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Red Sox keys to victory in ALCS
10/10/2004 2:13 PM ET
1. Get Pedro on track
It was rare for Sox ace Pedro Martinez to sound so defeated after the Yankees beat him for the second time in a week, back on Sept. 24. Martinez called the Yankees his "daddy" and said he wished they'd "disappear." Some Sox players think it was simply a psychological ploy by Martinez. In any event, the Sox need Martinez to regain his swagger against the Yankees. Judging by the velocity he had in his victory over the Angels, Martinez is feeling healthy and primed for this challenge.

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
Game 1 at New York         NYY 10, BOS 7
Game 2 at New York         NYY 3, BOS 1
Game 3 at Boston Fri. Oct. 15 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Boston Sat. Oct. 16 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Boston Sun. Oct. 17 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at New York Tue. Oct. 19 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at New York Wed. Oct. 20 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary

2. Damon on base
The longer the season goes, the more apparent it is that leadoff Johnny Damon is every bit as important to the Boston offense as Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Not only does Damon tax pitchers by squirting one foul ball after another, he is a pest whenever he's on base. It will make life far more stressful for the Yankees if Damon continues to play at the level he played at against the Angels, not to mention the bulk of the 2004 season.

3. Jeter and A-Rod off base
The most underrated aspect of perennial All-Stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez is their baserunning ability. Both players have tremendous instincts on the bases, and love to stick daggers in the other team by stealing third when it is least expected. If the Sox can contain Jeter and A-Rod, American League MVP candidate Gary Sheffield will be a lot more manageable. A-Rod helped clinch the Division Series over the Twins by stealing third with one out, which put him in position to score the game-winning run on a wild pitch.

4. Taking care of home-field
After the sox secured a split of the first two games in New York in last year's ALCS, they had plenty of confidence that they would be going to the World Series. And the way the Sox play at Fenway Park, who could blame them? However, the Sox wound up losing two of three at Fenway, and ultimately, that might have been every bit as responsible for their defeat as the well-chronicled events of Game 7. At the very least, the Sox need to win two out of three at home.

5. Stay confident in bullpen
Former Sox manager Grady Little learned all too well a year ago what can happen when you don't have enough faith in your bullpen. Expect manager Terry Francona to rely on Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin and Alan Embree for critical outs. As prolific as the New York lineup is, it would be asking a lot of Curt Schilling and Martinez to still be on the mound in the eighth and ninth innings. This could become an even bigger factor if Schilling's bothersome right ankle hinders him in this series, or if the Yankees are effective in forcing Martinez into a lot of pitches in the early innings.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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