10/09/07 12:30 AM ET
ALCS breakdown: Indians
Cleveland sends rejuvenated offense against Boston
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Neither Victor Martinez nor Asdrubal Cabrera have faced Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, but they batted .347 and .500, respectively, in the late innings of close games. Martinez's OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) in those situations, covering 95 at-bats, is a whopping 1.011. The Red Sox probably won't hesitate to use Hideki Okajima or Javier Lopez in the late innings to force a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Hafner, who struck out twice in as many meetings with Lopez this season.
Cleveland's best hitter against Boston this season wasn't Martinez, Hafner or Jhonny Peralta, but it was former Red Sox farmhand Kelly Shoppach, who went 4-for-7 against his old team. He'll likely make at least one start when Paul Byrd takes the mound.
Indians' Achilles' heel
Cleveland can try to ride C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona to victory, but with matchups against Beckett, Dice-K and Schilling looming, the Indians can't automatically chalk up victories with their big two. That means they'll need strong outings from Jake Westbrook and Byrd, testing the depth of their rotation against what, on paper, looks like a deeper Red Sox rotation.
Indians manager: Eric Wedge
Faced with the task of dismantling the Bronx Bombers and facing the aura of Yankee Stadium, the Indians took on their manager's cool, deliberate nature. If they're supposed to be intimidated by facing the Red Sox, their manager won't let on.
The Indians have had so many late-game heroics this season that they can make their case as the team of destiny without batting an eye. Three reasons the Indians will win
They're the one team in these playoffs that can go pitcher for pitcher with Beckett and Dice-K. Sabathia and Carmona will pitch four out of a possible seven games. If Cleveland can win three of those games and look for one win from Westbrook or Byrd, it will take its chances that one of them can keep the ball on the ground. With the emergence of Rafael Perez and the steady work of Rafael Betancourt, the Indians have the setup and specialty arms to shorten a game. The two-strike approach by the Indians this postseason gives their offense a different look than the one the Red Sox saw and sent down in most of their regular-season matchups.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.