ALCS Preview: This Was Meant To Happen

The stage is now set perfectly. The Yankees and Red Sox are meeting each other in the American League Championship series bringing a climax to another year of rivalry between these two teams. The Red Sox have momentum on their side having defeated the Athletics in three straight games to make it to the next round. But their pitching staff is in complete disarray and the Yankees have an extra day's rest. One thing is absolutely for certain: this will be fun.

The Yankees won the season series against the Red Sox, ten games to nine. That's a relatively useless statistic, as it's as close as possible to being a tie. Also, as I've mentioned before, regular season numbers mean absolutely nothing in the playoffs. So let's just ignore all of that hullabaloo.

Instead let's look at the gritty details. Boston is in a bad place right now, while simultaneously being in a really good move. Tim Wakefield is going to have to start game one. Derek Lowe – who is a different pitcher on the road – will have to start game three in Yankee Stadium. The Sox don't get to use Pedro until game three. Byung Hyun Kim is out with an "injury" after being emotionally destroyed (again) in the first game of the Oakland series. Johnny Damon is going to miss at least the first two games of the series after a horrifying collision in the Sox' clinching victory. Oh, and there's that little matter of flying from Boston to Oakland and now back to New York in just a matter of a few days.

So that's where Boston stands.

On the other side of the field are the Yankees. They're coming off a decisive series of victories against the Twins after an abysmal game one. Their pitching rotation has been lights out and Mariano Rivera hasn't looked this good since, well he's always looked damn good. Oh, and in game four of the series against the Twins, the offense woke up.

That being said, Boston has a ton of momentum on their sides and an offense capable of pounding out runs at an alarming rate. The Red Sox came back from crushing losses in the first two games of the ALDS to send Oakland packing, and don't think that they're not riding high from that.

Also, the Yankees have had that extra day to mull things over and get relaxed, which may or may not be a good thing. The best way to stay hot – especially for offenses – is to keep playing, and with two days off the Yankee bats may have cooled back down.

Boston and the Yankees have a history – if you haven't noticed – of going at it tooth and claw at every given opportunity. And this series will be no different. The Yankees have some advantages with the home field edge and the pitching matchups being drastically in their favor. But Boston's offense has no holes, even without Damon.

The breakdown:

Red SoxPositionYankees
MillarFirst BaseGiambi
WalkerSecond BaseSoriano
MuellerThird BaseBoone
RamirezLeft FieldMatsui
Kapler/DamonCenter FieldWilliams
NixonRight FieldRivera
Wakefield, Lowe, PedroStartersMussina, Pettitte, Clemens
Red SoxBullpenYankees
Red SoxBenchYankees

Pretty self-explanatory I think. Nomar's better than Jeter, but nobody's better than Jeter in the postseason, so there's a push. Posada and Varitek are the same deal, but reversed. Jorge's been quiet this postseason, and Varitek's been a key player for Boston with two homers. It might seem odd to pick anyone's rotation over one featuring the best player of this generation (Pedro), but Pedro's not going to take the mound until game three. And Wakefield and Burkett (the possible 4th game starter) aren't scaring anyone. Boston's bench has some guy named Adrian Brown in it. The Yankees have Karim Garcia and Ruben Sierra.

Potent as these offenses are, I don't expect to see either team burst out for a lot of hits. And if one team does, it's going to be Boston's. The Red Sox absolutely pounded the Yankee starters on a few occassions this year but, like I keep saying, the regular season means nothing now. This series will be generally well pitched – at least until the starters leave the game – and all the games will be exciting.

Bold Prediction: Yanks in six, maybe five.

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