Thursday, October 09, 2003

American League Championship Series - Game 1

Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 2

The Yankees had everything tilting in their favor heading into Game 1 of the most highly anticipated ALCS in years. The New York nine were rested and ready to drum the Sox and their #3 starter, Tim Wakefield in front of a packed house in the Bronx. The national media was eulogizing the Sox after their draining series against Oakland. A funny thing happened on the way to a Yankee sweep: Tim Wakefield's knuckleball fluttered and danced its way past the Yankees' bats, Manny, Ortiz, and Walker went longball, Derek Jeter's abysmal range was exposed, the much-maligned Boston bullpen pitched three scoreless innings, and the Sox won without a whole lot of drama.

My take is that the Sox had absolutely no pressure to win Game 1, and they played the same brand of loose, freewheeling baseball that got them into the playoffs, and it paid off. Meanwhile, the heavily favored Yankees made a series of little mistakes - maybe because of tension - that wound up costing them: Mussina grooved a fastball to Ortiz after just failing to reach Manny's bouncer to the right side; Jeter just missed two ground balls that most shortstops would have routinely fielded; the Yankee bats failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities in the early innings, and so on.

Now, the Sox are under even less pressure, but the Yankees have the weight of the world on their shoulders. I honestly felt really good about Game 1 - based on the "no pressure" theory I posited above. I feel great about Game 2, because I have renewed faith in Derek Lowe. And - here's the kicker - even if the Sox lay an egg, which is certainly possible given that their adrenaline high has to fade one of these days, they've still split in the Bronx with Pedro on the hill for Game 3.

Lotta ball left. Stay on target.

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