I filed Friday’s column on last night’s game a bit after noon today, moved on to put up the latest hoops piece, grab some lunch and prepare for today’s “Fantasy 411″ show. Around 2:30 this afternoon, halfway through a slice and a Coke, I suddenly turned to Sophia and said, “I never wrote about the ALCS.” Whoops. I’m absent-minded by nature, and the whirlwind of activity over the past week or so has definitely exacerbated that particular trait.
Technically, I did write about the ALCS, just not here. As part of BP’s ongoing relationship with Sports Illustrated, Nate Silver and I did previews of both LCSs for the magazine. Without simply repeating the material therein, here’s what I’m looking at in what should be a classic postseason series:
The aces. I’m very excited about this matchup tonight. The two best pitchers in the AL this year, C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett, are going head to head in the first game of a semifinal. We don’t always get this lucky; Chris Carpenter vs. Jake Peavy in the 2004 NL Division Series is the only recent matchup that approaches this one, and after that you’re back to some Pedro Martinez starts during his peak. Beckett is coming off a wipeout of the Angels, while Sabathia scuffled through five innings against the Yankees and was helped along by his teammates to a win. Because the rest of the rotations are strong, this game doesn’t have quite the importance last night’s NLCS Game One did. However, it’s hard to win a short series if you don’t take advantage of having your ace on the mound, so tonight’s game is important.
The closers. Joe Borowski had a three-run lead Monday night, and thankfully so, as he allowed one home run and one near-homer. I was wrong in my prediction that a Yankee win in the ALDS would involved beating Borowski, but he remains the weak point of a strong Indians’ team. Any time Eric Wedge lifts someone named “Rafael” to bring in Borowski, the Red Sox’ chance of winning the game ticks upward. I’ll reiterate my prediction, wrong in the last round, that the Indians will lose a game they lead in the ninth due to their alignment of relievers. Jonathan Papelbon inspires no such doubt, while the men in front of him, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen, are comparable to the Tribe’s setup men.
The sluggers. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez eviscerated the Angels. Because Ortiz was perceived as having an off year, and Ramirez actually had one, the two have been forgotten a little bit. They’re still an amazing two-man wrecking crew, each a dangerous combination of discipline, skill and raw power. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are great players; they’re just not Ortiz and Ramirez.
Two great teams, clearly the two best left in the postseason, and one has to go home. I originally predicted Red Sox in seven, when I thought a Game Seven matchup would feature Curt Schilling and Jake Westbrook. Knowing it would instead be the possibly fatigued Daisuke Matsuzaka starting for the home team gives me pause, but not enough to change my mind. Red Sox in seven. Barely.