want to have had Lester or Beckett pitch only once.
Now we ask: Who would you start?