A few words edgewise
Gordon Edes breaks down the teams and tells you who is sharper
The Sox hit 32 home runs against the Yankees, their most against any opponent. Manny Ramirez hit seven; Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, and Bill Mueller hit five apiece. The Sox hit three or more home runs six times in games against the Bombers. They hit .322 against New York in Fenway Park but just .212 in Yankee Stadium. Overall, Sox batters in the 7 through 9 holes batted a collective .270, to the opposition hitters' .229 in the same slots. Jason Varitek was 0 for Yankee Stadium this season (34 at-bats), dropping his career average in the Bronx to .196, his lowest average in any AL park. Terry Francona used 19 different lineups in 19 games against the Yankees, but with no lefties in the New York rotation, Trot Nixon is expected to start every game of this series in right field. While the Yankees led the majors in comeback wins, the Sox came from behind to win 20 times after Aug. 14. The Yankees can play an All-Star at every position except second base, but don't overlook Miguel Cairo; he's a tough out who drew two key late-inning walks in the Division Series against Minnesota. Derek Jeter struggled against the Sox this season, batting .200 with just two extra-base hits in 80 at-bats. Alex Rodriguez, who had a huge series against the Twins and is thriving since being moved into No. 2 hole, hit .306 against the Sox, but just .216 in Fenway Park, where all eight of his hits were singles. Hideki Matsui was the Bombers' most productive hitter against Boston, batting .361 with 4 home runs, 18 RBIs, and 18 walks. Jorge Posada (.283, 4 HRs, 16 RBIs, .419 OBP) also did damage. MVP candidate Gary Sheffield remains New York's most dangerous hitter. EDGE: RED SOX.
Curt Schilling's Game 1 start will be his first this season in Yankee Stadium, but he held the Yankees to two hits in seven innings 2 weeks ago in Fenway and has not lost a game to a playoff qualifier this season. The Sox were 10-3 against the Yankees when their starter went six or more innings; the Yankees were 5-3 when their starter went six or more. In 15 of the 19 games between the teams, Sox starters outlasted their counterparts; the Sox were 10-5 in those games. The Yankees were able to frustrate Pedro Martinez into calling them his ``daddies,'' and they have won 19 of the 30 games Martinez has started against them, including the last three this season. But other than the 11-1 beating they pinned on Martinez Sept. 19, those games invariably have been close. The Sox were 4-0 against New York in games started by Bronson Arroyo, who is set up to pitch Games 3 and 7; Game 4 starter Tim Wakefield was in line for MVP of last year's ALCS until the Sox' Game 7 collapse. Health issues cloud the Yankee rotation, as they have all season. Mike Mussina, who came within one out and a Carl Everett single of throwing a perfect game at Fenway Park three years ago, is back to being a handful, dominating the Sox in Yankee Stadium Sept. 19. But Jon Lieber and Kevin Brown have bad backs, Orlando Hernandez has a sore shoulder, and Javier Vazquez insists he's not hurt but is pitching as if he is. Lieber won all five of his September decisions and is expected to go in Game 2, with Brown likely in Game 3, even though he was routed by the Sox in his first start back after breaking his left hand punching a clubhouse wall. If El Duque can't go, Vazquez will get the call, even though he gave up five runs in five innings against the Twins in the Division Series. EDGE: RED SOX
With apologies to Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera is arguably the greatest performer in postseason history, but the Yankees' closer is never more mortal than when facing the Sox. Since the start of the 2002 season, Rivera has blown five save opportunities against the Sox, including the July 24 game in which Bill Mueller's walkoff home run may have been the turning point of the Sox' season. Tom Gordon has been terrific as the Yankee setup man and may be called upon to close Game 1 if Rivera does not return in time from a family tragedy in Panama, but the rest of the pen has been shaky. Paul Quantrill, who relies exclusively on his sinker, has been ineffective, and while lefthander Felix Heredia has done OK against the Sox, he has given manager Joe Torre little reason to have confidence in him. The well-traveled Tanyon Sturtze of the Worcester, Mass., Sturtzes has become an increasingly important part of the mix, but in save situations against the Sox this season, the Yankee pen has a 6.75 ERA with five blown saves. By contrast, the Boston pen has allowed no earned runs in 11 innings in save situations against the Yankees, allowing just three hits and two walks with 13 strikeouts. Sox closer Keith Foulke was 2-1 with 3 saves against the Bombers this season; Foulke, who gave up home runs in three straight appearances last month, may well be the man who determines whether the Sox advance to the World Series EDGE: YANKEES
Ruben Sierra hit the three-run home run in Game 4 of the Division Series that was the catalyst in the Yankee comeback; against anyone else, he'd probably be Joe Torre's starting DH, but against the Sox, the expectation is that Sierra will split time with Kenny Lofton. Lofton also can play center field, with Bernie Williams DHing. John Olerud has supplanted Tony Clark as the everyday first baseman, while Enrique Wilson, who enjoyed some brief notoriety last season as a Pedro-killer, has ceded second base to Miguel Cairo. Bobby Crosby sees time as a defensive replacement for Gary Sheffeld, but generally Torre is expected to stick with his 10-man rotation. The Sox bench gives Terry Francona speed, defense, experience, and versatility; Darin Erstad of the Angels calls the Sox the deepest team he has ever seen. Backup Doug Mirabelli, who will catch Tim Wakefield in Game 4, hit .389 against the Bombers this season. EDGE: RED SOX
Joe Torre is a future Hall of Famer, unflappable under the most difficult circumstances. Terry Francona was lavished with praise by owner John W. Henry and general manager Theo Epstein even after the Sox were spared by David Ortiz's winning home run from blowing the biggest lead by a home team in playoff history. Actually, while Francona's decision to pull Bronson Arroyo in Game 3 against the Angels appeared to backfire, his deployment of Mike Myers and Mike Timlin in the seventh caused Angels manager Mike Scioscia to burn five players in the inning, two of whom didn't bat, significantly weakening the Angels the rest of the way. Francona has appeared impervious to outside criticism, perhaps because he has such unwavering support from above. Edge: YANKEES