|May 19: Red Sox 5, Phillies 3 W: Clement (4-3) L: Lieber (3-5) S: Papelbon (15)|
|May 20: Red Sox 8, Phillies 4 W: Beckett (6-1) L: Myers (2-2)|
|May 21: Phillies 10, Red Sox 5 W: Lidle (4-4) L: DiNardo (1-2)|
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Last June, the Boston Red Sox stormed into Citizens Bank Park and handed the Phillies their heads, sweeping a weekend series while outscoring the Phils 27-9. The losses came in the middle of a 2-10 stretch that largely undid the momentum of a 12-1 homestand earlier in the month, ultimately dropping the Phils back to .500 at 40-40 and triggering clubhouse drama that, if you believe Billy Wagner, lasted the rest of the season.
With the club having dropped three straight heartbreakers in Milwaukee on the heels of a 13-1 tear, is this a case of deja vu all over again? The answer might lie with how well the Phillies can bounce back against two Sox pitchers they know well: Matt Clement and Josh Beckett, who are slated to start Friday and Saturday night.
Baseball afficianados have waiting for Clement to put it together since he emerged as a top prospect for San Diego in the mid-1990s. Three organizations later, they're still waiting. The hard-throwing righthander has a career record of 85-84, and despite his career-best 13-6 won/lost mark in 2005, his secondary numbers, particularly a declining strikeout rate and worsening groundball/flyball ratio, indicate that he's going backwards. Clement has fared well in 14 career starts against the Phillies, going 7-4 with a 3.57 ERA.
The Phils' heavy concentration of left-handed bats, however, could spell trouble for the 31 year-old hurler. In 2006, Clement has issued 13 walks to lefty batters, versus just 8 strikeouts. His other numbers for the year don't show much split difference: righties are actually hitting slightly better against him (.280 to .276). For his career, though, lefties have hit Clement much harder, with a .264 average and 78 homers in 659 innings compared to .230 and 65 in 728.2 IP facing righties. This might be a good night for David Dellucci to fill in for Pat Burrell: Double D has two homers (though no other hits) and five walks in fifteen career plate appearances against Clement.
Josh Beckett, who's pitched his way into consideration as Boston's ace (along with ex-Phil Curt Schilling, who will be an observer--albeit presumably a voluble one--this weekend), also struggles against lefty hitters. Beckett is 5-1 in Boston this year, and like his teammate he's generally handled the Phillies with a 6-3 record and 3.79 in 16 career appearances (14 starts) against them. Against left-handed hitters in 2006, however, Beckett has allowed a .760 OPS (vs. .623 to righties) and has a K/BB ratio of 15/13, as opposed to 3/21 against righty bats. Pretty much every current Phillie has terrible lifetime numbers against Beckett--Bobby Abreu, with a .179 average but .818 OPS, might be the best--so loading up the lineup with lefties presumably can't hurt.
Sunday afternoon, the Phils will see left-hander Lenny DiNardo. Given the club's general struggles against southpaws, it might make sense to have Pat Burrell, David Bell and other righty hitters fresh for that contest after a couple days' rest.