Well, the Jays look to get started on the right foot for the second half of the 2009 season at home against the division rival Boston Red Sox. They've caused us some problems in Blue Jay Nation (do we have a nation?), but there's no reason this team can't break out and string together some wins. The Red Sox, as a general rule, don't make things easy on the opposition, but there's no reason the Jays can't beat them at home.
The series opens tonight at 7 pm, with Ricky Romero pitching for the Jays. He's countered by Red Sox prospect Clay Buchholz, who makes his first major league start of the 2009 season. Tomorrow afternoon, the Jays send out another lefty, as Marc Rzepczynski tries his luck against the Red Sox, who will be giving the start to Brad Penny. The series closes out on Friday when Doc looks for his first win since coming back from his injury and Jon Lester looks to continue his fine work this season. If the Jays don't play well against the Sox, the Halladay trade rumours will be even more prevalent, so -- if for no other reason -- let's hope they can win at least two of these games.
As the post title implies, I don't like the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz (NO RECORD, NO ERA, NO WHIP)
For a top prospect making his first start of 2009, Buchholz has quite a bit of major-league experience already, having started 15 games last season (76 IP) and three in 2007 (22 2/3 IP). His no-hitter notwithstanding, Buchholz has not had great success at the major league level thusfar because he has issued far too many walks (51 in 98 2/3 IP or 4.7 BB/9). His strikeout-rates have been excellent, however, which has allowed him to maintain his status as a top pitching prospect, but if he cannot cut down on his walks, his stock could fall. Buchholz was pretty consistently in the 2.5 - 3.0 BB/9 range in the minor leagues, so there's no real reason that he shouldn't be able to keep the ball in the zone, but you never really know for sure until a pitcher has success in the majors.
Some might say that he had a very good callup in 2007, but I don't think 22 2/3 innings of excellent luck (.255 BABIP with a 29% LineDrive-rate and 76% strand-rate) counts as success. His 2008 campaign really was not too different from his 2007 callup, except he had much worse luck on homeruns, balls in play and stranding runners. In 2009, however, he had an excellent first half at AAA, striking out 89 (8.1 K/9) and walking 30 (2.7 BB/9) over 99 innings. All that's left is for him to pitch well at the major league level, and -- as long as he keeps his walks down -- he should be able to do so.
In the majors so far, Buchholz has had a bit more trouble with lefties (.276 / .365 / .443; 1.9 K/BB) than righties (.277 / .358 / .386; 1.7 K/9), but not so much that it would be worth it to start playing lefties just because you have them. It should be noted that righties could not buy hits off Buchholz in 2007 (.133 / .229 / .133; 1.8 K/9), but as their .167 BABIP increased to .367 in 2008 his line normalized. In the minors Buchholz was much tougher on righties, striking them out at a bit higher rate, walking them at a substantially lower rate and being much stingier with the gopher ball.
Buchholz throws a four-seamer in the low- to mid-90's, but his best pitch is probably his straight-change. He also throws a sweeping curve and will mix in a slurve-type slider sometimes.
Penny's been done before. Since then he's actually been quite successful, striking out 28 and walking just 12 over 39 1/3 innings. He's PQSed 3, 5, 3, 3, 3, 5 and 1 since his start against the Jays, but he has faced some relatively light-hitting offences recently (Texas, Yankees, Florida, Washington, Atlanta, Seattle and Kansas City). Either way, perhaps Penny has found a bit of a stride, but let's hope the Jays can hit him hard.
Lester was covered last time as well. After an incredibly unlucky start to the season, Lester's luck has begun to even out. Since his last start against the Jays, he has been utterly dominant, striking out 57 and walking just 11 over 48 2/3 innings. Over that span, he has PQSed 5, 5, 2, 5, 5, 4 and 5. Yep, utterly dominant. Well, at least the Jays have Doc going Sunday, so maybe the Red Sox won't be scoring either.