So, it’s October time. Yanks vs Indians, Red Sox vs Angels. Alex Ferguson looks at the runners and riders…ANGELS VS RED SOX
Both sides have pitching to die for. The Red Sox, with a team ERA of 3.87, have probably the best pitcher in the league in Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling’s also a seasoned competitor. Although the third pitcher’s a bit of a toss-up, do any of the Angels want to face Daitzuke Matsuzaka, or even Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball? And add to that a deep bullpen with the likes of Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin and ubercloser John Papelbon. Beckett’s also
Having said that, the Angels aren’t bad either, boasting the American League’s fifth best ERA and useful starters in Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Jared Weaver. Scott Shields and Fransisco Rodriguez also provide notable back-up in the bullpen.
While the Red Sox are specialists at last-ditch victories, the Angels, to coin the Top Gun phrase, have a need for speed. The Halos have stolen 137 bases this year, with 68 of them coming from Chone Figgins and Reggie Wilts. They provide a superb base for big hitters Garett Anderson (.297, 80 RBI) and Vladmir Guerrero (.324, 125 RBI).
Having said that, the Red Sox sure can hit the ball themselves. In the regular season, they put up 867 of them this year, and are in the top 10 for average (.280), home runs and have probably the league’s best clutch hitters in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Having said that, if Ramirez and Ortiz break down because of injury, it could spell disaster for Red Sox Nation.
The Red Sox have home field advantage by virtue of having the American League’s best record, and have a 6-4 record against the Anaheim Angels. The Sox also have a winning record against every postseason team apart from the Yankees (8-10)….The Angels are 14-14 in September while the Sox are 16-11.
VERDICT: A hard-fought series which the Red Sox win in five.
INDIANS VS YANKEES
The Indians have two bona fide Cy Young contenders and Fausto Carmona (19-9, 3.06 ERA) and C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21 ERA), and a strong third pitcher in Paul Byrd. Jake Westbrook’s not an awful fourth pitcher, either. We also like the team’s bullpen, led by Joe Borowski (45 saves) and Rafael Betancourt (1.47 ERA).
The Yankees have a reawakened bullpen, thanks to new wiz kid Joda Chamberlain and possibly baseball’s best-ever closer, Mariano Rivera. Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang are pretty good first and second game starters, but Roger Clemens’ injured hamstring could cause a headache. Mike Mussina’s been pitching well recently, going 3-0 with a 3.49 ERA.
There was no team in the major leagues who could hit like the Yankees this year. The Yanks are lead the AL in all offensive categories including average (.290), hits (1,656) and home runs (201). Having said that, they had an exceptionally potent offense last year and were beaten 3-1 in the ALDS by unfancied Detroit, so you never know. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are predictable leaders, but Robinson Cano (.374 average in September) is the one to watch.
Having said that, the Indians aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to hitting, ranking seventh in the AL in average (268), led by Victor Martinez (.301 avg, 25 HRs, 114 RBIs) and Grady Sizemore (118 runs). And be afraid of Sizemore on the basepads too, who’s got 33 stolen bases and will be more than ready to chance Posada’s arm.
Cleveland finished 31-12 this year to win the AL Central, while the Yankees came back from eight games below .500 to finish 94-68 and claim the AL Wild Card…..the Yankees have a 6-0 record against Cleveland, batting over .348 against the Tribe with 14 home runs and 49 scores…The last time the Yankees and Indians faced off in the playoffs was in 1998, when the Yankees won 4-2 in the ALCS… A year earlier Cleveland beat New York 3-2 in the 1997 ALDS, coming from 2-1 behind to win the Series after touching Mariano Rivera.
VERDICT: Another monster series that Cleveland wins in four, thanks to its superior pitching