Monday, September 8, 2014

Governor's Cup Preview: Durham Bulls vs. Pawtucket Red Sox Game 1

The International League is down to it's final two teams and once again the Durham Bulls and Pawtucket Red Sox have risen to the top.  The same two teams played for the cup last year and the two squads can boast the last two cup wins.  This feels a lot like it's the deciding game of a best of three the two franchises have been playing over the past couple of years.  So, let's get down to the matchup between this year's version of the Triple A Red Sox versus the Triple A version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Pitching Matchups 

Game 1: Edwin Escobar vs Alex Colome
Game 2: Matt Barnes vs Enny Romero
Game 3: Henry Owens vs Matt Andriese
Game 4: TBD vs Nate Karns
Game 5: TBD vs Mike Montgomery

Game 1: Escobar versus Colome
The Red Sox start the series by throwing Edwin Escobar who came over to the Boston organization in the Jake Peavy trade.  He is currently rated as the 10th best prospect for the Red Sox and was at the back end of the Baseball American Top 100 prospects list sitting at 94 before the season.

He has made five starts since coming over from the Giants and has pitched pretty well up until his last outing against the Syracuse Chiefs.  The left-hander last a little more than 2 innings giving up 9 runs (8 earned) and taking the loss for the Red Sox.  I have seen that Chiefs line up this year and know it can be tough, but some of the core hitters like Steven Souza and Tyler Moore have been called up to Washington which has watered down that team a bit.

Really the problem with Escobar this year is the fact that he is not missing many bats.  Last year his Ks/9 were right around 10, but have sunk to almost 7 this year in two Triple A stops.  The number has actually been around six in Pawtucket and his WHIP is sit right at 1.500.  Basically he's allowed 41 base runners in 27 innings with only 20 strikeouts.  That's a whole lot of trouble.

Alex Colome has not faired much better than Escobar recently.  He did make a start against the Columbus Clippers in the first round of the playoffs for the Bulls and did not fair so well.  Colome only lasted 5 innings and gave up a few long balls.  Further, his August was a little bit rough.  After have a pretty good first half of the season, the Durham hurler posted a 2-2 with an ERA right around 5.  Same story as Escobar, lots of hits and walks, not many missed bats.  

Colome does have a very good outing this year against Pawtucket back in June.  He lasted 8 innings, struck out 7, and held the Red Sox to just 4 hits.  I would love to believe that Colome has turned the corner on his season and is ready to pitch lights out against the Red Sox, but I cannot honestly say that will happen.  

To me, much of this series is going to boil down to the offense of both teams.  The Bulls looked pretty sharp last series especially newcomer Nick Franklin and Jeremy Moore.   

Throw in the fact that the Bulls have also been getting positive contributions from Tim Beckham and Cole Figueroa and it's hard not to like the line up of the defending champs.  

Meanwhile, the Red Sox looked like they were hitting a beach ball against the Syracuse Chiefs.  I do attribute some of the result of that series to the fact that the Nationals have raided the Chiefs roster a bit, but you still have to go out and play the games.  Travis Shaw and Bryce Brentz led the way for Pawtucket.  

So, here are my keys and prediction for game 1.  I think the Durham Bulls, being the defending champions, steal this first game in Pawtucket.  However, there are two keys in my mind to that outcome:

1.  Colome has to pitch like he is capable of throwing.  He needs to keep the Red Sox off the bases.  When Colome is good, there are very few walks, and he strikeouts about a batter per inning.  

2.  Limit the damage done by Brentz.  I know the .243 average is not impressive, but the guy has a dozen home runs in 63 Triple A games this year.  Last year he hit 17 in 83 games.  There is swinging and missing with Brentz and there are home runs.  Let's make sure he's walking back to the dugout after strikeouts and not home runs.  Bulls win Game 1: 

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