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Scouting report: White Sox-Rays Game 2

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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 2 of the 2008 American League Division Series between the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

INSIDE EDGE BREAKDOWN -- WHITE SOX VS. RAYS

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Starting Pitchers

Buehrle
Mark Buehrle has not pitched well on the road, with a 5.05 ERA in away games compared to 2.65 at home. He’s been in the strike zone more often with his fastball (55 percent) in away games than in home starts (51 percent) and opponents are batting .342 on the road but just .237 at home against his heater. The Rays hit .348 off his fastball this season at Tropicana Field and .214 in Chicago.

• Although he has allowed only 28 percent of baserunners to score (36 percent league average), Buehrle gives up more hits with men on base. He throws curveballs 13 percent of the time when the bases are empty, but doesn’t like to risk a pitch in the dirt with runners aboard. The slider becomes his main breaking ball in that situation, and it’s been hittable. Opponents are batting .350 against his slider with runners on base.


Kazmir
Scott Kazmir features three types of pitches that get hitters to swing-and-miss at league average rates or higher. He commands his inside fastball as well as anybody, and he throws it often. Hitters have gotten good swings on just nine of the 670 inside fastballs Kazmir has delivered this season. The 92 mph heater sets up his 79 mph changeup, which he locates away to right-handed batters. Lefty hitters usually see sliders on the outside corner, which they’ve missed on a third of swings.

• He’s had control problems recently. In the last two months Kazmir walked 14 percent of batters after awarding courtesy trots to nine percent early in the season. He’s lost the handle on his low fastball. Kazmir located 59 percent of low heaters in the zone between May and July, but just 48 percent have been in the zone since then. In August and September, Kazmir walked 19 percent of batters at the top of order, which could spell trouble if he puts runners on base ahead of the hard hitting middle of the Sox order. Even without injured Carlos Quentin, Chicago’s 4 through 6 hitters have the fourth highest slugging percentage (.471) in the AL.

Bullpen

• D.J. Carrasco has been a capable right-handed bullpen arm for the Sox, allowing a .194 well-hit average with his fastball (.254 league average). He has retired the side in order in half of his innings, but makes things interesting when he lets runners get to second or third base. With runners in scoring position, Carrasco's opponent slugging percentage increases over 200 points.
• With injured Troy Percival left off the ALDS roster, Rays manager Joe Maddon used setup man Dan Wheeler to close Game 1. Wheeler surrendered five bombs out of 20 ninth-inning hits this season, and it happened again yesterday. Paul Konerko worked an 11 pitch at-bat and finally got Wheeler to make a mistake on an up-and-in fastball that he belted over the left field fence. Wheeler tries to spot his heater on the outside, but they can get hit hard when they drift in. Opponents have slugged .472 off his inside fastballs.

Hitters


Pena

• Carlos Pena finished with the sixth-highest miss percentage of swings (31 percent) this season. In lefty-lefty matchups, pitchers tend to use their breaking pitches more than changeups. But White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle may want to use his change against the left-handed Pena, who took 12 swings this season against changeups from left-handers and missed 9 of them.

Longoria
Evan Longoria batted .411 with 11 home runs against fastballs early in the count this season. True to form, the very first postseason pitch Longoria saw in his young career -- a first-pitch fastball from Javier Vazquez -- was drilled deep to left center field for a home run that put the Rays up early in Game 1. Not so fittingly, Longoria later homered on a 1-0 curveball -- the Rays' rookie phenom batted just .167 against curves this year.


Griffey
• Ken Griffey, Jr. has worn down in the second half of the past few seasons, but the deadline trade to the White Sox seems to have rejuvenated him. Not only did Junior play in more September games (18) than any season since 2001, he also produced an .823 OPS. Nowadays the 38-year-old generates most of his power off pitches on the inner half of the plate that he can pull. He hits 53 percent of in-play balls to the right side of the field, and owns a whopping .631 slugging percentage in those at-bats.


Cabrera
• Shortstop Orlando Cabrera is not one of Chicago’s more patient hitters, seeing an average 3.6 pitches per plate appearance, below the team average of 3.8. He keeps the bat on his shoulder early in the count, though, when he takes 61 percent of pitches (including 43 percent of pitches in the zone). Cabrera completely changes on two-strike counts, swinging 66 percent of the time even though less than half of pitches are in the zone. The two-pronged approach has been fairly successful -- he’s hitting .313 before two strikes, and .235 on two-strike counts (league average is .190).


Image of the day...

The Rays went from having the worst team ERA in the American League last season to the second best ERA in the AL this year. One huge area of improvement for the Rays as a staff was their ability to pitch well with runners on base. In fact, they pitched virtually the same way this year when there were runners on as they did with bases empty. That was not the case last year:

View photo

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Key Matchups...

White Sox hitters who match up well vs. Kazmir
Jermaine Dye Dye figured Kazmir out this season after going 2-for-9 against him prior to 2008. He homered once against Kaz's fastball this year and once off of his changeup.
Paul Konerko He's 4-for-10 against Kazmir with five well-hit balls since last season. Konerko homered 4 times in September and batted .348 against lefties after hitting just .212 against them through August.

White Sox hitters who could struggle
Nick Swisher He's 3-for-21 against Kazmir in his career. Has a Batting Average of only .182 (2-for-11) vs. Kazmir since last year.

A.J. Pierzynski Reached base only 30 times in 110 PAs (.273 On Base Average) versus similar top-tier, left-handed pitchers since last season.

Rays hitters who match up well vs. Buehrle
Carlos Pena Well-Hit Average is .364 (4-for-11) vs. Buehrle since last year.

B.J. Upton Slugging .615 in 13 ABs against Buehrle since last season.

Rays hitters who could struggle
Evan Longoria Thursday's Game 1 star did not reach base in 6 plate appearances against Buehrle this year and was just 3-for-16 against LHPs in the season's final month.

Jason Bartlett Slugging .143 in 14 ABs vs. Buehrle since last season and did not hit a ball hard against him in 8 ABs this year.

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