At 1:05 this afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox will conclude their interleague series with a matinee match-up that features two of the game’s best lefties in what looks to be another pitcher’s duel between two of the best teams in the game.
The Phillies are looking to sweep the series, thanks to back-to-back wins to open up it up, which has been a showcase of the strength of the Philadelphia Phillies this season -- just enough offense at times and plenty of pitching.
In the series opener, which looked on paper to be one of the best pitching match-ups of the season, Cliff Lee brought his microscopic June ERA (0.27 in four starts) to the table opposite the hot-blooded Boston Ace Josh Beckett, who was sporting a 1.40 ERA over his previous nine starts.
While Lee kept his scoreless streak going with his third straight complete game shutout, the Phillies tagged Beckett for five runs in five innings, including hitting a pair of homers en route to a 5-0 victory to take the first game that many proclaimed to be a preview of the Fall Classic.
Wednesday night’s matchup, which pitted Vance Worley against John Lackey, figured to be a slugfest, as the high-powered offense was keyed in to light up the scoreboard against the young Worley, who, despite his 3.41 ERA going into the matchup, did not have the pedigree of a Cliff Lee. Similarly, his counterpart Lackey was not immune to struggles. The right-hander, who signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season, came into the game with an ERA above 7.00, and may as well have been putting his pitches on a tee for the Phillies.
But, this being baseball, a funny thing happened and both pitchers combined to allow three runs in 14-plus innings of work. Worley stifled the Sox, and allowed his only run of the game on an RBI double off the bat of Lackey, while the Phils got both their runs off the bat of the struggling Raul Ibanez, which would be the difference.
What does that mean for the series finale? Who knows? It’s a battle of young lefties, as Cole Hamels and Jon Lester duel as the Phillies look to sweep the Red Sox for the first time in the history of Citizens Bank Park.
Like Lee and Beckett before them, it’s a battle of arms, as both pitchers bring electric stuff and identical 9-4 records to the match-up. Lester (3.66) has been solid for the Sox in 2011, but is edged by Hamels (2.49), who has been his better in just about every conceivable fashion this season.
Still, if the previous two games have been any indication, we really can’t bet on predictability when it comes to these two teams locking horns for the final time this season. One thing we can be sure of, it's going to be a doozy of a game.