Monday, October 11, 2004

American League Division Series - Game 3

Red Sox 8, Angels 6 (10)
Red Sox win ALDS, 3-0

If nothing else, this game was good practice for what is sure to be a draining 2 weeks to come, a mental preview of the long-awaited ALCS between the Sox and the Yankees. It was also a good lesson to Sox fans: no celebrating allowed until the final out is recorded.

Just like the 35,000+ that were packed into Fenway on Friday afternoon, I was guilty of looking ahead to the ALCS when the Sox took a 6-1 lead into the top of the 7th inning. Like very few of those same folks, I was also guilty of throwing my daughter's toy ball against a sliding glass door and unleashing a torrent of F-bombs - despite the fact that my mother was visiting for the weekend and my daughters were still awake - after Vladimir Guerrero turned that lead into a 6-6 tie with help from Mike Myers and Mike Timlin.

Lesson learned in full, especially in combination with the recalled memory of the 8th inning of Game 7 of last year's ALCS. No premature celebration. No taking anything for granted. Got it.

The catharsis that took wing as David Ortiz' booming fly arced majestically over the Monster in the bottom of the 10th, both in Fenway and in my living room, almost, almost, erased the memories of last year's post-season. Nothing, mind you, short of a World Series championship will truly erase those memories. But you already know that, don't you.

And so, after another 165 games, we find ourselves in exactly the same place we did last year. Good versus Evil. Animal House versus the Establishment. Flobie versus...I don't know the names of any fancy-schmancy salons - but I bet A-Rod does. Except for one thing - last year, the Sox entered the ALCS after an all-timer of a series against the A's, having used their entire bullpen in Game 5, started Pedro Martinez in the ALDS finale, and lost Johnny Damon to a concussion that still bothers him. And they actually won the first game of the ALCS and scared the living hell out of the Yankees in the series.

This year, the Sox are rested, healthy, and inarguably a better team than they were last year. A dispassionate observer would rate the Sox starting pitching markedly better than that of the Yankees - especially given Bronson Arroyo's last 10 starts, while scoring the offenses a wash and the Yankee bullpen slightly better. That, and $4.25 will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

I won't read any predicitions about this series, because they're worthless. I won't try to analyze this series, because it's impossible. I honestly don't have any gut feeling about this series, except to say that it's the Red Sox and the Yankees and anyone that thinks that numbers on paper offer any insight into the next 4-7 games hasn't been awake for the last 4 years. Do I think the Sox can win? Absofreakinglutely. Do the Yankees scare me just a little? Um, yeah, especially after what they did to Minnesota (who should be renamed the Vichy Twins after their spineless capitulation last week).

I do believe that the Sox have the stuff to stand up to the Yankees, and I think this particular roster features the perfect combination of talent, depth, and - hugely important - personality to be successful in this series. This team is so loose, and so confident - even holding the weight of all of the New England's expectations (positive and negative) - that if any Red Sox team is going to vanquish the demon Yankees, it'll be this one.

Enough words that mean a whole lot of nothing. Game freaking on.

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