Players To Watch
Kevin Youkilis, with his 27 jacks, 94 RBIs and .413 OBP is one of the best and most consistent all-around hitters in the game right now, and his clutch two-out hitting to lead the Red Sox is something to look out for. Dustin Pedroia and V-Mart (whom is team MVP, IMO) are consistent as well and more importantly, hit good pitching. For the Angels, Kendry Morales – aka Mark Teixeira’s replacement – has been an AL MVP candidate all year long and together with on-base guys Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins, and pop from Torii Hunter, should provide the bulk of the offense.
Been Caught Stealing
Whether it’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia for the go-go Sox or Figgins, Abreu, or Hunter for Anaheim, both teams have plenty of speed on the bases. But the Angels are among the league leaders in SBs allowed and got caught stealing a major league-leading 63 times in 2009. The Sox are fourth in the majors in SB% at 76.4, while the Angels are 21st with 70.1%. So if Mike Scioscia wants his team to get over the hump of beating Boston in the postseason, he has to get his players to play smart aggressive baseball like the Red Sox do. Otherwise, they will, as they did last year (a botched squeeze play in ALDS Game 4), run themselves into outs and out of the playoffs.
And The X-Factor Is? The Battle of the Bullpens
For Anaheim, it’s good but untested bullpen arms like Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes going up against the extremely deep Sox bullpen (Hideki Okajima, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Papelbon) that could make or break this series. If it’s a low-scoring or close game in general, I’d take the Sox arms over Anaheim’s, and Papelbon (who in 25 career postseason innings has allowed 0 runs) over Fuentes in particular, since the latter hasn’t had playoff closer experience or won a ring like the former. That said, I expect this series to go five games, with Boston the victor (again).
Now, let's get the series started already!