It’s official. The Red Sox and the Indians advance, the Angels and the Yankees fall by the wayside, and we’re one step closer to a World Series match-up. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown on Cleveland and Boston.
Its a clash of titans as Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia face off on Friday. With nearly identical statistics, this would be a pitchers duel, if it weren’t for the Boston bats. Manny Rameriez hit .417 versus Cleveland this year with 3 HRs, and Pedroia, Lowell and Youkilis all hit above .300 in the season series versus Cleveland. With the talent on the mound about even, the edge here is to Boston, who, in head to head competition, hit nearly 60 points better as a team than Cleveland. Game One goes to the BoSox.
Game two isn’t quite the duel that game on looks to be. A Curt Schilling – Fausto Carmona match-up looks to favor the Indians. The only time Carmona faced the Sox in the regular season he pitched 8 innings of 4 hit shutout ball, and even though Schilling was nearly as good in his only start against the Tribe, Curt is aging, and his numbers this year have deteriorated after his pitch count gets to about 75. Carmona should go deeper into the game than Schilling, and add to that Carmona’s superior numbers when in close and late situations, I give the edge in game two to Cleveland.
So, heading into game 3 at Jacobs Field, I have the Indians negating Boston’s home-field advantage. It’ll be up to Dice-K to put in a strong showing against Jake Westbrook. It’s good news for Red Sox Nation, as Westbrook turned in a bad outing in his only appearance versus Boston this year, as well as going only 5 innings while allowing 6 runs in Clevelands only Division series loss to the Yankees. Dice-K didn’t so much better than Westbrook so far this postseason, however he was lights out in his only start in Cleveland, going 7 shut-out innings and picking up the win. Look for more of the same in this one, Boston takes a 2-1 series lead.
It’s soon to be 37 year old Paul Byrd against the 41 year young Tim Wakefield in Game 4. It could be anybody’s guess here. Byrd won his only start against Boston, but allowed 9 hits in 6 innings. Byrd also doesn’t strike out that many people and when you factor in his opponents batting over .300 against him this season Cleveland fans should get a bad feeling. Wakefield lost his only start in Cleveland this year, but his overall numbers look a little better. He’s 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA against Cleveland this year, and he held his opponents to a .252 average (specifically he held Cleveland to a .213 avg). I think this one will come down to whether or not Cleveland hitters Hafner (hitting .185 vs BOS), Martinez (hitting .125 vs BOS), and Blake (hitting .217 vs BOS) produce when it counts. Barring drastic change, I give this one to Boston, who then would take a 3-1 series lead.
Probably the same match-up as game one, I’d anticipate the same outcome. Beckett is just plain nasty on the road, posting a 2.18 ERA and an 11-2 record away from Fenway. Cleveland’s done, son. Boston takes the series 4-1, apologies to the Bostonians with game 6 and 7 tix.
What Cleveland can do to upset my bold predictions
(1) Please, for the love of baseball, make sure Kelly Shoppach gets some at-bats. Victor Martinez has hit to the tune of .125 against Boston, while Kelly is hitting over .500 (with an admittedly microscopic sample size) Take a chance on the kid. At least think about it. Sure Victor’s hit .353 in his series against the Yankees, but he’s had a hard time against the Sox this year, so if he struggles, put in the kid.
(2) SHORTEN THAT ROTATION! Send Sabathia out there for game 4. That’s right, pitch him on 3 days rest now, because your season will be on the line. It creates a better match-up, and greatly improves the Indians’ chances. Plus, you then start Fausto Carmona on 4 days rest in game 5. The best part is that if it works, you head back to Boston with a potential 3-2 series lead. It’s everything Joe Torre tried to do with Wang, except Wang is mediocre, and Sabathia is a stud. Now is not the time to worry about over-exerting your aces. You have to beat Boston to play Colorado or Arizona. Remember that it doesn’t matter if Carmona’s ready and rested for game 6 if there is no game 6.
(3) I said it already, I’ll say it again. Cleveland has to find a way to hit better against Boston pitching, specifically Hafner (hitting .185 vs BOS), Martinez (hitting .125 vs BOS), and Blake (hitting .217 vs BOS). These three need to come up big if Cleveland wants a World Series berth.
NFL Week 6 picks, WI vs Penn State Aftermath, and game one recaps later this week.