10/08/07 11:50 PM ET
ALCS breakdown: Red Sox
Boston must hurdle pair of Cleveland aces to advance
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The Red Sox's success against the Indians meant they saw just one inning from Cleveland closer Joe Borowski. In fact, nobody in Boston's lineup has faced him more than a handful of times. Manny Ramirez has faced him twice, but one of those was a two-run homer in 2005, when Borowski was pitching for the Devil Rays. By contrast, the Red Sox have seen enough of setup man Rafael Betancourt for their liking, and it hasn't gone well for them. Cleveland's setup man has allowed just two runs on 10 hits in 14 innings against Boston, striking out 19. Ramirez and David Ortiz are 1-for-11 combined with five strikeouts against him. The one batter who has hit Betancourt well is Julio Lugo, who is 3-for-4 with a double and a homer off of him.
Indians catcher Victor Martinez has fared better against would-be basestealers this year than he has in past seasons, but Red Sox rookie speedster Jacoby Ellsbury has the wheels to give him a very good test. Get Ellsbury on first base in the late innings as a pinch-runner or otherwise, and he'll give Boston's big hitters a scoring opportunity.
Red Sox's Achilles' heel
Is there really an Achilles' heel for a team that dominated its way through a three-game Division Series sweep and generally had its way with its upcoming ALCS opponent in the regular season? Well, they could stand for leadoff man Dustin Pedroia to reach base more often than he did in the ALDS, but that didn't hurt their run production against the Angels.
Red Sox manager: Terry Francona
The field general for Boston's curse-crashing World Series championship run in 2004 pushed all the right buttons in the ALDS, and his veteran-laden squad has responded to his style. His emphasis on the fundamentals will be all the more important in what should be close contests against Sabathia and Carmona.
Anyone remember when the Yankees were supposedly threatening the Red Sox for AL East supremacy in September? Didn't think so. These guys carry themselves with a confidence that they're the team to beat, and they come up with the clutch plays to back it up. Three reasons Red Sox will win
They can match up against Sabathia and Carmona with Beckett and Curt Schilling or Matsuzaka, and they have the rotation depth after that to top the Tribe. A healthy Tim Wakefield in Game 4 would be bad news for the Indians, who generally haven't hit him well over the last few years. Ramirez loves to hit against his former team. He has a .417 average this year, .370 last season and .357 for his career, with 15 home runs in 49 career regular-season games. This will be his first playoff matchup against the Indians. They can score runs in so many different ways that simply looking for ground balls isn't enough. They can hit for precision as well as they can for power.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.