Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It Begins Thursday

Tonight we get to watch the Twins come off an extra-innings thriller to take on the Evil Empire in the ALDS. And as much as I would like to pick the Twins...c'mon, we know the odds are long.

But the matchup that matters starts tomorrow in Anaheim, when the Sox and Angels meet for the third year in a row. The past two years the Sox have cast aside the Angels with relative ease. This year, however, a lot of people think the Angels will break the jinx.

The two teams are evenly matched. Both lineups have speed, power and solid defense. The starting rotations match up nicely, right down to two wunderkinds with uneven records facing each other in Game Three (Kazmir vs. Buchholz). And the bullpens...both talented and both anchored by an elite closer.

What it will come down to, what it always comes down to, is this; which team will execute in the key moments? Which team will take advantage of an opportunity and turn it into something big?

In one-run games this year, the Sox were 22-17 while the Angels were 27-18. Of the nine head-to-head games the Angels and Boston played this year, eight of them were decided by three runs or less. The teams split those games 4-4. So, again, they are very evenly matched.

Each team has four batters with 20 or more homers. Each team has a stolen base threat (Ellsbury and Figgins). Each team has two starters with 15+ wins and a closer with at least 35 saves.

So what it comes down to is a lot of intangibles. Who will be the better coach? Who will make the key play? And most of all...are the Sox still in Anaheim's head when it comes to the post-season?

I think that, more than anything, may determine how this series plays out. If the Sox can take Game 1, the doubts may begin to rise in the Angels' collective conscience. If the Angels win, that and home-field advantage may prove to be the decisive factor.

Game One is always important, but it is absolutely critical here. We'll see what unfolds Thursday.

No comments: