Game 3 of the ALDS between the Rays and Red Sox gets under way at 6:07 pm EST on Monday evening in St. Petersburg. The Sox are up 2-0 in this best-of-five affair, which, oviously, means the Rays must win three in a row in order to advance to the ALCS.
This one promises an intriguing pitching match-up, as Boston trots out Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA, 234 ERA+, 1.03 WHIP, 2.67 K/BB) to oppose Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA, 138 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP, 2.98 K/BB). Now let's break it down in further depth …
Buchholz vs. Rays
Buchholz of course missed roughly half the season with shoulder problems, but since he returning from injury he's pitched to a 1.88 across four starts. That figure goes quite nicely with his pre-injury ERA of 1.71.
On the downside, Buchholz, per BrooksBaseball.net, has shown modestly diminished velocity since coming back, and his K% (strikeouts as a percentage of batters faced -- a great measure of dominance) has fallen from a pre-injury mark of 24.9 to a rate of 16.5 since returning. Sure, he's kept runs off the board, but there may be some good fortune in involved.
As for the Rays in particular, Buchholz has faced them twice this season -- once before the injury and once after -- and he's been outstanding: 13 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 17 K, 5 BB (all unintentional). Hitters presently on the Rays' roster have combined to hit just .213/.310/.279 in a total of 234 plate appearances against Buchholz.
Cobb vs. Red Sox
Cobb, a 26-year-old right-hander, is a three-pitch guy who mixes up his fastball, curve and change quite nicely. This season, he's faced the Red Sox four times and put up these numbers: 22 2/3 IP, 5.16 ERA, 20 strikeouts, nine unintentional walks, no homers. For their combined careers, current Red Sox hitters have batted a fairly productive .261/.383/.360 in 133 plate appearances.
Other trends of note ... The Red Sox's offense in 2013 first in the AL in weight runs created+ (wRC+) against right-handers and first in the AL in wRC+ on the road. In other words, Cobb will face a stiff challenge in Game 3. On the other hand, Cobb, counting his wild-card-game gem in Cleveland, has given up a total of five runs over his last four starts and struck out 26 against just five walks.