Boston poised to make it short series

October 23, 2007 4:17 AM
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The Fall Classic begins this Wednesday. Whether the 2007 World Series will become a classic remains to be seen but there are several intriguing story lines surrounding the climax to the baseball season.

The Colorado Rockies will represent the ”˜weaker’ of the two leagues after sweeping their second straight post season series, winning the National League Championship Series over Arizona. That followed their three game sweep of Philadelphia in the NLDS and the Rockies have now won an incredible 21 of 22 games.

When the Series starts the Rockies will have been off for 9 straight days so the issue of rust versus rest is a real concern, especially given their momentum.

Detroit had a week of rest before last season’s World Series and rust was clearly in evidence as they lost in five games to a rather ordinary St Louis Cardinals ball club that had won the NL Central with a record barely above .500. The Tigers were victimized by poor defensive play, especially by their pitchers.

Often overlooked, defense may be more affected by a layoff than is hitting or pitching as timing is critical and really cannot be duplicated in simulated or intra squad games or workouts.

Opposing the Rockies are the American League Champion Boston Red Sox. The Sox overcame a three games to one deficit to Cleveland by winning game five on the road and then taking games six and seven back in Boston, outscoring the Tribe 30-5 in winning those three elimination games.

Boston is trying to become the New York Yankees of the twenty first century as they seek their second World Series title in four seasons following nearly a century of frustration. Boston and the Yankees have been the two best teams of the young century but New York has not won the Title since 2000.

The Red Sox were built to win a championship with three solid starting pitchers (Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Daisake Matsuzaka), a strong bullpen with an outstanding closer (Jonathan Papelbon) and a formidable lineup with a pair of sluggers (David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez) with a host of supporting role players.

The Sox have been especially potent at home and have the home field edge for this series, hosting games one and two and, if needed, games six and seven.

Colorado’s dramatic rise has been fueled by a young lineup featuring MVP favorite Matt Holiday and the veteran leadership of Todd Helton. The pitching staff had been pretty average for most of the season but has been excellent down the stretch, especially the bullpen. There are a couple of up and coming young starting pitchers pressed into service due to injury with the ace of the staff being lefty Jeff Francis.

It would be a fitting end to an enjoyable season to see the "new kids on the block" win it all but Colorado just does not match up well against the veteran laden Red Sox. Boston has a great mixture of experience and youth, much of which was there in 2004 when the Sox became the first team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in games to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS and then swept St Louis for their first World Series title since 1918.

Beckett has been virtually unhittable in the post season, allowing just 13 hits and 1 walk in 23 innings while striking out 26 and compiling an ERA of 1.17. He very deservedly won the MVP for the ALCS and might well be on his way to a World Series MVP. Remember his brilliant performance in game 7 of the 2003 World Series in Yankee Stadium when the Marlins defeated the Yanks.

Boston is a solid 2 to 1 favorite to win game one which will feature Beckett against Francis. The Total on the opening game is 8 ½ and may be the best candidate for an UNDER in the series until these two hurlers likely match up again in either game four or five depending upon how the series unfolds. That game would be in Colorado where the Total might be adjusted only slightly to 9 or 9 ½ as Coors Field has not been the launching pad the past few seasons as it had been previously.

Boston is also slightly better than a 2 to 1 favorite to win the World Series and that price is certainly justified. Had the Rockies not been idle for such an extended period of time it would be tempting to pick the upset. After all, the National League rep, St Louis, defeated solidly favored Detroit last season.

But rust is likely to be a factor, especially against a hurler in such good form as is Beckett in game one. Curt Schilling should be equally strong in game two and the expectation is that Boston will sweep both home games to start the series.

Boston on the run line (laying a run and a half) might be the best way to play these first two games.

Colorado’s best chance for a win will be in game three and if the Rockies are not favored by more than minus 140 they would be a play in game three, whether they are tied at one game apiece or trailing two games to none.

If the Rockies are somehow up two games to none returning home then Colorado would be playable up to minus 160 as the momentum would have clearly continues and they will have now won 23 of 24 games and the Red Sox will be doubting themselves.

Unlikely, but possible.

Expect Boston to win at least one of the possible three games in Colorado and while winning two of three is clearly possible the prediction is for Boston to return home to wrap up the World Series in game six.

The OVER will be playable in games not involving a Beckett vs. Francis match-up provided the line in Boston is 9 or lower and in Colorado 10 or lower.