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Yanks-Sox: The way it should be

Oct 12, 2004 8:13 AM

The American League Championship Series is set and the matchup many hardcore baseball fans wanted has emerged with Boston trying yet again to get by the New York Yankees.

Love or hate either team, it is unquestioned that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is one of the all time best in sports and grows more intense each season.

Boston swept Anaheim in three games to advance to the ALCS while the Yankees needed four games and a couple of come from behind rallies to get by Minnesota. Boston’s ease and the Yankees’ struggles have combined to make the Red Sox roughly a 3-2 favorite to defeat the New Yorkers and advance to the World Series.

The presence of ace starters Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez also factor in to the sizeable favoritism shown the Red Sox even thought the Yankees will enjoy home field advantage. Schilling and Martinez are scheduled to start five of the seven games should the series go the distance and each should be favored each time out.

In Tuesday’s opening game Schilling is a —135 favorite over the Yankees and Mike Mussina, even though the game is at Yankee Stadium.

Boston won 11 of 19 against New York, but the edge was due to winning six of seven in early April. In the dozen meetings since July, the Yanks took seven. Three came when Martinez started for Boston.

Schilling started three times against the Yankees this season with Boston winning twice. So in many respects having Boston such a significant favorite in the series is surprising. I don’t think you’ll see a Schilling versus Mussina matchup for Game 7. NY YANKEES.

Eleven of the 19 games between the teams went "over" the total. There were seven "unders" and one push. However, eight of the last nine went "over." For the season, the teams averaged a combined 11.1 runs per game. The "over" again be the primary option for playing the individual games with one exception.

In matchups of Mussina against either Schilling or Martinez (such as Game 1), "under" would be the play if the line is more than 8. Game 1 would qualify with the total set at 8½. Assuming the totals are no higher than 10, our pick is OVER.

The Yankees should be playable as underdogs against both Schilling and Martinez. New York had very good success against Martinez in their last two meetings in September. Boston will be an attractive play in Game 3 if not up 2-0 in games. New York would be playable as a favorite of -130. If the series is tied or if the Yankees are up 2-0, then Boston becomes attractive at —125.

NLCS

St. Louis vs Atlanta: The National League Championship series will feature the Cardinals having the home field advantage against either Houston or Atlanta.

Regardless of whether the Braves or Astros advance, St. Louis will be a huge favorite to advance to the World Series. Not did the Cardinals have the best record in baseball this season but both Atlanta and Houston will be without their top two starters until Game 2 at the earliest.

St. Louis took four of six meetings against Atlanta this season, winning twice at home when the teams met in mid-May and twice in Atlanta during mid-August. The games were evenly split with three "overs" and three "unders." Both teams combined to average just under 10 runs per game.

In a St. Louis-Atlanta matchup, the "over" will be the preferred option with both teams having strong offenses and neither team having a true ”˜ace’ starting pitcher. Atlanta has the better closer in John Smoltz but the two rotations are fairly even.

St. Louis does have a significant edge in overall offense and should eliminate the Braves in no more than six games with a five game win the most likely outcome. In playing the "over" use 9 as your guide. At totals higher than 9 the "over" becomes more risky but there is no pitching matchup in which the "under" has appeal.

On a game by game basis, St. Louis is playable at home when favored at -150. In Atlanta, the Cards are always playable as +120 underdogs. Atlanta may be played at home at —120 if down in the series. ST. LOUIS.

St. Louis vs Houston: The road team won the first eight meetings, but then things turned around and the home side took seven of the next 10. Overall Houston had a 10-8 edge in the season series including winning five of six in September. But keep in mind that Houston was playing with need in those six September meetings while the Cards had already wrapped up the NL Central title and all but locked up the overall top NL seed.

Totals were evenly split with nine "overs" and nine "unders" and the teams combined to average 9.4 runs per game. A St. Louis versus Houston series might not be as high scoring as one in which the Cards face Atlanta because Houston has a pair of starting ”˜aces’ in Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt.

Neither Clemens or Oswalt figures to pitch before Game 3. Clemens started Game 4 of the series against Atlanta on just three days rest and was effective in his five innings but asking the aged veteran to make such starts back to back could backfire.

Still, should Oswalt or Clemens be underdogs in any start against the Cardinals the Astros would be worth a play. Should Houston ever be favored over St. Louis in any game. the Cardinals are a play against even Oswalt or Clemens.

The "over" would be preferred even in starts by Oswalt and Clemens provided the line is no higher than 9. In starts by other than Clemens or Oswalt the "over" may be played up to 10.

Houston was our choice to represent the National League before the season started and following their hot run in August and September remained our choice prior to the start of the playoffs. Should the series go the limit, the Astros might well be able to call upon either Clemens or Oswalt to make what would be only their second start of the NLCS in Game 7.

As such we would back the Astros even if they are favored and this would be our one exception to playing St. Louis as an underdog. HOUSTON. As such we would back the Astros even if they are favored and this would be our one exception to playing St. Louis as an underdog. HOUSTON.