R.I.P. Bronx BombersTo give you an idea of how worthless wins and losses are in judging a pitcher's season or ability look at these numbers:
Against the Yankees
2 wins against no losses
Against everyone else
1 win against 2 losses
If the Yankees pitchers had done anything against Daisuke, he would have lost both starts in an ugly and frustrating pair of performances. Instead, he looks like a hero. Go figure. That's baseball sometimes. His poor showings against the Yankees have raised his ERA from 2.70 to 4.36 and you know he was breathing a sigh of relief and reserving a few Rolex watches for the batters who saved his bacon. The one positive you take as a Red Sox fan from those outings was his ability to limit the damage in the worst of times. The 4th inning today was about as bad as I've ever seen Matsuzaka in all the years I've watched him. Guess what? He had the bases loaded and nobody out after walking the first three batters of the inning. He gave up four runs. The rest of the game, he was dominant. As an ace pitcher, you have to localize the damage. Every pitcher will face tough lineups that will get to them. Koufax, Pedro, Clemens, and every other pitcher with a reputation has found himself staring down ugly innings with crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Mediocre pitchers get knocked out of those games. There is no recovery. Good pitchers and great pitchers localize the damage, regroup, and keep their team in the game. Kudos to Daisuke for that effort.
As a Yankees fan, this season is perhaps the least enjoyable I've had in more than 10 years. I anticipate some kind of firing soon, perhaps Guidry. The team is not that bad. As Red Sox fans, this must be especially enjoyable, but I wonder if any of you can honestly say you have an explanation for the Yankees 8 game losing streak. I'm not talking about an analysis. It's easy to understand that scoring 4 runs and giving up 7 runs every night will produce a long losing streak, but how many people anywhere in the sport can explain what we've seen from Mariano Rivera? Puzzling. It's hard to figure that the rotation can't get a single solitary quality start over that period of time. The Yankees and Red Sox are similarly talented. The Sox have better pitching, while the Yankees have a better lineup (save Mientkiewicz). In the end, you'd expect this season to play out a bit more neck and neck. At this point, honest fans of all "(pin)stripes" have to give a hand to Theo Epstein for putting the Boston boys in a position to be the best team in the sport. That's what the Red Sox are right now. There is no better team anywhere. Period.
I think some of the things that have gone right for the Sox so far will eventually turn South. I'm not saying permanently, but rather some adversity should be expected. Manny and Ortiz will do their best to wake up and carry the club when others begin to struggle, but a bit of regression is at least in the cards. The Yankees will be better than this. The gap will narrow. The one question you have to ask yourself is will the Red Sox continue to play well enough over the next 3 weeks to a month to put the Yankees 10+ games back and eliminate them from serious AL East contention? It could happen. The Yankees could be fighting for a wild card this season, while the Sox may just have built a good enough team to have the best record in the sport and a long overdue AL East pennant. Much of that will depend on Schilling, Beckett, and Daisuke. When you can put three pitchers on the field that challenge for ERA+ numbers of 120 and above, you have a World Series contender.
Today, Matsuzaka escaped. He should be thrilled beyond belief to face other clubs for a while. The Yankees were a failure in many ways that he will need to improve upon later in the year if and when there's a pennant race and the Yankees are fielding a better rotation. Improving on these results may mean the difference between the big AL East prize and a disappointing finish to the season. I am betting on Matsuzaka despite my loyalties. Now, please excuse me while I go lock myself in a dark closet somewhere and cry myself to sleep. ;)