The Red Sox just won’t go away, and their heart, character and ability — not to mention the very good Tampa Bay Rays — is making this American League Championship Series one of the best ever. Saturday night’s Game 6 was tense and tight, with long balls providing the bulk of the scoring and Red Sox starter Josh Beckett doing just enough to get to his dominant bullpen in Boston’s 4-2 win that forces tonight’s winner-take-all Game 7.
Here are a few blog-servations:
* The Rays’ bullpen needs a big rebound, but if starter Matt Garza can tap into the talent that makes him almost unhittable from time to time, the Rays won’t need the bullpen at all.
* Kevin Youkilis is starting to look like he did in the 2007 postseason. Even when he makes an out, which is rare these days, the ball is usually crushed. Expect big things from him in Game 7.
* Jason Varitek might have finally gotten into a groove with that home run, but more important for the Sox is the fact that David Ortiz looks like his swing is back. I’m still waiting for that magic Big Papi moment.
* Regardless of what happens in Game 7, we’ve got ourselves a heck of an American League East rivalry for years to come. Win or lose, the Rays have more than proved they’re for real.
What are your thoughts about Game 7 and beyond? Does the AL have what it takes to beat the Phillies in the World Series?
The Rays and Red Sox took care of business Monday night, leaving us with two complete Championship Series and the next step of October — the final act before the World Series.
B.J. Upton set the tone at U.S. Cellular Field with two homers, the second one blasted right into the teeth of that famous Chicago wind, and Andy Sonnanstine and the bullpen did enough for the Rays to clinch.
In Boston, two plays helped the Red Sox close out their fourth American League Championship Series appearance in the last six years. The first was catcher Jason Varitek’s clutch putout of Reggie Willits in the top of the ninth on a botched squeeze bunt attempt by Erick Aybar.
The second was the game-winner off the bat of rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie that sent Fenway into another frenzy.
Now we get to analyze the next round in detail and prepare for what might be 14 games to decide who’s going to meet in the Fall Classic. Here are my first impressions and predictions:
ALCS: BOSTON VS. TAMPA BAY
As October-tested as the Red Sox are, I think the Rays had to be rooting for them last night. Not only does Tampa Bay now get home-field advantage in this series — the Rays, who had the best home record in baseball this season, wouldn’t have had it against the Angels — but they catch a banged-up Sox team, and those injuries are going to show up a lot more in a seven-game set than they would in five. The Rays handled the Sox well this year and have the pitching and defense to more than hang in there against the resilient defending champs. My prediction: Rays in six.
NLCS: LOS ANGELES VS. PHILADELPHIA
Take whatever you thought about the Dodgers before the Manny trade and chuck it out the window along with that leftover pepperoni calzone from Adrian and Phil’s Pizzeria. (Make sure the calzone lands in the dumpster, of course). This is an entirely different Dodgers team that has been galvanized and re-energized with the presence of that huge bat in the middle of the lineup, and their torrid September and sweep of the Cubs in the first round showed that. Nothing against the Phillies, who are loaded offensively and play well at home, but I’ve got to give a big pitching advantage to the boys in blue, and a big pitching advantage usually gets it done this time of year. My prediction: Dodgers in five.
Now it’s your turn. Let me see your predictions for both Series. We’ve got two days to talk it all over.