Buoyed by my surprising success as a baseball prognosticator--four series analyzed, four winners correctly picked!--I am ready to tackle the Big One.
I have to admit that, while I wanted the Twins to win the whole thing, a part of me also wanted to see the Red Sox and Yankees renew what's unquestionably the best rivalry in sports, at least right now. It should be a crazy, fun week-plus, especially here in New York, where the usual swaggering confidence in the $183 million machine is noticeably absent: maybe the Yankee faithful understand that if Ron Gardenhire had managed his pitchers a little better in Games Two and Four, their team probably wouldn't even be here.
To some extent, you can throw the usual tools of analysis out the window when the Sox and Yanks hook up. The intangibles still favor the pinstripes. And that strikes me as the best reason for Yankee fans to hope their team can write yet another chapter in Boston's long history of October pain--because when you look at the talent onhand, the Red Sox seem to have a clear edge, particularly in the starting rotations.
Curt Schilling is the best post-season pitcher going today, and he can take the ball three times in a seven-game series. Schilling led Arizona past the Yankees in the World Series three years ago--memorably describing the Yanks' supposed "mystique and aura" as "dancers in a nightclub" along the way--and he came to Boston pretty much expressly for those three starts (and because Ed Wade is an asshead). Schill won two of this three starts against the Yankees this season with a no-decision in the other, though his other numbers--4.82 ERA, 10 walks in 18.2 innings--aren't very Schilling-esque. That's mostly from one bad start at Fenway in July, when New York torched him for 7 runs in 5.1 frames, and that's probably not the Curt Schilling who will take the hill tonight in the Bronx.
Of course, Pedro Martinez has had his own problems with the Yankees, not just this year but throughout his career. To some extent, this is overstated: Pedro is 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 76 innings against New York over the last three seasons, not nearly a bad enough record to establish paternity. Add in Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield--who, before allowing Aaron Boone's decisive homer in Game Seven last fall, had throttled the Yanks--and Boston has the advantage. And while John Lieber and Kevin Brown both pitched reasonably well against Minnesota, the most dangerous guys in the Twins' lineup (Hunter, Morneau, maybe Shannon Stewart) all wouldn't even start for the Red Sox. Aside from Mike Mussina, who seems back to his full powers, it's hard to imagine any New York starter shutting down the Damon/Man-Ram/Ortiz attack.
I think this is the year Boston exorcises this one civic demon, at least. Red Sox in six.