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Division Series advantage goes to dominant starters

Martinez, Johnson hold 1st-round aces for Red Sox, D'backs

October 05, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The series between the Red Sox and Indians might be the most interesting of all, considering the bitter rivalry that has developed between the two franchises.

They made headlines a couple of times during the regular season, first when a brushback war led to a pair of bench-clearing incidents at Fenway Park, and again when Williams all but accused the Indians of using their video system to steal signs at Jacobs Field.

If that created any lasting animosity, the Indians know that they cannot afford to dwell on it and expect to do anything against Martinez.

"We have to beat Pedro, man," Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel said recently. "We have to show we can beat him. We beat him before, and we have to do that again. The No. 1 game is always important to win. It doesn't mean anything if we go the full five games or seven games. It is just the first step."

It's more than just a first step, of course. If Martinez scores a convincing victory in Game 1, the wild-card Red Sox will suddenly be cast as the favorites to close out the series.

Martinez faced Cleveland four times during the regular season, going 2-0 with 2.17 ERA, but the Indians still seem confident that they can win three out of five games.

"If we could win three straight, that would be great, but that's going to be real hard," Indians catcher Sandy Alomar said. "Game 1 is always important. If you can knock out their pitcher right away, that's good. Every game counts, though. We need to win three. Whatever three, I don't care."

The Red Sox have reason to be confident, too, after winning the season series by a decided margin -- eight games to four -- but they also know what they're up against.

"We've been in the postseason, and we know what they can do," said Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. "They definitely have a lot of veterans, and they've been in the postseason before. They know how to win. We played them last year, and they knocked us out. Hopefully, we can turn it around this year."

No doubt, the National League entrants would have said the same kind of things yesterday, but none of them knew who they were going to play, because last night's wild-card playoff between the Mets and the Reds determined the matchups in both NL series.

The Astros were happy to take potluck, after a season that started with the loss of outfielder Moises Alou to a serious knee injury and includes the frightening memory of manager Larry Dierker having a seizure in the dugout.

"If you would have told me in spring training everything that happened to us this year, I would have been happy to be at .500," said Dierker, who returned from brain surgery to finish the season. "It's been a remarkable year, but, from here on out, nobody will be happy if we don't win a few games in the playoffs."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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