Wanna beat the Sox? Just go south.
At this rate, Steve Avery could probably take the hill and figure out a way to master the Red Sox. Who's afraid of Jimmy Gobble? Only the Twins, and likely the Red Sox.
Boston has had a remarkable difficulty with lefthanded pitching this season. After back-to-back losses in Tampa, where they were stymied by southpaw Devil Rays pitchers each night, the Red Sox are now just 12-14 against lefties, a much more successful 38-17 versus righthanded pitching.
Some of the offensive numbers versus lefties are, well, offensive. Jason Varitek is hitting just .217. David Ortiz isnít much better at .227, with 30 of his 64 strikeouts in 110 at-bats against lefties, but he does have 9 of his 27 home runs off of them and 21 of his 76 runs batted in. Conversely, Manny Ramirez has an .860 OPS against lefties, but just three of his 20 home runs have come off southpaws. Trot Nixon, a historical underachiever in this part of his game, is hitting just .242, but does have a .382 on base percentage.
Yesterday it was Casey Fossum helping his team beat the Red Sox and Curt Schilling -- the man they traded Fossum for back in 2003. On Monday, it was All-Star Scott Kazmir, who flummoxes the Sox every time he takes the mound against them (5-2 with a 2.60 ERA against Boston in his short career). Itís well-noted how pedestrian Torontoís Ted Lilly is against everyone else, but he is 4-1 against the Sox since the start of 2005. Five of Randy Johnsonís 17 wins last season, his first with the Yankees, came against the Red Sox.
It should all make Toronto, New York, and a handful of others take a longer look at a guy like Dontrelle Willis, the young Florida lefty who beat the Sox last Friday night. Despite the Marlinsí continued insistence (remarkably, they are on the verge of the wild card hunt, seven games behind the Reds) that Willis is not on the trading block, he is in line for a hefty raise, and we all know how the Fish hate to give those out.
Thatís why Omar Minaya keeps calling, offering up Lastings Milledge and his adventures in the field in return. But you have to assume, despite their not wanting to relinquish pitching phenom Philip Hughes, that the Yankees are calling 305 repeatedly. Don Amore of the Hartford Courant writes that this month, building up to the trading deadline will be a major test for the newly restructured front office in New York, which has to decide whether to continue to give up prospects for high-priced talent. Still, he questions whether -- even with Hughes included -- the Yankees have enough to entice the Marlins.
Imagine what doom it could mean for the Red Sox if New York possessed Johnson and Willis, with nine more head-to-head meetings later this summer. What could it mean for Chicago, with three September meetings against Boston, to be able to throw Mark Buehrle and Willis, particularly if both are fighting for the wild card?
As a whole, the Red Sox are hitting just .254 against lefties, .298 against righthanders. They have yet to face Twins lefthanded sensation Francsico Liriano or the Aís rejuvenated Barry Zito. Chicagoís Buehrle goes Friday night against Bostonís own southpaw, Jon Lester, an interesting test for the rookie against what is widely considered the ALís best team.
Oh, by the way, the Yankees and Blue Jays are now tied for second in the AL East, four games behind Boston, seven behind the wild-card leading White Sox. If there is a panic button marked ďDontrelle Willis,Ē you know the Yankees will try to find a way to figure out how to push it.