Make Sure Manny's Not Being Manny And Papi's Not Being Papi
File under: Duh. No remaining playoff team has a 3-4 punch like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The MVP-caliber resurgence of no. 5 hitter Mike Lowell only deepens the challenge for opposing pitchers.
But with the bottom of the Red Sox order continuing its season-long struggles against the Angels in the ALDS, the Sox' fortunes will likely be determined by how Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell fare. With C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona—a pair of 19-game winners and Cy Young candidates—starting the first two games of the series and the scorching Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez in the bullpen, the Indians are better equipped to limit the big three than the Angels were. If the Indians have any chance of winning the ALCS, they must put pressure on the bottom four batters in the Sox' lineup.
Don't give away outs
The Indians' eighth-inning comeback against gnat-ridden Joba Chamberlain in Game Two of the ALDS Friday spared Kenny Lofton the goat horns. With the Indians down 1-0 and two outs in the fifth, Lofton was caught off second base by Andy Pettitte, who threw to third to nab Lofton for the final out.
There's typically no shame in getting picked off by Pettitte, who has either the best pickoff move in baseball or the most illegal one. But the play was symbolic of the Indians' tendency to run into outs. They were caught stealing 41 times, sixth-most in the American League. But the Indians only stole 72 bases, by far the fewest among the clubs that were nabbed 41 or more times.
The Indians should be aggressive on the basepaths against the Sox, whose top four starters—Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield—surrendered 78 steals in 100 attempts. Lofton swiped four bases against Wakefield and the Sox while playing for the Rangers June 29. But giving away outs to a complete team like the Sox could be disastrous for the Indians.
Don't sweat the stage
If the Indians are searching for a theme song for the postseason, may we suggest Foreigner's "Feels Like The First Time?" Only five Indians—Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon. C.C. Sabathia, Paul Byrd and Joe Borowski—had playoff experience entering the ALDS. But the Indians sure didn't seem cowed by the spotlight earlier this week in New York: After squandering a three-run lead in Game Three, the Indians never trailed in calmly dispatching of the battle-tested Yankees in front of 56,315 screaming fans.
The easiest thing to do in the playoffs is to pick the team that's been there before. But the 2002 Angels weren't teeming with playoff experience—nor were the 2003 Marlins or the 2005 White Sox. That's not to say the Indians are going to win it all. But they're young, energetic and bursting with momentum. Never underestimate the potential of a team that has no idea it's supposed to be nervous and intimidated by the pressures of the postseason.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
Three ALCS Keys: Indians
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