This series features quite possibly the two best teams in baseball in 2008 and this series may very well be the ‘true’ World Series.
On the Cleveland side you have all their hope riding on two starting pitchers, CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Some pundits have said that experience really means nothing in the post season, as is the case with the 3 teams with the least experience all advanced. In the Division series I think this is the case, the LCS, I think it is different. Remember you have the Red Sox, with many members left over from their 2004 championship team and quite a few still left from their 99 and 03 comeback teams. Veteran players know how to close out a series and conversely don’t start panicking when they are suddenly down in the series.
In the Yankee series Cleveland had the advantage of opening at home. CC Sabathia pitched like crap, but got bailed out by his offense. He can’t pitch as poorly in Boston. Carmona was lights out in game 2, but he throws a 95 mph sinker (So does Ching Ming Wang) and like most sinker ball pitchers if that ball doesn’t stay down, it simply humps into the middle of the plate and goes a long, long way.
Cleveland overall is a strong team, but it has weakness. As an offense they can get impatient and chase as was proved in game 2 of the LDS. Their 3 and 4 starters do not strike fear into the hearts of the Red Sox. Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox will walk and walk and walk and get into deep counts. How many times this year did you see a starting pitcher vs the Red Sox reach 100 pitches by the 5th inning? If that remains the case then the Indians will have to burn the ‘Rafaels’ and they too can be beat. The Indians biggest weakness is Closer. Joe Borowski is a disaster waiting to happen and in close games 1 or 2 runs, Eric Wedge will be nervous, especially if the big bats of the Red Sox get up, because they will have the opportunity to pound him.
To win Cleveland has to do a couple of things. 1) They have to out pitch the Red Sox, which means keeping Mr. Ortiz and Ramirez quiet. Good Luck on that one. 2) They have to score runs. Unlike the Angels, the Indians can hit the big home run and can get back into a game quickly, but they can also be discouraged. A key hit by the Red Sox, especially in Fenway can sap the life out of an opposing team. It would also be advisable to keep Borowski in the pen in a critical situation, but Wedge will use him.
For the Red Sox, Beckett and Schilling may be the best 1-2 post season punch in baseball right now. Beckett is throwing smoke and Schilling is smarter than your average bear. These two, starting at home have the chance to easily put the Red Sox up 2-0 in the series. Where the Indians hope and where the Red Sox weak points are is also in the 3 and 4 slot in the rotation. Which Dice K will show up. The Indians have to be patient with him, if they chase it will be a quick game and the series will likely be all but over, but if like the Angels they lay off the junk, they can hit Dice K and win and get back into or take control of the series. IF the Red Sox are down 3-0, expect Beckett to come back on 3 days rest. Wakefield the Sox knuckleballer is currently scheduled to go in Game 4, but not with the season on the line. If Beckett pitches game 4 on 3 days rest (which doesn’t bode well for him), he would be scheduled to pitch Game 7 on normal rest.
The Red Sox offense will go as far Ortiz and Manny can take them. They are both hot (Ortiz hit .714 in the LDS with over an .800 obp) and the Indians can’t choose to walk both, because coming up behind them is Mike Lowell who had one of his best seasons ever and JD Drew, who while struggling this season and not starting Game 1 against the left Sabathia, would see a lot of fastballs and has the ability to do a lot of damage. With Oritz going to left field at will, Sabathia will have to bust him in constantly, meaning walks and hit by pitch. If Sabathia tries to go away, look for Ortiz to pepper the wall in the Series. In Game 1, expect the Indians to pitch to Ortiz and not to Manny, but the reverse in games 2-4.
While everyone deservedly raves about the Indians pitching, I think the Sox hitters are too professional to be over powered. Like wise the Red Sox starting pitching staff lead by Catcher Jason Varitek does a tremendous job is his game calling. In many cases Varitek knows more about the hitters tendencies than the hitters themselves. The Red Sox also have a more proven bullpen and a stud closer, whom they will not be afraid to use early, especially at home. The Indians have got to fight through all that to win and they especially have to win early, they can’t get behind the ball. The Indians are not a team that plays catch up well.
Prediction Red Sox in 6.