If the weather holds off, we're set for a somewhat surprising pitching duel tonight at Fenway.
Well, there's nothing surprising about the first guy. I've been waiting to see Stephen Strasburg pitch in person for as long as I can remember. Okay, maybe just three years, but between the anticipation that's built since the moment he was drafted, the year off on account of Tommy John surgery and the fact that he's in the National League, there's a special level of excitement surrounding Strasburg's Fenway debut.
He's one of the game best young pitchers, and has lived up to his lofty expectations - save for the surgery - about as well as you could have imagined. He comes into tonight's game with a career record of 12-5 with a 2.46 ERA, a ridiculous 1.01 WHIP, 195 K's and only 36 walks. Aye aye aye.
But it's the emergence of his counterpart in tonight's game that's caught most of us off guard: Felix "The Cat" Doubront. (There's nothing official about that nickname. I just feel like everyone named Felix should naturally be nicknamed "The Cat").
Doubront (who turns 25 in October) is only one year younger than Strasburg, and while he hasn't (and understandably so) reached Stras' level of dominance, the Cat has been so much better so much faster than any Red Sox fan could have imagined.
Coming into tonight, Doubront is tied with Clay Buchholz for the best record on the Sox staff at 6-2. But unlike Clay (excluding last night), Doubront has actually earned his stripes. He's the lone starter with a sub-4.00 ERA (3.75) and leads the team with 66 strikeouts. He's helped soften the affects of Daniel Bard's inconsistency. He's given the Sox an important second lefty arm in the rotation. And if the top three guys can ever consistently get it together, Doubront will become one of the deadliest fourth starters in baseball.
Tonight, he goes toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers. Period. It should be a lot fun.
Assuming Mother Nature doesn't creep along and snatch it all away.
There was a time not too long ago when the New York Yankees would fear for their lives when they came into Boston.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious.
But go back to the early 2000s and the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees was about as heated as could be.
On one side was the Evil Empire: George Steinbrenner, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens,etc. On the other was the Red Sox: Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, etc.
Those were the days.
Then the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS, beat the Yankees, and went on to win the World Series. Then they won the World Series again in 2007. And again in 2013.
All that winning changed the narrative around here. The frustration and anger of years of disappointment was replaced by joy.
Welcome to Friendly Fenway.
Suddenly, players like Jeter could come to town and even go out to dinner without being heckled by diehard Sox fans.
On Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jeter told Meyers -- a Red Sox fan -- about how Sox fans have gone soft since their team started winning.
“It doesn’t happen anymore,” he said about being heckled outside Fenway. “I can say this now because I’m retired. Boston fans have softened up since you guys have won. It pains me to say it, but . . . I won’t say it. I’m not happy you won. But you treat me a lot better since you won.”
In our Early Edition production meeting, someone said Clay Buchholz was pitching for his job tonight.
Sorry, not anymore.
As soon as Steven Wright pitched well for the fifth straight time last night, Buchholz's train left the station. It’s time to do with Clay what the Sox did to Panda: Make up an injury, fake a surgery (okay, that’s all a bit of an overstatement with Sandoval) and get him out of the way.
As soon as the White Sox said goodbye to John Danks, we all said the same thing: If Chicago can do it, why can’t Boston? Danks was to start tonight against Buchholz, but the Chisox said "No more" and paid off the final year of his $65 million contract. The Bosox -- haven’t heard that term in a while, have you? -- could do the same with Clay and the $13 million he's owed for this season, plus a $500,000 buyout at the end of the year.
David Price is the No. 1 starter and eventually he'll be fine. Eduardo Rodriquez gave up three runs in six innings last night for Pawtucket and will soon be ready to take his spot in the No. 2 slot. Then there's my pick to click, Rick Porcello (with a 2.76 ERA), and the previously mentioned Wright with his 1.76 ERA. Wright was supposed to be the odd man out when E-Rod returned, but that’s not happening. So there are your top four starters. And what about Joe Kelly when he comes back? I would rather see Kelly and anyone from Pawtucket pitch in the fifth spot instead of Buchholz and his 6.51 ERA.
Is there any reason to keep Buchholz? Not that I can see. Clay can throw his second career no-hitter tonight and my feelings won't change.