It begins again tonight, Yankees-RedSawx, ALCS, beginning at the Stadium. And this time, the RedSux have to think they have the Yanks solved: Schilling-Pedro-Wakefield-Arroyo against Mussina-Lieber-Brown-???, an 11-8 win in the season series, an improved defense with Cabrera and Doug Mintcabbage, a team average over .300 at home, and the fatboy combo of Ramirez-Ortiz hitting everything.
Not so fast. The Monk is an honest man and there is little doubt that the Yanks, Cards and crimsonfootcoverings are the three best teams in baseball. And The Monk is the last man to underestimate the estimable RedSawx. But let's get a few things straight:
First, the Yankees posted the best record in the AL with a rotation that relied upon retreads, rookies and hope: Moooooooosina was injured, Brown got hurt and hurt himself, Vazquez turned into a BP pitcher in the second half, Lieber was an added bonus, El Duque is the king of the retreads, Contreras was awful and dealt for the equally putrid Loaiza, etc. Throughout a whole season of a patchwork rotation, the Yanks kept their heads above water. After falling into an 8-11 record (1-6 against Bawstun), the Yanks turned their season around, won 7 of the next ten against the Redstiffs (and it should've been 9/10 but Rivera honked two saves) and won the division even though Boston's pitchers were HEALTHY ALL SEASON.
Second, all this nonsense about the RedSawx winning the season series is meaningless. The RedSawx didn't fear the Yanks last year either as shown by Boston's 109-94 scoring advantage in their regular season matchups and wins at the Stadium of 8-4, 10-3, 10-2, 9-3 and 11-0. The RedSawx haven't feared the Yanks since 2001 (maybe) when the Yanks won the season series 13-5.
Third, until the RedSawx won the last two games (and big) in Bawstin last month, the Yanks had dominated the post-April meetings between the teams -- winning 7 of 10 and losing two of those only because Rivera screwed up. Got that? The team with no rotation beat the team with a healthy rotation time and again. Worse yet for RedSawx fans: the Yanks do not go quietly -- witness the two beatings they gave the Sux after the redfooties closed to within 2.5 games after Rivera blew one at the Stadium.
Finally, in last year's ALCS, the Yanks starters had the following ERAs: 4.11 (Moooooooooose), 4.69 (Pettitte), 5.00 (Clemens) and 2.35 (Wells). In the 1999 ALCS win for the Yanks over the Sux, the starters ERAs (other than Clemens' beating in Rathole Park) were 1.80 (Duque), 2.57 (Cone), 2.45 (Pettitte).
All that considered, here are some more interesting facts:
Start with starters. Here are the personal records and team records (i.e., how the Sawx did) of the Redsax starters against the Yanks: Schilling 2-0 (2-1), Pedro 1-2 (1-3), Arroyo 0-0 (4-0), Wakefield 1-0 (2-1), Lowe 2-3 (2-3). Weirder yet about Arroyo and his four no decisions: he was very good at the Stadium against the Yanks but notsogood at Fenway.
Here are the Yankees starters: Moooooooosina 2-1 (2-1), Lieber 1-0 (3-0), Brown 0-1 (0-3), Duque 0-0 (0-1), Vazquez 1-2 (1-3). Others who started = Contreras 0-2 (1-2), Sturze 0-0 (0-1) and Halsey 0-0 (1-0).
And here's a strange note -- the RedSawx scored less than 5 runs in each of their last eight games at the Stadium this season; this is the same team that averaged nearly 6 runs per game and has nearly the same lineup as the team that hit 7 HR in one game at the Stadium last year. The Yanks only held the RedSux under 5 runs in Ratway twice.
Keys to the Series: (1) if the Yank starters can basically match the RedStiffs starters -- this isn't a question of outpitching, just match zeros. The model for this is the 1997 Indians when their stiffs (Ogea, 8-9, 4.99; Nagy 15-11, 4.28; Hershiser, 14-6, 4.47; Wright 8-3, 4.39) went pitch for pitch with the vastly superior Orioles' staff (Moooooooosina 15-8, 3.20, 15 IP, 1 ER, 25K in the ALCS and no wins; Erickson 16-7, 3.69; Key, 16-10, 3.43; Kamienicki (10-6, 4.02, 8 IP, 0 ER in the ALCS). Indians won that series 4-2. (2) Relief pitching: in 10 IP in the 2003 ALCS, Timlin and Embree gave up 0 ER; Gordon, Quantrill and crew were routinely lit up by the Sawx hitters, especially at Fenway. (3) Can the Yanks neutralize Schilling? (4) Will Francona regret not using Wakefield more -- he's a Yankee killer but currently slotted for game 4 and not 3-and-7 as you might expect.