Breaking Down the Sox and Rox

1193146918The requisite 24 hours for celebration have passed and the realization that the Red Sox are going back to the World Series has finally sunk in. So say goodbye to C.C., and Fausto. Farewell Cleveland, with your fans painted up in red face and your inept PR team. Say good-night Kenny. We’ll see you at third base again next year. It’s been real.

It’s on to Colorado, where the Rockies have been scorching hot, winning 21-of-22, including all seven post-season games and a one-game playoff with San Diego for good measure. No deal with the devil here, these guys have made a pact with Gideon. What to make of these Rockies, and what to watch for, after the jump.

Come Wednesday night, the first thing everyone will want to know is: Did the week-long layoff affect Colorado? The Rockies have been idle after wrapping up the National League pennant last Monday, amusing themselves with intra-squad games and dodging snowflakes.

Last year the Tigers sat and waited for the Cardinals to beat the Mets and then their pitchers forgot how to field their positions. Momentum is a strange thing in sports, (witness the last three games of the Cleveland series) and it’s futile to attempt to gauge Colorado’s reaction on the day before the World Series even starts, so let’s not even go there. We don’t like feelings here in the Boston Daily sports department, we like cold-hard numbers and there are a few that stand out.

Jeremy Affeldt is Kryptonite for David Ortiz.

The left-handed reliever has faced Big Papi 13 times, and only once has Ortiz registered a hit. Look for Affeldt to get the call whenever the Big Man comes up in a big spot late in the game. But don’t expect him to stick around too long; Manny Ramirez is 3-for-6 against him.

Todd Helton owns Curt Schilling

Actually, Helton is pretty good against everyone on the Red Sox roster, with the exception of Tim Wakefield, but he has enjoyed particular success against Schilling (18-for-54 with six doubles and five home runs) from their days in the National League.

Josh Beckett struggles with Colorado

Take any pitcher with any kind of a National league track record and chances are they have a few clunkers against the Rockies, so the numbers are a tad skewed. This, however, is what we know. On June 14, Beckett was 9-0 when he took the mound against Colorado. He was 9-1 after, turning in his worst start of the season. Matt Holiday, in particular, has done well against Beckett.

Tim Wakefield could be a big deal in this series

The only game the Red Sox won in their 3-game series with Colorado back in June was pitched by Wakefield, a 2-1 victory. The Red Sox have been reluctant to throw Wakefield in the thin Denver air in the past. Might it make sense to go with Wakefield in Games 2 and 6 at Fenway, limit Daisuke Matsuzaka to one start, and line up Schilling for a possible Game 7?

Yes, it might make sense, if the Red Sox are confident that Wakefield’s back can hold up for two more starts. That is a big if. But Wakefield can have an effect on a lineup long after his start is over. Some around the Indians felt that Wakefield’s knuckler in Game 4 irrevocably damaged Travis Hafner, among others.

It’s an intriguing question, but the Red Sox, for all the hype about their unconventional methods, have tended to be fairly conventional. They stayed with Coco Crisp longer than most expected, and they never entertained any thoughts of running Beckett out on 3 days rest, electing instead to stick with the plan.

More Colorado Mystery

Because of the Rockies youth—starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales were in the minors when they visited Boston in June—the Sox hitters don’t have much of a track record against the Rockies pitching staff. What we know is that Colorado has an excellent defense, probably the best in baseball, big-time hitters in the middle of the lineup, and a very good bullpen, particularly late with Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas.

The Pick

Predictions make us nauseous, and this has all the makings of a long series, particularly because both teams excel on their home fields. The feeling here is that the American League battle-hardened Red Sox are the choice, just not at the 2-1 odds they’re getting in Las Vegas. We think it will go six and wouldn’t be surprised at all if it goes seven, but the Sox are the choice. What? You thought this was 5280 magazine’s blog?