2003 MLB Playoffs
October 8, 2003
As expected, the ALDS Game 5 was an exciting one, and with Boston in the ALCS against the aging Yankees, this series should prove to be no slouch either. On to the preview:
Boston Red Sox
- Shake off the Yankee "aura." The Yankees are as beatable as any playoff team this year, and the sooner Boston realizes this, the sooner they will advance to the World Series.
- Get to the Yankees starting pitching. The Red Sox have had pretty good success against the Yankees' starters this year, and now is no time to stop that trend. New York's bullpen is shaky, and Boston must knock out the veteran starters early and take advantage.
- Abuse the bullpen early in the series. With Grady Little showing faith in only a few bullpen arms, it is imperative for Tim Wakefield to post a long outing in Game 1 because if Little cycles through his bullpen more than one day in a row, the middle games of the series will be a struggle for Boston.
- Be feeble at the plate. The last thing Boston needs are games that are 0 - 0 in the 4th inning. Boston's big strength is offense, and the sluggers must prove that early in the game. A low scoring contest favors New York.
New York Yankees
- Get quality innings from the starters. With a lineup potent from 1 through 9, Boston will come at you each and every inning. It may take a lot of pitches, but Mussina, Wells, and the rest of the gang must keep their team in the game when the 7th inning stretch arrives, even if it means giving up 4 or 5 earned runs over that span. It will be awfully tough to catch up against the Red Sox offense if New York already spots them an early multi run lead.
- Defend. New York's defensive inabilities were visible against the Twins, and if they continue into the Boston series, the Yankees won't be playing a week from now. The Red Sox do enough damage with their bats; the last thing they need is help from the defense.
- Give up the crooked numbers. Boston is going to score runs, but the Yankees must make sure they are not in bunches. A solo home run here and there will not kill New York because they have plenty of hitting themselves. A 3 spot here and a 4 spot there, however, will make life very difficult for Torre's team.
- Walk hitters. Unlike the Giants and Cubs, the Red Sox don't have a powerful guy in the middle surrounded by average talent. The Red Sox have a powerful guy in the middle surrounded by a couple guys at the top of the leaderboard for batting average (Mueller and Garciaparra), a couple guys who have a knack for the clutch hit (Ortiz and Walker), and several others who can just flat out hit. In other words, the Yankees must pitch to, and not around, each hitter because it doesn't get any easier pitching to the bottom of the lineup with runners on base.
The Yankees have the mystique on their side, as well as experience and veteran leadership. The Red Sox, however, can just slug their way out of trouble at any time and they don't seem intimidated by New York. If Boston can get some mileage out of their starters not named Pedro and Lowe, they should set themselves up nicely to take the series.
I think New York will put up a gallant effort, but Boston will win one game coming from behind, steal the momentum of the series, and outhit their way to the World Series.
The Yankees certainly won't roll over, but for the first time in a long time, they have more holes than the opposition. While good pitching usually beats good hitting, I also believe that great hitting and decent pitching will beat good pitching and good hitting in this series.
Prediction: Red Sox in Six