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Five keys to Red Sox-Yankees Game 7

Posted: Wednesday October 20, 2004 2:09PM; Updated: Wednesday October 20, 2004 4:38PM
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Starting pitching

The bullpens in this series are so beat up and overused -- the Boston pen has thrown 60 innings in six games, the New York relievers have gone 60 2/3, and the two teams are playing their fifth game in five days -- that getting quality innings from a starter is a must-have. Each team is looking for five innings, minimum, from whoever starts. The problem is, there are questions about all of the possible starters (Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez, Tim Wakefield and Derek Lowe). Whoever holds on for the longest, giving his 'pen the break, gets the edge.

The shortstops

Derek Jeter has had an atypically mediocre series, hitting just .192 with an on-base percentage of .344 in the leadoff spot. His shortstop counterpart, Orlando Cabrera, is hitting .370 with a .393 OBP. Cabrera was hitting so well in the first three games of the series -- and Mark Bellhorn so poorly -- that the Sox moved Cabrera into the No. 2 spot in the order for Game 4 and they haven't lost since. It's critical that both Jeter and Cabrera find a way to get on base so the big guys can do what they get paid to do. Of course, the Sox would love it if leadoff man Johnny Damon (.103, .161 OBP) snapped out of his funk, too.

The basepaths

In close games, baserunning becomes critical, so players have to be smart and they have to take the opportunities when they present themselves. The Sox will run any chance they get. They've tried five times in the six games. Even big man David Ortiz tried to swipe one, and it appeared he did, though he was called out. The Yankees, on the other hand, have attempted one steal (Jeter made it) in the whole series and were roundly criticized for not trying to take advantage of Wakefield's slow-moving knuckler in extra innings of Game 5, when catcher Jason Varitek was more worried about catching the ball than trying to throw anybody out. If the Yanks can get on base against Wakefield, look for them to take off in Game 7. And the Sox, with an aggressive bunch anyway, will go anytime. If Boston's Dave Roberts gets in the game, mark that down as a stolen base already.

The closers

The biggest advantage the Yankees have in Game 7 is that Mariano Rivera didn't pitch in Game 6, so he'll be rested for the clincher. He could go as long as two innings and maybe three. But the Yanks, of course, have to get to him first. And don't forget -- the Red Sox have touched Rivera. He blew back-to-back saves in Games 4 and 5. Boston's closer, Keith Foulke, has gone six innings in five games and looked a little gassed in finishing Game 6 on Tuesday. But he's given up only a hit and hasn't allowed a run.

Keeping their cool

Did the Yankees, with Alex Rodriguez's hatchet job on poor Bronson Arroyo in Game 6, start to crack a little? Was that Joe Torre getting a little hot around the collar arguing that call? Are the Red Sox in Rivera's head? And, just to be fair, let's flip this around. Can the Red Sox overcome all that history of failure, most recently in a Game 7 in the Bronx last year? How can Wakefield throw a knuckler in a Game 7 again? Can Derek Lowe (1-2, 9.75 ERA in Yankee Stadium this year) handle it? Who in the heck is whose Daddy here?

John Donovan is a senior writer for SI.com.