COMMENTARY | Someone finally connected with a Koji Uehara pitch and drove it out of a ballpark. That's a rarity these days.
In fact, before Jose Labaton's home run heroics last night, the last player to hit a home run against Koji Uehara did it before the Fourth of July. June 30 to be exact. Could it happen again tonight? Sure. But I wouldn't bet on it. Neither would the Red Sox. Given a similar situation in Game 4, the Red Sox will most likely do the same, go to Uehara. Why wouldn't they?
Not only do the Red Sox not have to worry about a closer that can manage to close games (at least not yet), but they are also in the envious position of having had more rest than the Rays in the last month. That, a two games to one advantage in this best-of-five series, an offense that is clicking against high-quality pitching, baserunning superiority and excellent pitching, must be preventing any worry whatsoever amongst this Red Sox team.
The fan who predates 2004, however, and, unfortunately, holds clear memories of past Red Sox teams that seemed juggernauts at the time but that ultimately fell in often very tragic fashion to lesser teams (2003, 1999, 1986) is not so confident. They have the Yoda-like wisdom of the ages. The sorrows beset upon them at the advent of long, cold, dark winters has cast a pale of uncertainty, pessimism and worry amongst these older fans, which affects their view of every game the Red Sox play. No matter the amount of confidence that the team has in itself, older and wiser fans have very little of it in them, no matter the makeup of the team.
Whereas the Red Sox lineup has hit against Jeremy Hellickson this year (he has given up 7 runs over 18.1 innings against them in 2013), the aged fan sees an average of 2.33 ER over 6 innings as not being a whole lot of runs.
If Hellickson performs as he has thus far against the 2013 Red Sox, Jake Peavy has to be better. In 12.2 innings against the Rays over two starts (one with the Red Sox: 6 IP/3 ER) in 2013, Peavy is yielding more ER over 6 innings than Hellickson is against Boston.
That is a source of worry for some fans, but not for the Red Sox. Not only has Jeremy Hellickson averaged just 6.1 innings against the Red Sox in three starts this year, but the Red Sox have also managed to score against the Rays' bullpen in this series (7 ER/8.2 innings), much more so than the Rays against Boston's bullpen (2 ER/8 innings).
The lineups for Game 4 have yet to be posted, but it would seem that there should be a few changes from last night. If the Red Sox are to pile up more than two runs against Hellickson, they need their best hitting lineup against him. This would have to mean that Mike Carp (2/7 vs. Hellickson) should be playing first base over Mike Napoli (1/12 vs. Hellickson). Jonny Gomes (3/9 vs. Hellickson) would be in left field over Daniel Nava (2/13 vs. Hellickson) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8/35 with 3 HR against Hellickson) would make far more sense as the #5 hitter tonight than Carp, who should take the #7 spot between Gomes and Drew (3/8 vs. Hellickson)in the order.
The remaining players (Pedroia, Victorino, Middlebrooks) have no reasonable replacement defensively and have to remain in the lineup. The three have fared dismally against Hellickson (7/45), but perhaps they might add something offensively tonight. If this isn't the lineup, then an aged fan is worried -- because it's simply not the best hitting lineup against Jeremy Hellickson.
If the Red Sox lose Game 4, will you be worried? The Red Sox will not. Jon Lester, whoever can help pitch, and a powerful offense vs. Mike Moore, David Price and whoever the Rays can muster to help pitch, plus a somewhat weakened but timely group of hitters -- at Fenway Park -- for a deciding Game 5? The Red Sox have to like their odds. Fans can still have our doubts.
Patrick Bernier is a freelance writer who has been following the Boston Red Sox for 25 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- Red Sox
- Jeremy Hellickson