MIAMI -- For the first three weeks of the postseason, the matchups seemed magical and baseball, suddenly, could do no wrong. There were compelling story lines everywhere.
Then, the Cubs and Red Sox fell by the wayside and something was lost.
A Beckett-Clemens matchup would have been the perfect parallel. They grew up about 25 miles apart, even if they are separated by nearly 20 years. And they represent a sort of baseball continuum -- the fireballing Texan, a line that begins with Nolan Ryan, then passes on to Clemens, Kerry Wood and now Beckett.
"When I was younger," said Beckett, "I used to try to pitch like him in the street when we were playing home run derby."
Now, though the two don't have the same mechanics on the mound, their repertoire and mound presence are similar. Like Clemens, Beckett isn't afraid to pitch inside or use his stuff to intimidate.
Just as Clemens leaves the game, he can watch Beckett in person for the first time and know that his legacy will remain.
"When you hear the comments from (pitchers like) Josh," said Clemens, "it's always great. It makes you feel like you've left something behind."
Though this is Beckett's first postseason and he has just over two years' experience in the big leagues, he doesn't lack confidence. In fact, he strikes some as brash.
When the Marlins beat the Cubs in Game 7 of the NLCS, Beckett ordered a Marlins' employee to find him another beer more to his liking in the clubhouse celebration. When teammate Chad Fox was speaking with a group of reporters on the field just as the Marlins were preparing to stretch before Game 2 Sunday, Beckett grabbed Fox by the jersey in an attempt to pull him away from the media. Fox gave Beckett a stern admonition.
And if the Marlins were supposed to be cowed by the regal history of Yankee Stadium, they forgot to tell Beckett, who came off decidedly unimpressed by the Yanks' mystique.
"We ain't playing against ghosts," Beckett said. "Babe Ruth ain't here."
By now, the Marlins merely shrug at Beckett's sometimes intemperate comments. If you were 23, looked like a beefier Eddie Vedder and sported a 96-mph fastball, you might be a little on the cocky side, too.
"One thing about him -- he may talk a lot, but he walks the walk as well," said Jack McKeon, Beckett's decidedly old-school manager.
Beckett's presence will dominate Game 3, the first World Series game in south Florida since the Marlins beat the Indians in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
For Beckett to have success, he'll need to pitch ahead in the count far better and more reliably than teammate Mark Redman, who fell behind to Yankee hitters Sunday and suffered the predictable consequences.
It's unlikely Beckett will be unnerved by his first World Series start. He pitched twice in the NLCS -- starting Game 4 and contributing four invaluable relief innings in Game 7 -- and didn't allow a run. Beckett wisely uses the extra room in spacious Pro Player Stadium, compiling a 7-3 record there in the regular season.
Back in their own park, the Marlins will rely on the speed at the top of the lineup to execute their "small ball" offense, but some production from the middle of the order would be welcomed. The Marlins didn't collect a single extra-base hit in the first two games in New York.
The Yankees' Mike Mussina will oppose Beckett. If Beckett and Clemens are linked by background, personality and approach, then Beckett and Mussina are polar opposites.
While Beckett is outgoing and fun-loving, Mussina is reserved and somewhat detached.
Mussina has been an inconsistent postseason performer since joining the Yankees, going 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two assignments in the 2001 Series against Arizona. Since winning Game 2 of the ALCS that same year, Mussina is winless in his last six postseason starts.
In the ALCS, the Yankees lost both of his starts -- Games 1 and 4 -- prompting Mussina to complain about his run support. Like Beckett, he came out of the bullpen in Game 7 to help his team win the pennant, throwing three shutout innings in relief of Clemens.
With the Red Sox leading 4-0 in the fourth inning of Game 7 and runners on the corners, Mussina came in and got the Yankees out of that jam before pitching two more scoreless innings.
"It was a different experience," he said.
The Yankees relied on the long ball -- a three-run belt by Hideki Matsui and a two-run shot by slumping Alfonso Soriano -- to account for five of their six runs Sunday, but homers will be more difficult to come by in Pro Player Stadium.
Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.