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AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

New York Vs. Boston

October 08, 2003|Bill Shakin

RED SOX ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS: The Red Sox led the major leagues in runs scored, batting average, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They scored only 17 runs in five games in the first round of the playoffs, but the opposing Oakland Athletics boasted the best earned-run average in the American League. Cleanup batter Manny Ramirez had neither a home run nor an RBI until hitting a three-run homer in Game 5, but ahead of him Todd Walker batted .313 and Nomar Garciaparra .300, and those two were the toughest hitters in the league to strike out. In 19 games against the Yankees during the regular season, Garciaparra had four homers and 17 RBIs, David Ortiz six homers and 14 RBIs and AL batting champion Bill Mueller four homers and 13 RBIs. Pedro Martinez, who led major league starters with a 2.22 earned-run average, is in line for two starts in the series, but Tim Wakefield and Derek Lowe start the first two games.

*--* RED SOX' PROJECTED LINEUP P Player Avg. HR RBIs 3B Bill Mueller 326 19 85 2B Todd Walker 283 13 85 SS N. Garciaparra 301 28 105 LH Manny Ramirez 325 37 104 DH David Ortiz 288 31 101 1B Kevin Millar 276 25 96 RF Trot Nixon 306 28 87 C Jason Varitek 273 25 85 CF Gabe Kapler 291 4 23

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WEAKNESSES: In the division series, the Red Sox used Lowe in relief twice and had Martinez warming up in the bullpen once. Manager Grady Little, perhaps justifiably, has little faith in a bullpen that has been mix-and-match all season. Byung-Hyun Kim, who got torched in last year's division series and the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks, blew the save in the Game 1 against Oakland and might not be seen again. Scott Williamson, given a one-run lead and the chance to save Game 5, walked the potential tying and winning runs on base before Lowe rescued the Sox.

KEY RESERVES: IF Damian Jackson (.268, 1 HR, 13 RBIs), OF Johnny Damon (.273, 12 HR, 67 RBIs).

TEAM BATTING: .289 (first in league).

TEAM PITCHING: 4.48 (eighth in league).

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*--* YANKEES' PROJECTED LINEUP P Player Avg. HR RBIs 2B Alfonso Soriano 290 38 91 1B Nick Johnson 284 14 47 SS Derek Jeter 324 10 52 DH Jason Giambi 250 41 107 C Jorge Posada 281 30 101 CF Bernie Williams 263 15 64 LF Hideki Matsui 287 16 106 3B Aaron Boone 254 6 31 RF Juan Rivera 266 7 26

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YANKEE ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS: The same starters who got clobbered by the Angels in last year's division series pitched brilliantly this year. Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells posted a 1.88 ERA against the Minnesota Twins, after that 10.41 disaster against the Angels. Closer Mariano Rivera, primed to go beyond one inning in October, worked two innings for each of his two saves against the Twins, giving up no hits and no walks. The Yankees did not overwhelm Minnesota, scoring 16 runs in four games, but Derek Jeter batted .429, Bernie Williams .400, leadoff batter Alfonso Soriano .368 and No. 9 hitter Juan Rivera .333. Jeter and Nick Johnson drew a total of seven walks.

WEAKNESSES: The Yankees remain prone to the strikeout -- Soriano and catcher Jorge Posada struck out six times apiece against the Twins, Giambi five times. That could be problematic, not only against Martinez but against Wakefield and his knuckleball and against Lowe, who used a darting sinker to get two called strikeouts in the ninth inning of Game 5 against Oakland. Johnson batted .077 in the first round, and Manager Joe Torre dropped him from the No. 2 spot. The Yankees posted a 5.48 ERA against Boston during the regular season, and failures by the Yankee starters will bring on a suspect corps of middle relievers. The Yankee defense up the middle -- Soriano, Jeter and Williams -- is weak.

KEY RESERVES: OF Karim Garcia (.295, 6 HR, 20 RBIs); OF/DH Ruben Sierra (.282, 6 HR, 31 RBIs).

TEAM BATTING: .271 (fifth in league).

TEAM PITCHING: 4.02 ERA (third in league).

RECORDS: Yankees 101-61, Red Sox 95-67.

HEAD TO HEAD: Yankees, 10-9.

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KEYS TO THE SERIES

The Yankees have the premier postseason closer in their bullpen. The Red Sox have no idea whether they have a closer -- or, for that matter, a bullpen. Hold your breath and savor the moment in Game 3, when Pedro Martinez faces Roger Clemens in Boston. Clemens insists he is retiring after the season, and if the Yankees lose this series in six games or less, the final appearance of his career would come in Fenway Park, his old stomping grounds. But the Yankees are rested while the Red Sox are exhausted, jittery and bruised, so look for Clemens to extend his career into his fifth World Series.

-- Bill Shaikin

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