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.
At this point, there are tons of factors outside the pitching matchup that could factor into the way Game 6 goes down Saturday night. The Red Sox have all the momentum, even though they only outplayed the Rays for three innings in Boston. Are the young Rays rattled? Are the champs going to be too locked in to lose again? There's more. Still, the starting pitching is an integral part of any baseball game, no matter the circumstances. The game of paramount importance to both teams -- you seriously think the Rays can chance going to Game 7? -- pits Josh Beckett against James Shields. Let's break it down.Josh Beckett
Personally - We've examined Beckett before here. He's been an ace by any definition before in his career, just not this season. We were treated to another rendition of his not being ace-quality last time out, as the Rays torched him for eight earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Road Splits - Beckett was eons better on the road than at home this season, but his aforementioned awful previous start was on the road.
History - He had relatively owned the Rays ... but again, we saw him get wrecked by them last time out. I do want to take this opportunity to just admire his postseason stats from afar ... this is for his career. He's 6-2, and his teams have never lost a postseason series. That's right, his teams' series record is 7-0. They've had their backs against the wall before, being down 3-1 in LCS play twice (well, three times counting this year). Even after his two bad outings this postseason, the career ERA is still 2.85 in 11 starts and 82 innings which fits nicely alongside that 0.94 WHIP. He's punched out 93 hitters (which comes to 10.2 K/9) and only walked 19.
Vs. Specific Hitters - Evan Longoria doubled twice off Beckett last time out. Oh, and he also went yard. He had previously been hitting .333 with a home run in 12 at-bats against him. Advantage Evan. Cliff Floyd entered the game with solid career numbers off Beckett (.930 OPS) and proceeded to take him deep. Carlos Pena entered only being 3-17 against Beckett, but chalked up a couple knocks, including a double. B.J. Upton entered only 3-12, but managed a homer as well. Leadoff man Akinori Iwamura holds a solid history against Beckett (.375 OBP).James Shields
Personally - We've previously discussed the merits of Shields as a hurler. He's a quality front-line starting pitcher. We know that. Last time out he was the tough luck loser, as his offensive teammates couldn't figure out Dice-K. Shields worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing only two earned runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked two.
Home Splits - We also covered this last time around, but we'll tell you again. He deals at home, sporting a 2.59 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 9-2 regular season record.
History - As we previously reported, he was battered all regular season by the Red Sox, but the last time out he showed drastic improvement and the ability to put his team in position to win the game. It's not his fault they couldn't score (yes, wins are a stupid way of judging pitchers).
Vs. Specific Hitters - Kevin Youkilis was 0-for-17 in his career against Shields entering Game 1, and he went 3-4. OK, thanks for that discredit to this column, Kevin. Jacoby Ellsbury has been awful against Shields and in the series. Expect another Coco Crisp start. Jason Varitek also has been terrible against Shields. No one else distinguished themselves last game enough to alter the previous report.Edge
The edge would sit with Shields and the Rays in light of the most recent outings and samples we have sitting in front of us.
However, should Josh Beckett show up with his "back against the wall" stuff, he won't give up a run. We'll see if he feels alright.
[Note: All stats were gathered from the best statistical site on the internet ... Baseball-Reference. Thanks for the excellent work, guys.]