So, what was the difference between the Cuban pitcher the Red Sox used to hammer when he was a member of the Yankees, and the Jose Contreras that shut down the most potent attack in the major leagues today?
“He’s a much more mature pitcher now,” Boston manager Terry Francona said after watching his team fall 14-2 to the White Sox in Game 1 of their division series.
Francona made note of the way Contreras would try and throw harder than he needed to in the past when with New York. The Red Sox skipper said watching him today, Contreras didn’t “try to throttle it up there” at 100 miles an hour, and also kept his splitter in the zone for strikes.
It meant headaches for Red Sox batters, who managed eight hits off Contreras, and just two runs. Boston began to make a comeback in the fourth, scoring two to make it a 6-2 deficit. But the wheels fell off from there as Red Sox pitching couldn’t hang on. Contreras cruised the rest of the way.
Contreras came into today’s game as one of the game’s hottest pitchers, finishing September with a 6-0 record and 1.99 ERA.
“I know the run he’s been on, and today we found out why,” said Francona. “They had their day. Hopefully tomorrow will be ours.”
— The five home runs hit by the White Sox are a club postseason record. So much for small ball right? The White Sox, of course, hit just one more homer in 2005 than the Red Sox, so the output of power today was not all that surprising. But according to Francona, it is their additional ability to play fundamental ball that makes them ultra dangerous.
“We know about the long ball, but they can one-run you to death also,” he said.
— It was a matter of bad location for Red Sox starter Matt Clement, who was rocked for eight earned runs over just 3 1/3 innings.
“If you watched where [Jason] Varitek was setting up, he was reaching across the plate quite a few times,” Francona said.
Francona has said in the past that Clement can sometimes afford to miss his spots because of the quality of his pitches, yet lamented tonight, “He missed on a pretty good margin quite a few times.”
Clement now has an 8.62 ERA in three career postseason starts. The three home runs matched the franchise’s postseason record (Mike Boddicker in 1988, and Bret Saberhagen 10 years later.)and only Roger Clemens has allowed as many runs in a postseason start.
— The one positive the manager saw in the loss was that the Red Sox were somewhat able to save their bullpen despite their starter being pulled in the fourth inning. While Jeremi Gonzalez threw 40 pitches, Chad Bradford only was good for 17, and Bronson Arroyo threw 26 while Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Timlin were able to be avoided.
— The 14-2 loss ended Boston’s postseason winning streak at eight games, bookended oddly enough by lopsided scores. The last postseason game Boston dropped was the 19-8 bruiser the Yankees delivered in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Francona was asked if the Red Sox can take anything out of that to apply for tomorrow.
“That was a long time ago,” he said. “A different time. A different team.”