ALCS breakdown: Red Sox
Boston must hurdle pair of Cleveland aces to advance
For Indians pitching, it should've been mission accomplished against the Red Sox. In six of their seven regular-season matchups, Cleveland limited Boston to five home runs. Four of them were solo shots, and one was an inside-the-park homer. The Red Sox scored the runs they needed anyway.While the Red Sox's rotation unquestionably deserved much of the credit for the club's 5-2 record against the Tribe this season, they had just enough run support for success thanks to generally smaller, timely hits. Sox hitters went just 10-for-44 with runners in scoring position, all doubles and singles, before pounding out 14 runs in the finale at Jacobs Field. Manny Ramirez homered twice in that game, finishing with a .417 average (10-for-24) and three homers this year against his former employer. By advancing runners around the bases with smaller hits, outs and even a bases-loaded walk, the Red Sox put runs on the board. They worked Cleveland's pitchers to deep counts and walks, and took what they could. It's not their conventional method of offense, but the way the Indians have pitched this postseason, they'll take what they can get. To do it, however, they'll have to do more against Cleveland's top two starters than they did in the regular season. Out of those seven matchups this year, the Red Sox faced C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona just one time each. Daisuke Matsuzaka pulled out a 1-0 win over Sabathia on July 24 at Jacobs Field before the Sox dropped a 1-0 decision to Carmona the next day. The combined results from Sabathia and Carmona: 15 innings, nine hits, one earned run, two walks and 13 strikeouts. If this American League Championship Series goes seven games, Boston will have at least four matchups with the dynamic duo. They can match up Josh Beckett in a couple of those outings, but to win the series, they'll have to win one of those games, and scoring runs -- plural -- would obviously help their cause. Key late-game matchups
The Red Sox's success against the Indians meant they saw just one inning from Cleveland closer Joe Borowski. In fact, nobody in Boston's lineup has faced him more than a handful of times. Manny Ramirez has faced him twice, but one of those was a two-run homer in 2005, when Borowski was pitching for the Devil Rays. By contrast, the Red Sox have seen enough of setup man Rafael Betancourt for their liking, and it hasn't gone well for them. Cleveland's setup man has allowed just two runs on 10 hits in 14 innings against Boston, striking out 19. Ramirez and David Ortiz are 1-for-11 combined with five strikeouts against him. The one batter who has hit Betancourt well is Julio Lugo, who is 3-for-4 with a double and a homer off of him.
Indians catcher Victor Martinez has fared better against would-be basestealers this year than he has in past seasons, but Red Sox rookie speedster Jacoby Ellsbury has the wheels to give him a very good test. Get Ellsbury on first base in the late innings as a pinch-runner or otherwise, and he'll give Boston's big hitters a scoring opportunity.
Red Sox's Achilles' heel
Is there really an Achilles' heel for a team that dominated its way through a three-game Division Series sweep and generally had its way with its upcoming ALCS opponent in the regular season? Well, they could stand for leadoff man Dustin Pedroia to reach base more often than he did in the ALDS, but that didn't hurt their run production against the Angels.
Red Sox manager: Terry Francona
The field general for Boston's curse-crashing World Series championship run in 2004 pushed all the right buttons in the ALDS, and his veteran-laden squad has responded to his style. His emphasis on the fundamentals will be all the more important in what should be close contests against Sabathia and Carmona.
Anyone remember when the Yankees were supposedly threatening the Red Sox for AL East supremacy in September? Didn't think so. These guys carry themselves with a confidence that they're the team to beat, and they come up with the clutch plays to back it up. Three reasons Red Sox will win
They can match up against Sabathia and Carmona with Beckett and Curt Schilling or Matsuzaka, and they have the rotation depth after that to top the Tribe. A healthy Tim Wakefield in Game 4 would be bad news for the Indians, who generally haven't hit him well over the last few years. Ramirez loves to hit against his former team. He has a .417 average this year, .370 last season and .357 for his career, with 15 home runs in 49 career regular-season games. This will be his first playoff matchup against the Indians. They can score runs in so many different ways that simply looking for ground balls isn't enough. They can hit for precision as well as they can for power.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.