- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Why Boston could win: The Red Sox have the most prolific offense, a good -- but not great -- bullpen, and at the front end of their rotation, they have Curt Schilling, who knows how to thrive in the postseason.
Why Anaheim could win: The Angels have the best and deepest bullpen, five relievers who can generate strikeouts and shut down rallies and buy time for the offense to catch up in the late innings. While Anaheim's offense might not be overpowering, it is relentless, extending opposing pitchers with long at-bats, constantly applying pressure on the bases. And the Angels are October-tested, many of them having won championship rings two years ago.
Late Innings: Anaheim's advantage over other teams after the fifth inning is significant, mostly because of Francisco Rodriguez, who allowed only 51 hits and two homers in 84 innings, while striking out a ridiculous 123. He is better when fully rested -- an opponent's average of .169 when he pitches with two days' rest, .132 when pitching with three to five days' rest, and he will go into this series having thrown once in six days. The Red Sox bullpen has an established closer in Keith Foulke, veteran setup men in Mike Timlin and Alan Embree. But because Foulke is not a power pitcher, he will become more vulnerable as the Angels see more of him in this series; it's been years and years since any team won a World Series with a closer who relies so heavily on an offspeed pitch, as Foulke does.
Style points: Anaheim led the AL in stolen bases and in getting runners thrown out on the bases, but nothing will deter the Angels from playing this way. Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia loves the hit-and-run, and against great pitchers like Schilling, he might be even more inclined to put runners in motion, just to make something happen. Anaheim led all AL teams in productive outs, with 207.
Head-on: The Red Sox won five of the nine games played against the Angels during the regular season, hitting .305, sweeping a three-game series from Anaheim in early September. Manny Ramirez had three homers in 25 at-bats. But the Angels hit .320 against Boston, generating an on-base percentage of .384; Pedro Martinez allowed 16 hits and six walks in 11 innings, for an ERA of 7.36. Bronson Arroyo, the Game 3 starter, allowed 14 hits and six walks in 8 1/3 innings. There could be more of the same in this series.
X-Factor: Pedro Martinez has a tough time getting loose in cooler weather, but right now, the conditions could be pretty good for his 7 p.m. PT start Wednesday -- 62 degrees. If the temperature is less than that, he might have a problem.
The Pivot Men: Kevin Millar had a great second half, hitting .321 with 12 homers and 47 RBI in 209 at-bats. But he is defensively challenged, whether he plays in right field or first base, and it will be interesting to see how Boston manager Terry Francona uses him, opting out for better defensive players early in the games or to start games. In a series decided by lots of hits, strong defensive players like first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz have the ability to make plays that kill rallies.
Nagging injuries: The Angels' Vladimir Guerrero was incredible the last week of the season, hammering homers and making his last and perhaps winning case for the MVP award. But he is playing with a heavy limp, and it affected him as he pursued fly balls, especially in the right-center field alley. Center fielder Garret Anderson is similarly hobbled, and first baseman Darin Erstad has played through nagging injuries for much of his career, always one burst of speed away from a hamstring problem.
Writer's block: If Pedro Martinez is not dominant, the Red Sox won't have their theoretical advantage in the starting pitching. The Angels finished strongly, their bullpen is overwhelming, and they are the most dangerous AL team right now. ANGELS in 4.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," is a New York Times best seller and can be ordered through HarperCollins.com.
Anaheim has a lockdown bullpen while Boston boasts Schilling and Martinez. So who has the advantage?