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ALCS: Six Appeal
If only postseason pitching factored into the Cy Young race, tonight's ALCS Game 1 would be a one-game playoff of sorts. We know how exciting Rockies-Padres was last week, so we can only hope for the same with Josh Beckett vs. C.C. Sabathia in tonight’s opener.
With Red Sox manager Terry Francona juggling his rotation—switching Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka in Games 2 and 3 – we have a unique situation in which there is no pitching favorite in any game of this series (in this writer’s opinion, anyway). Beckett, whom I think will edge out Sabathia for the Cy Young, has the cachet of a 20-win season (he went 20-7), a 3.27 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 200.2 innings while cutting down his homers allowed from 36 last season to 17. Sabathia, meanwhile, was 19-7, with a 3.21 ERA and 209 Ks in 241 innings, and he finished third in Cleveland’s first RBI Baseball tournament.
In Game 2 we have Cleveland's second ace, Fausto Carmona, extensively profiled in Fungoes all season including here and here, a Cy Young contender too, pitching against Schilling, who has quite literally lost (a few miles per hour on) his fastball but is also the winningest pitcher in postseason history. And Schilling showed he can still turn it on in his seven-inning, no-run gem in the decisive game of the ALDS against the Angels.
In Game 3 we have two highly inconsistent pitchers in Jake Westbrook and Dice-K. At times, both have looked spectacular; at others they’ve been horrible.
In Game 4 it’s Tim Wakefield, who’s likely baseball’s best No. 4 starter – when he’s healthy. But his back and shoulder have been ailing, so much that he was left off the ALDS roster altogether. Paul Byrd is at the mercy of batted balls, never a great thing in October. The standard in “pitching to contact,” the Indians righty struck out just 88 batters in 192.1 innings.
The bullpens, overall, are pretty equal too. The Indians have a better 7-8 inning punch with the Rafaels, Perez and Betancourt, while the Sox have the comparable Hideki Okajima but lack that other great setup man (nice try, Eric Gagne). The Sox do have Mike Timlin and Manny Delcarmen who have pitched well of late.
Making up for those deficiencies is Boston’s HUGE advantage at the back of the bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon just won the DHL Delivery Man of the Year award. Joe Borowski, admittedly led the American League in saves, but did so with an historically bad 5.07 ERA. If at any point David Ortiz bats against Borowski in the ninth inning, will the umpires bother with the formality of making JoeBo pitch, or will they just tally the runs on the scoreboard?
With such comparable staffs, the series should come down to the lineups, where Boston had the better offense in the regular season (867 runs, to Cleveland’s 811). The Sox kept it up in the ALDS, with the joint hot spell from both Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Boston takes this one in six.
Labels: Indians-Red Sox
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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