The Angels are back in California working on the basics of the suicide squeeze and the question on everyone's mind going into game 1 of the ALCS against the Tampa Rays is, who is starting game 1 for the Sox?
Before I attempt to answer that question, at least give my opinion, lets lay out some things we do know. The American League Championship Series is a best of 7 series, so each team will have to carry 4 starting pitchers as opposed to the 3 the Sox had in the division series. Expect Tim Wakefield to be starting game 4 for the Red Sox and Paul Byrd to pitch out of the bullpen. Jon Lester is definitely our best pitcher right now, but game 1 is Friday and that would leave Lester to pitch on 3 days rest.
So here is my take; I think Matzusaka starts game 1 for a couple reasons. First his record on the road is 9-0 this year, so you can argue he's not easily rattled on the road with the crowd and their cowbells (really cowbells? come on Tampa, try the wave if enough people show up). It's also the Dice Man's turn in the rotation to start, keeping some kind of consistency and the starters fresh, giving them more rest when needed. Dice K would also be pitching on 6 days rest, historically he pitches better when he gets more then the normal 4 days rest.
Game 2 is anyone's guess at this point, however I think Beckett starts game 2 in Tampa. He seems healthy and there were definitely signs of rust on Sunday, so I'm not sure holding him back again is the right answer. At the same time the Sox main priority should be to maximize Jon Lester's starts right now. However, he did throw 210 innings this year, which is a career high, so maybe holding Lester back to game 3 isn't a bad idea for extra rest. The good news is which ever rotation Francona and Theo decide on it will enable Beckett and Lester to pitch games 6 & 7 if they are necessary.
The Rays will probably keep their rotation the same throwing James Shields in game 1, Scott Kazmir in game 2, Matt Garza in game 3, and Andy Sonnanstine in game 4. That's not a bad starting rotation either if you like young unproven guys in the playoffs. Seriously, those guys are good, but I've seen better men cry on the mound in October, see exhibit a CC Sabathia.
I could be 100% wrong though, the Sox might pitch Beckett on regular rest on Friday, and bring Lester back for game 2 on Saturday, giving Matsuzaka even more rest before game 3. No matter what the Red Sox Brass decide, it's not a bad problem to have this time of year.