3. It's their turn, darn it. The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917. The White Sox haven't won a postseason series since 1917. The law of averages is on their side, and they don't even have a curse.
Achilles' heel: This is a group with very little collective playoff experience. The Sox had the best record in the American League, but it's a different game in October and many of the Sox haven't played it yet.
Key matchups: Jose Contreras vs. everybody in the Boston lineup. One of the reasons that the Yankees were willing to part with Contreras was the fact that he was clobbered with such regularity by Boston. He says he's a different pitcher now, Guillen says he's a different pitcher now, and his second-half numbers say that he is a different pitcher now. His quality of his performances could be a major factor in the outcome.
Darkhorse: Aaron Rowand. He has played brilliantly in the field at times, but badly at others. Which Rowand shows up here defensively for the Sox in center could have a much larger than expected impact on the outcome.
Why the Red Sox will win
1. Because David Ortiz won't let them lose. In Spanish, Big Papi means Big Daddy. In Baseball-ese, it means Fat Chance You Win. His C&L (close and late, seventh inning on in tight games) rating is off the charts.
2. They're relieved to have been able to slump into the postseason. Now they can relax and again play their best ball, which they haven't since August and which can still be lethal.
3. They don't believe the White Sox have a prayer of stopping them. They've handled their pitching aces pretty well, and totaled 12 homers in seven head-to-head meetings.
Achilles' heel: Overdependence on David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The pair is incredibly productive, with 90-plus homers and 290 RBIs. But they cannot be expected to continue carrying the load as they have all season. The Red Sox need someone else to get hot and give the opposition something else to worry about. Jason Varitek has shown signs of being able to be that person. If Boston has to keep out-hitting its pitching weaknesses, the whole lineup has to start clicking.
Scott Podsednik vs. Matt Clement. Let the tone be set early. Will Scotty Po get on base against Clement, use his speed, create distractions and generally rev up the White Sox offense? Or will Clement keep him in check, thus reducing the White Sox attack to something more like an all-or-nothing proposition?
Darkhorse: Bronson Arroyo, the odd man out in Terry Francona's series rotation, is almost certain to have the chance to pick up a faltering starter in the early innings of a game. How he handles the opportunity could be pivotal. After considerable late-season juggling, the Red Sox have the back end of their bullpen pretty well lined up. But there aren't any other long arms in the pen.
The Winner: The Sox.
I'm sorry about that, but it had to be done. Seriously, folks, playing in two hitter-friendly yards, the Red Sox could score 36 runs in three games and sweep. But the history of postseason baseball says that isn't the way this event will be decided. The team with the better pitching is supposed to win. There is absolutely no question about which team that is. White Sox in five.