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Scouting report: Rays-Red Sox Game 3

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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 3 of the 2008 American League Championship Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN -- RAYS VS. RED SOX

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Starting Pitchers
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Garza
• Current Red Sox hitters have hit only .210 against Matt Garza since last season, and he's dominated Boston right-handed batters who are a combined 4-for-29. Early in the count, Garza has thrown mostly fastballs to Sox righties, while mixing in his slider half the time on two-strike counts, He throws strikes and makes it difficult for hitters to work the count. Only six of the 34 plate appearances against current Boston right-handers have ended with Garza behind in the count, and he's allowed just two walks.

• In his last start, Garza struggled to keep his fastball down and lost his touch the more he threw it. Hitters missed on 21 percent of swung-on heaters in his first 45 pitches, but hit fastballs for a .375 well-hit average as Garza's pitch count rose. He had his good breaking stuff, though, and pitched two scoreless innings using mostly curves and sliders before leaving after the sixth.

7790

Lester
Jon Lester pitched a strong Division Series, allowing only three well-hit balls from 56 batters faced, despite a poor 4 percent miss rate on his pitches in the zone. He kept hitters from making hard contact by varying his fastball velocity from 87 mph to 97 mph. Although his heater averaged 93 mph, only 13 of his 88 fastballs in the zone were at that speed, and Angels hitters fouled off 27 of them. When he wasn't pounding fastballs, Lester threw 64 percent of his curveballs for strikes.

• One of the keys to Lester's 3.21 ERA on the season is his ability to keep inning leadoff batters off base. He put the first batter of the inning on 28 percent of the time, below the 33 percent league average. In 14 postseason innings so far this year, Lester has retired the inning leadoff man every time.

Bullpen
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• Last year's top draft pick David Price posted a 1.93 ERA in his September call up, throwing a hard fastball and a slider that generates swing-and-misses when it breaks out of the zone (but a .333 BAA in the strike zone). The tall lefty also threw a changeup last month that completely fooled batters, but he hasn't shown it yet to Red Sox hitters.

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• In the postseason, the Red Sox bullpen has allowed only 19 percent of runners and six percent of batters faced to score, both much better than average. Boston relievers have been exceptional in two key areas: They have finished off 78 percent of batters on two-strike counts, and prevented hitters from making hard contact (.152 well-hit average against). The Sox bullpen has allowed a .423 batting average on hitter's counts, though.

Hitters

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Baldelli

Rocco Baldelli has been the Rays designated hitter versus lefty starters so far in the postseason. He's likely to make his first ALCS appearance on Monday against Jon Lester, especially with the Green Monster as a factor. Baldelli has more power, strikes out less and takes more walks versus lefties even though his batting average is slightly higher against right-handers (.225 compared to .218) over the last two years. When he gets good wood on lefty pitches, it's usually a fastball that he can pull. Two-thirds of the balls that Baldelli hits hard in the air get slammed to the left side.

7333

Upton
• The Rays won Game 2 on B.J. Upton's walk-off sacrifice fly in the 11th inning, but clutch hitting is nothing new for the 24-year-old center fielder. He ranks near the top of the league in clutch situations, coming through with quality at-bats 67 percent of the time in close and late games, and with runners in scoring position. The "quality AB" rating includes Sacrifice Flies and productive outs as well as hits and walks.

7631

Pedroia
• MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia finally broke out in Game 2 after going 2-for-20 in his first five postseason games. Pedroia belted two home runs as he went 3-for-5 with a walk. Pitchers had kept the ball on the outer part of the plate against Pedroia, who slugged .627 versus pitches on the inner half during the season. On Saturday, Rays pitchers threw almost 60 percent of pitches on the inner portion. The second baseman clubbed both dingers and hit 3-for-4 off pitches on the area of the plate that he usually controls.

5846

Kotsay
• That Mark Kotsay, a .281 hitter in his 12 Major League seasons, is batting .200 so far in October is not surprising. He has a career .200 average in 50 postseason at-bats for Oakland and Boston. Kotsay is hitting .154 against fastballs this October as pitchers have climbed the ladder with their heaters. He's chased 56 percent of fastballs up and out of the zone.


Image of the day...

Jon Lester's fastball has improved each month since June -- both in batting average against and in velocity:

View photo

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Key Matchups...

Rays hitters who match up well vs. Lester
Carlos Pena Has two home runs and a double in 16 at-bats against Lester in his career. Lester allowed lefties to slug .500 versus his high heaters while Pena is slugging .591 against them.

B.J. Upton Upton has a .367 on-base percentage against top-tier southpaws over the past two seasons. He has been tattooing curveballs from lefties all year, posting a .353 batting average and a .529 slugging percentage against them.

Rays hitters who could struggle
Carl Crawford Crawford cannot check his bat when hitting with two strikes against a southpaw; his chase rate is 51 percent. Lester has induced lefties to chase 46 percent of his two-strike pitches outside the zone.

Rocco Baldelli Baldelli is hitting just .174 against top-tier southpaws since 2007. Lester has limited righties to a .221 batting average with his two-strike fastballs this year, while Baldelli is hitting only .160 against two-strike heaters from lefties over the past two seasons.

Red Sox hitters who match up well vs. Garza
J.D. Drew Drew has had excellent discipline against right-handed pitchers this season. Versus righty fastballs early in the count, he is hitting .346 with over half of his hits going for extra-bases.

David Ortiz Big Papi has an on-base percentage of .450 against hard-throwing righties since 2007. Also, Garza has surrendered a .788 slugging percentage with his changeup to lefties this year, while Ortiz has a .739 slugging percentage against righty changeups.

Red Sox hitters who could struggle
Jed Lowrie Lowrie has been unable to hit inside fastballs from right-handed pitchers this year, batting just .171 against them. Meanwhile, Garza has limited lefty batters to a .186 batting average on his inside fastballs.

Jason Varitek Varitek has posted only a .348 slugging percentage against top tier right-handed pitchers over the past two seasons. He is hitting .127 against two-strike breaking balls from righties, while Garza has held lefties to a .149 batting average with his two-strike curves and sliders.

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