|AP Photo/Chris O'Meara|
Clay Bucholz takes the ball tonight and he'll look to put the final nail in Tampa Bay's coffin and clinch a sweep for Boston. Clay Bucholz has been doing a lot of things right when he hasn't been injured and I maintain that he could have been going win for win with Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers for most of the season. I also maintain that he could still have an outside shot at winning the Cy Young because he was just that good. He finished 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 108.1 innings pitched, according to MLB.com.
This guy is exactly who I want to see on the mound with a chance to put away the Rays. He's been outstanding this year, and while he hasn't pitched in the playoffs since the last time the Red Sox were in (not entirely his fault), this year is a different case. This year, Bucholz has looked like the ace we expected him to be. And that's why we'll put away the Rays tonight. Not to mention Clay Bucholz has owned the Rays this year. The Rays are 5-41 off Bucholz for an astounding .122 average with 17 strikeouts, 5 walks and only 1 extra base hit, according to MLB.com. No one can argue with those numbers, and it's why the Sox have the right guy going to close out the series.
That's not even getting into the offense has done (read more from Ben Whitehead here). If we revisit my bold predictions article before the series started, I said the offense would get to Tampa's pitching. Well, I was right, wasn't I? Well, I don't think that will stop at the Trop when they play tonight.
So, while Joe Maddon is right and Boston is lovely this time of year, he'll have to come back as a spectator while we play either the Tigers or Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. Try again next year, Joe. I'm sure Boston will have some lovely parting gifts for you, like tickets to Game 1 of the ALCS.