1.Kevin Brown and Derek Lowe. Each starting pitcher may not be around by the fifth inning. Given limited rest and the need to get a pitcher out at the first sign of trouble, pitching deep into this game would be highly unexpected. However, starting pitchers set the tone, and getting through the first two or three innings without damage will be huge.
2.Tim Wakefield. He's Terry Francona's X-Factor and looked terrific in winning Game 5. Francona, though, has shown he will not yank catcher Jason Varitek for Doug Mirabelli when Wakefield relieves. Varitek's troubles catching the knuckleball are obvious.
3. Yankees' patience at the plate. There's no way to sugarcoat this: New York has been tight. Boston pitchers have preyed on their overaggressiveness and desire to hit home runs. From the sixth inning of Game 5, when they took a 4-2 lead, to the ninth inning of Game 6, when Keith Foulke was on fumes, the Yankees managed only eight three-ball counts in 63 plate appearances, including one stretch of 24 straight hitters who did not get to ball three.
4.Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. Rodriguez enters 1-for-11 and Sheffield 1-for-13. They carry more pressure into the game than any other hitter.
5. The managers. Francona has been brilliant with his choice of pitchers and, specifically, getting them out at the right time. Joe Torre's first pitcher behind Brown will be critical. Mike Mussina? Orlando Hernandez? Javier Vazquez? Torre also needs to be aggressive early in the game. He loves to bunt early in these types of games but he also needs to start runners to get the Yankees out of the sit-back-and-wait mode they've been in. This is a brutally difficult game to manage because of the physical exhaustion of the pitchers. One wrong move will live in infamy.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci covers baseball for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.