Scouting report: Angels-Red Sox Game 4

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Inside Edge, a leading baseball scouting and information service, will provide scouting reports to Yahoo! Sports throughout the MLB playoffs. Here’s their breakdown of Game 4 of the 2008 American League Division Series between the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN—ANGELS VS. RED SOX

Gotta know this…

Starting Pitchers
 
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Lackey
   
• The Red Sox went 0-for-14 without one well-hit ball against John Lackey’s curve this season. In his first game of the postseason, Lackey threw his slider only twice along with 34 curveballs - the Sox went 0-for-9 against them. The only damage done was Jason Bay’s home run on a fastball up and away.

   
• He’s become mortal while pitching behind in the count over the past few months. Through June, opponents batted an astonishingly low .212 against Lackey when they held the count advantage over him. Since then, they’ve batted .385 in this situation (.343 is league average). The Red Sox were 1-for-3 against Lackey in at-bats ending with him behind in the count in Game 1.

   
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Lester
   
Jon Lester blanked the Angels the first time they met in this series by keeping his fastball down in the zone. Los Angeles went 2-for-13 (.154 BA) against fastballs in the bottom third, but had four hits in nine at bats when they came at the belt or above.

   
• Lester doesn’t make it hard to figure out what pitch is coming first when hitters step in the box—over 80 percent of his first pitches have been fastballs this season. When he has gone with an off-speed pitch to start a batter off, only 44 percent of those offerings have been strikes. Lester throws his first-pitch fastballs for a strike 62 percent of the time.

     
Bullpen
 
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Francisco Rodriguez threw one of his breaking pitches (curve or slider) on the outer third of the strike zone 67 times this season, and opponents managed just two singles while being retired 19 times.

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Jonathan Papelbon has been bringing a steady diet of high heat to the Angels; 83 percent of his pitches in this series have been fastballs, and 69 percent of those fastballs have been up in the upper third of the strike zone. The Angels are hitting just .083 against his high heat, and have chased more than half of them up that would have been balls high.

 
Hitters
 

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Hunter

   
• Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter has been locked in this postseason, batting .429 (6-for-14). Hunter has come to the plate with runners on base 12 times, and reached safely in half of those plate appearances. He’s singled five times—twice to left, once up the middle and twice to right field.

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Aybar
   
Erick Aybar has yet to make solid contact in the postseason. He’s 1-for-14 with a softly-hit single in the Division Series. He’s fallen into a hole in most of his October at-bats; 10 of his 14 plate appearances have ended with the count in the pitcher’s favor.

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Bay
   
• The Angels finally managed to tame Jason Bay in game three by keeping the ball down in the zone against him. 26 of 32 pitches he saw were in the bottom third of the zone, and he was retired three times on them. This season with the Red Sox, Bay hit .225 on pitches down in the zone and .349 on those at the belt and above.

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Ellsbury
   
Jacoby Ellsbury is the Red Sox’s hottest hitter, going 6-for-14 (.429) in this series so far with three walks and two doubles. All of his hits have come off fastballs. The young Sox outfielder has punched out twice and gone 1-for-5 on heaters away from him, but is 5-for-9 against fastballs on the inner half of the plate in the series.


Image of the day…

Jon Lester seemed determined to show the Angels something different in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Angels knocked Lester out of the game after 5 innings back in April this season, when Lester threw most of his pitches on the outer part of the plate. In the series opener, which Lester pitched extremely well, the Boston lefty ran both his fastball and curveball in on the hands of Angels’ right-handed batters. Here’s a look:

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Key Matchups…

Angels hitters who match up well vs. Beckett
 
Gary Matthews     If Lester makes a mistake and leaves a fastball over the heart of the plate, Matthews has a good chance to do some damage. He’s 3-for- 7 against Lester since last season, including 2 home runs, both on fastballs over the middle. In Game 1, Lester was able to keep his heater down-and-away from Matthews and the results swung in favor of the Boston lefty; Matthews was 0-for-2 with strikeout in at-bats ending with a low-and-away fastball.

Garret Anderson     The left-handed hitting Anderson handles southpaws well. He’s batting .287 (33-for-115) versus similar top-tier, left-handed pitchers since last season and picked up 2 knocks against Lester in Game 1.

Angels hitters who could struggle
 
Howie Kendrick     Kendrick batted an even .300 and slugged .410 against left-handers this season, but mustered only a .342 slugging percentage versus other top-tier, left-handed pitchers since 2007. Lester held Kendrick hitless in Game 1 of the series.

Michael Napoli     Sunday’s hot bat for the Angels may cool down Monday. Napoli is batting just .200 (6-for-30) vs. other top-tier left handed pitchers this year.

 
Red Sox hitters who match up well vs. Saunders
 
David Ortiz     Big Papi has made things difficult for Lackey before. He’s 10-for-30 lifetime against the Angels’ right-hander and has taken his taken his outstanding curveball deep twice since last year.

Kevin Youkilis     Youkilis is slugging .944 in 18 at-bats vs. Lackey since last season. He homered twice this season against him and smoked a line drive single in Game 1.

Red Sox hitters who could struggle
 
Jason Varitek     Batting Average is just .077 (1-for-13) against Lackey since last season.

Jed Lowrie     Lowrie has a well-hit average of .153 (15-for-98) vs. other top-tier, right-handed pitchers since last year.