Throwing Dice

When a team is down one game to none in a five-game series, game two is a must-win. With the exception of the 2004 Red Sox, teams don’t come back from a 2-0 deficit.

That’s why tonight the Angels are going to put out their best lineup and leave it all out on the field. We’ll see Vlad playing right field. Mike Scioscia will have his guys trying to bunt for hits and steal bases, with a few hits and runs mixed in for fun. These are the things that got the Angels into the postseason. If they can’t do these things now, it will be what puts them into the off-season. You could say that this is the most important game for both teams to win.

Terry Francona knew the importance of this when he announced the starting rotation. Game one was a no-brainer. Cy Beckett was starting – easiest decision ever. For game two he had some options: Curt Schilling, Dice K, or Tim Wakefield. What we didn’t know at the time was that despite his solid final start of the season, Wakefield’s back was still hurting, so he was out. I think everyone assumed Schilling would start game two. After all, he’s pitched well during his last five starts, and is arguably one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.

Dice K has looked good, not great this year pitching in the Major Leagues. Earlier in the season, he caught a lot of teams off guard with his array of off-speed pitches picking up some wins. The second time against these same teams, batters would force him to hit his spots, driving up his pitch count and frustrating Dice K at times. The key for Dice K is getting that first pitch for a strike and then nibbling the corners with his off-speed pitches. If he gets too cute with his pitches and can’t command his fastball it could be a rough outing.

What concerns me about Dice K is that he is a different pitcher when there are runners on base. I don’t know if he focuses too much on the baserunner, or he doesn’t get enough leg push pitching from the stretch, but with a team like the Angels, who can get on base and are disruptive on the base paths, I worry how Dice K will do. But this is a guy that had very little run support and was still able to win 15 games as a rookie, playing in the toughest division in baseball.

So what made Francona go with a rookie for the biggest game of the series? Everyone has heard the stories of Dice K throwing 250+ pitches in a high school playoff game, then going out and throwing a no-hitter in the final for only the second time in Japanese high school baseball history. He followed that up by dominating the competition during the World Baseball Classic, posting a 3-0 record and winning the MVP pitching against the best players on the planet. Some pitchers have the ability to take it up a notch when it matters. It’s like they have an extra gear.

So why would Tito Francona send out a 15-win rookie with the knack of pitching lights out in big games against a team that has never faced him?

Something tells me we’ll find out tonight.

One Response to “Throwing Dice”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    To me, Dice-K has that Pedro thing where he can go from decent to just flat out nasty when he makes the choice to. This will be a very interesting night. I’m sold on him being a big time pitcher in the future, but I get the feeling this is Dice-k’s shot at proving he belongs on this level. Gotta love October.

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