Yankees vs. Red Sox

Alcs Scouting Report

October 08, 2003|By Roch Kubatko

YANKEES PITCHING VS. RED SOX HITTING

Unlike the 2002 AL Division Series, the New York Yankees received strong outings from each of their starters. Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire described their rotation as "a buzz saw," though the first cut wasn't the deepest. Mike Mussina allowed three runs in seven innings to lose Game 1, but he might have won with better defensive support.

Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells each held Minnesota to one run over 21 2/3 combined innings. The Twins batted .198, a drastic change from last year, when Anaheim posted a .376 average while eliminating the Yankees in four games.

Wells is 9-2 lifetime in the postseason, and he's only the No. 4 starter.

With their starters getting through the seventh inning, the Yankees relied less on a bullpen that struggles to pass along leads to Mariano Rivera, the best closer in postseason history. Jose Contreras, now working in relief, can be used as a long man or in a right-handed setup role with Catonsville's Jeff Nelson.

Boston's offense sizzled during the regular season, posting the league's highest average at .289 and falling one home run short of tying Texas for the lead, but it sputtered against Oakland pitching in the Division Series.

Bill Mueller, the AL's leading hitter, batted .105. Trot Nixon and Manny Ramirez batted .200, and Ramirez didn't have an RBI until crushing a three-run homer to break a 1-1 tie in the decisive fifth game.

Kevin Millar needed two hits Monday to raise his average to .238. David Ortiz (.095) had two hits the entire series, but his two RBIs came on a double late in Game 4 that put Boston ahead.

Scoring runs will be a bigger challenge without leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who batted .316 in the Division Series. Damon suffered a concussion after a head-on collision with Damian Jackson while chasing a pop-up in Game 5, and he could miss at least the first two games with Gabe Kapler replacing him.

Kapler can play all three outfield spots and Jackson provides speed and a defensive upgrade at second base off the bench. Adrian Brown filled in for Damon after the collision.

Yankees key number: New York's rotation posted a 1.95 ERA in four games against Minnesota in the Division Series. And the group is rested after the Yankees clinched early.

Red Sox key number: Four Boston players had 90 or more RBIs during the regular season, led by Nomar Garciaparra with 105, and four others had 85-87.

Edge: Red Sox

RED SOX PITCHING VS. YANKEES HITTING

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Pedro Martinez won't open this series after winning Game 5 of the Division Series, and there's no chance he could make three starts.

There's a significant drop-off after Martinez and Derek Lowe, who appeared in three games in six days and got the crucial Game 5 save.

The bullpen has been tormenting the Red Sox most of the season, but it was stellar in the Division Series. Scott Williamson, acquired this summer from the Cincinnati Reds, has replaced Byung-Hyung Kim as the closer. Williamson had two wins against the Athletics but walked the only two batters he faced while trying to save Game 5. Left-handers Scott Sauerbeck and Alan Embree could play prominent roles in late-inning matchup situations. Former Oriole Mike Timlin threw 4 1/3 hitless innings in the Division Series.

After the Game 1 loss, Yankees manager Joe Torre shuffled his lineup and got the desired results.

Bumped up to second, shortstop Derek Jeter batted .429 with a home run.

Nick Johnson was slumping before the playoffs, with only eight hits in his last 53 regular-season at-bats. His two-run double in Game 4 was huge, but it also was his only hit of the series, and he has gone from batting second to ninth.

Nobody will supplant Alfonso Soriano atop the order. Soriano, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are the only players with consecutive seasons of 35 homers and 35 stolen bases. Jorge Posada needed two hits Sunday to raise his Division Series average to .176. His 30 homers this year tied Yogi Berra's club record for catchers.

Torre won't use his bench much, but when needed, he can call upon ageless switch-hitter Ruben Sierra, who was 7-for-28 as a pinch hitter this season.

Former Oriole Karim Garcia is a reserve with Juan Rivera starting in right.

Yankees key number: Restricted this season by a knee injury, center fielder Bernie Williams batted .400 in the Division Series and regained his cleanup spot in the order. Just what the Red Sox don't need - another Yankees hitter who's heating up.

Red Sox key number: In the last three games of the Division Series, with the Red Sox on the brink of elimination, their maligned bullpen allowed only two hits in 9 2/3 scoreless innings. They struck out 10 and walked three.

Edge: Yankees.

DEFENSE

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