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09/30/07 8:00 PM ET

ALDS breakdown: Red Sox

Deep lineup, pitching staff could give Sox edge over Angels

The Red Sox abused Los Angeles pitching all season -- 64 runs in 10 games of three widely spaced series -- with little help from Manny Ramirez. The fact the Sox could score at will while Manny was hitting .216 with nary a home run sets them up well now that Ramirez appears to be back in stride.

Boston's lineup should remind the Angels of their own -- except with more experience and power. The Angels know best how difficult that blend can be. The Red Sox, of all teams, are one of the few who can even run with Los Angeles.

Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo are the first Boston teammates with 25-plus steals in 93 years, or since Tris Speaker (42) Al Janvrin (25) ran circles around the AL in 1914. Angels catcher Mike Napoli fares as well throwing out runners as does Boston's Jason Varitek -- but the Halos aren't accustomed to being held to a draw in the running department.

However, the Red Sox could be vulnerable if either John Lackey or Kelvim Escobar is on his game. The right-handers ranked in the league's Top 15 in strikeouts (as a staff, the Angels were No. 2), and Boston's regular lineup includes four with 100-plus Ks (Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz).

On the other hand, the BoSox aren't particularly impressed with Los Angeles' fabled and deep bullpen. They spoiled one of Francisco Rodriguez's three save opportunities against them, and batted .278 against the tough setup trio of Scot Shields, Justin Speier and lefty Darren Oliver.

Key late-game matchups
• The top half of the Boston lineup vs. Mike Scioscia roulette: That L-R-L-R-L rotation (Dustin Pedroia, Ramirez, Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Drew) will play havoc with Scioscia's match-up attempts.

• Ortiz vs. Oliver: You know it's coming. Three years ago, without a genuine lefty reliever, Scioscia waved in Jarrod Washburn -- who surrendered Big Papi's ALDS-winning walk-off homer. Ortiz will get a better fight out of Oliver, against whom he is 2-for-9 lifetime.

Red Sox secret weapon

Drew: A $70 million secret? But the free-agent outfielder has been such a disappointment he's become virtually invisible in Boston. Yet he's got the postseason experience (27 games with three different teams), icy detachment and strong arm to have an impact.

Red Sox Achilles' heel
Eric Gagne, designated eighth-inning reliever: The Boston staff has been committed to making it work, and he has regained trust with his end-of-season efforts. But he simply no longer seems to have put-away stuff, and it could go again in a flash.

American League Division Series schedule
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox
Wed., Oct. 36:30 p.m. Fenway Park TBS
Fri., Oct. 58:30 p.m.Fenway Park TBS
Sun. Oct. 73 p.m.Angel Stadium TBS
*Mon. Oct. 89:30 p.m.Angel Stadium TBS
*Wed. Oct. 108:30 p.m.Fenway Park TBS
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Thu., Oct. 46:30 p.m. Jacobs Field TBS
Fri., Oct. 55 p.m. Jacobs Field TBS
Sun. Oct. 76:30 p.m. Yankee Stadium TBS
*Mon. Oct. 86 p.m. Yankee Stadium TBS
*Wed. Oct. 105 p.m. Jacobs Field TBS
* If necessary. All times ET.

Red Sox manager: Terry Francona
Intense, wears blinders when at the ballpark. This club is winning by playing the type of sound, fundamental ball that had never before been its trademark, and it's all a credit to Francona.

Red Sox intangibles
Snicker if you wish at that whole Red Sox Nation thing, but feeling all of even a make-believe country behind you is a powerful force.

Three reasons Red Sox will win
• Hideki Okajima (rested for two weeks in September) and Curt Schilling (fewer than 45 innings the last six weeks) have been patiently nursed back to peak postseason health.

• That look in Josh Beckett's eyes. Give him the ball in a money October game and stand back. The Yankees already got an up-close view of that four years ago.

• With Manny as the new No. 2 hitter, no one can consistently survive the Ramirez-Ortiz-Lowell gauntlet in the middle of the lineup.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.