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Game 1 preview

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  October 12, 2007 10:59 AM

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So the matchups weren't quite the same. It was Josh Beckett against Fausto Carmona, C.C. Sabathia against Daisuke Matsuzaka. But, still, consecutive 1-0 games, electric pitching beating not-so-electric hitting, and it might have been the best two-game stretch in a long time, back in Cleveland in July.

Can we expect the same tonight, when the two aces, Beckett and Sabathia, face off? Probably not. But one can hope.

Either way, though Game 1 in the American League Championship Series isn't quite the must-win that it is in the Division Series, it not something to be taken lightly. Especially not for the Red Sox, who are at home and whose No. 2 (despite playoff credentials that are being burnished all the time) didn't have nearly as good of a season as did the No. 2 for the Indians.

As an added wrinkle, Red Sox batters have had much more familiarity -- and in some cases, success -- with Sabathia. Just three hitters have double digit at bats off Beckett, while Manny Ramirez has that many hits (12) off Sabathia. With the way Ramirez is hitting lately, and his .571 average against the Cleveland lefty, that will be a key for the Indians. (Travis Hafner takes the average lead against Beckett, with a 4-for-9 career mark.)

But this, in the end, is a matchup of true aces. Probably the top two vote-getters in the Cy Young race. Two guys who can dominate on a given night. Of course, while Beckett's ALDS performance -- a crushing shutout of the Angels -- was significantly superior to Sabathia's six-walk, four-hit, three-run five innings in an Indians win, that doesn't mean tonight's game will replicate those outings.

If it did? Good start for the Red Sox. In this series, though, there's still a long way to go.

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