CLEVELAND — With the first two games — both billed as potential pitchers’ duels — turning into offensive showdowns, perhaps tonight’s game will end up a low-scoring, well-pitched contest. Or maybe not.
This is where, if form holds, the Red Sox should have an advantage. They have gotten past one of the top two for the Indians (technically both, though we all know how Saturday’s game ended), and now get to face Jake Westbrook, whose numbers don’t exactly conjure ace. Though Westbrook had an exceptional August (4-1, 1.90 ERA), his September didn’t measure up, as he sunk to 1-2, with a 4.14 ERA. He allowed five runs on 10 hits and four walks in his sole start against the Red Sox this season. And he didn’t inspire confidence in his loss to the Yankees in the American League Division Series, the only game lost by the Indians.
But Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t impress in his first taste of postseason baseball in the major leagues, continuing a problematic second-half trend this season. His final start of the regular season notwithstanding, Matsuzaka has inspired more concern than confidence as the season has worn on. He’ll try to reverse that tonight, revealing yesterday that he learned a great deal from Curt Schilling’s ultimately unsuccessful start on Saturday.
With that knowledge — and yet another vow to keep Grady Sizemore off the base paths — Matsuzaka looked more relaxed and opened up more than he has in a while in the off-day press conference on Sunday in Cleveland. (That’s all relative, of course.) But the man who arrived in Boston with a reputation for being a big-game pitcher gets another chance to come through tonight.
With the recovering Tim Wakefield still penciled in for tomorrow night’s Game 4 start, the Red Sox could return home-field advantage to themselves tonight by taking the first game on the road. Big? Of course. But it’s the ALCS — every game is big.