Week preview: Red Sox-Rangers square off

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
11:52
AM ET
Erik Bedard and C.J. WilsonAP Photo, Getty ImagesIt will be Erik Bedard vs. C.J. Wilson in the first game of the Sox-Rangers series.
SERIES OF THE WEEK

Boston at Texas, Monday through Thursday

Monday: Erik Bedard (4-8, 3.44) vs. C.J. Wilson (12-5, 3.20)
Tuesday: John Lackey (11-9, 6.02) vs. Colby Lewis (11-8, 3.83)
Wednesday (ESPN2): Josh Beckett (10-5, 2.46) vs. Matt Harrison (10-8, 3.28)
Thursday: Tim Wakefield (6-5, 4.97) vs. Alexi Ogando (12-5, 3.30)

Bedard hasn't won any of his three starts with Boston, but he's pitched well with a 17:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just one home run allowed in 16 innings. Speaking of wins, as we need more evidence of the worthlessness of pitcher wins, note that Lackey has more wins than Beckett despite three fewer starts and an ERA over 6. How much have the Rangers missed Cliff Lee? Actually, not that much. While Texas is fifth in the American League in ERA, remember that they play in a great hitters' park; the Rangers actually lead the AL in road ERA at 3.19. The bullpen has also been much improved with the additions of Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, posting a 2.57 ERA in August. Would the Red Sox rather face Justin Verlander and the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs or a much deep Rangers rotation? Maybe this potential playoff preview will shed some light on how much the Red Sox will push for the AL East title.

PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Tuesday: Clayton Kershaw (15-5, 2.60) vs. Kyle Lohse (11-7, 3.33), Dodgers at Cardinals

This is all about Kershaw, of course, and his bid for the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw is coming off eight scoreless innings against the Brewers -- his eighth start this season where he hasn't allowed a run. That's tied with Cliff Lee for most in the majors this season. He leads the NL in strikeouts, is tied with Roy Halladay and Ian Kennedy with 15 wins, is second in innings, third in WHIP and fifth in ERA. As bad as the Dodgers have been, they could win both the Cy Young and MVP trophies (Matt Kemp).

THREE SWINGS

1. At this point, A.J. Burnett has pitched himself out of the Yankees postseason rotation. Yes, he always seems to struggle in August, but right now he has to rank below Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes in the pecking order. In fact, Hughes is slowly pushing himself into the No. 2 or 3 slot, after another strong outing over the weekend, allowing two hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Twins. In his last five appearances since July 27 (which includes one relief outing), Hughes has allowed six runs in 26 innings. Most importantly, his velocity is back up.

2. Pittsburgh's signing of Jose Tabata to a $14.75 million extension through 2016 with club options for the next three years (at $6.5, $7.5 and $8.5 million) seems like a low-risk win for the Pirates. While Tabata hasn't shown any development from his fine 2010 rookie season (he's battled some injuries), his OPS+ is still slightly better than league average. Even if his power doesn't develop, he's shown enough ability to get on base to slot in the No. 1 or 2 slots in the batting order. If the power does arrive, the Pirates will have a very good player at reasonable rates.

3. The NL MVP race is wide open, but don't dismiss Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino. Check out Chip Buck's piece on the SweetSpot blog from over the weekend, spelling out Victorino's case in more detail. With a .314/.389/.537 line, Victorino has been one of the best hitters in the NL, plus he's a solid defender at a premium position.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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