Don't sleep on the White Sox
The White Sox have the pitching to beat the Red Sox and win their first postseason series since 1917.
Why Boston could win: The Red Sox bludgeon opponents -- their league-high 900 runs were 162 more than the Pale Hose, or one extra run per game. No one wants to face David Ortiz with the game on the line, and with Manny Ramirez behind him, he's going to get his pitches. The postseason brings out the best in Curt Schilling, and it will have to do so again, given his struggles much of the year.
Why Chicago could win: After sputtering in the second half, the White Sox might have finally gotten back on track by winning eight of their last 10, including a sweep of Cleveland. That stretch tested them, and they'll be better for it. Chicago nearly led the league in ERA, and Jose Contreras has been dominating down the stretch, winning eight consecutive starts.
Late innings: This is where it figures to get interesting. The Red Sox bullpen problems are well-known -- rookie Jon Papelbon has been a savior. The White Sox don't exactly have Mariano Rivera available either (Bobby Jenks and Dustin Hermanson have 10 saves and six blown saves since mid-August), but their pen has been otherwise very good, with Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte providing excellent setup work.
Style points: Chicago likes to run (Scott Podsednik alone had more stolen bases than the entire Red Sox roster), but despite their occasional scoring troubles, they can also hit the long ball (200 home runs, including nine players in double-digits). Boston is great at extending the counts and getting good pitches to hit -- the Red Sox had 200 more walks than the White Sox.
Head-on: The two teams played just seven times with Boston winning four of them and hitting 12 home runs. More notably, Contreras is 1-4 with a 13.50 ERA against the Red Sox in six career appearances. That lone win, however, was this season.
X-Factor: With strong pitching and a less-than-imposing offense, the White Sox learned how to win the close ones -- going 35-18 in one-run games and 61-33 in games decided by two runs or less. On the other hand, they have very little playoff experience while Boston has been through it all. The Red Sox are an imposing 53-27 at Fenway.
Nagging injuries: Johnny Damon has undergone two cortisone shots in the past month for his sore left shoulder.
Writer's block: Boston's pitching is just too shaky and Chicago's is too strong, which means we're going to hear a lot about an even longer autumn curse than the one the Red Sox ended last year. Chicago hasn't won a postseason series since 1917. The White Sox can end that drought and perhaps get a crack at their first World Series title in 88 years.
Prediction: White Sox in four.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," was published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.
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