Personal history and numbers don't always guide on-field performance, but they can give us a quick insight into who carries the advantage -- if ever so slight -- into a particular game. Tale O' Tape breaks down the starting pitchers to find an edge.
It's on. Finally, we get to see a decisive game in the postseason, meaning that there were no series in the first round that reached Game 5, nor did the NLCS reach Game 7. It seems like they rarely run all the way anymore, doesn't it? So we, as baseball fans, need to enjoy this one. We already covered this matchup between Jon Lester and Matt Garza before Game 2. What we'll look at here are any differences and what new information we've learned in that matchup and since.Matt Garza
Personally - The kid was nails in the hostile environment that is Fenway Park last time out. He worked six strong innings, only yielding one earned run while striking out five. The one issue was that he piled up 116 pitches, and only 63 of them were for strikes. He needs to keep pressure off the bullpen and work more efficient innings tonight.
Home Splits - He's a much better pitcher at home, if the regular season splits are any indication. His home ERA was 2.89. He only allowed five home runs this season at the Trop, as opposed to 14 on the road in a very similar amount of innings.
History Against Boston - His ERA against the Red Sox this season was 4.50. His ERA against the Red Sox the last time out was 4.50.
Vs. Specific Hitters - Coco Crisp has been swinging the bat really well since replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, who was in the midst of an atrocious slump, in center field. He is only 1-for-9 against Garza, though, and Ellsbury sports good numbers. Interesting lineup decision, but I think you gotta stick with Crisp -- other than Ellsbury, no one really has good numbers against Garza, but none of the samples are huge enough to make any conclusion, either.Jon Lester
Personally - Lester, finally, was vulnerable in Game 3 after a string of ace-like outings. Many pundits think he just got tired because the Red Sox had to so heavily lean on him down the stretch, and the lower velocity on his fastball was the proof. He only lasted 5 2/3 innings, getting shelled for eight hits, four earned runs, and two home runs. He did still strike out seven, which is a sign he had some of his stuff.
Road Splits - Lester's a much worse pitcher on the road. His road ERA was 4.09 this year, with a 1.37 WHIP. His road record was a pedestrian 5-5, while he went 11-1 at home.
History - We've already covered his sparkling regular season against the Rays, but they got to him last time out. The key history to this game is the fact that Lester's now thrown -- including the postseason -- 230 innings in 2008. Even if you combine major league experience and minor league experience, here are his inning totals in previous years.
2007 - 153 2/3
2006 - 128 1/3
2005 - 148 1/3
2004 - 91
2003 - 106
You get the point. He might just have finally gotten tired last time out. Have the five days of rest refreshed him enough?
Vs. Specific Hitters - Small samples all around. Akinori Iwamura has a ridiculous OBP against him. Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton had struggled, but Upton had the big blow in Game 3. Evan Longoria also took Lester deep.Edge
I'm going to give the edge to the Rays and Garza based upon the venue history and the fact that Lester may have no gas left in the tank.
The only question is if the young and inexperienced Rays can overcome the devastation they've suffered the past 12 innings.
[Note: All stats were gathered from the best statistical site on the internet ... Baseball-Reference. Thanks for the excellent work, guys.]