Then again, Sabathia hasn't looked so nasty to Kielty, which is why the switch-hitter is manager Terry Francona's choice for Game 1 instead of regular right fielder J.D. Drew.
Kielty is a .310 (9-for-29) lifetime hitter against Sabathia, with four doubles and two homers. The left-handed-hitting Drew, a National Leaguer until this year, has made just one career start against Sabathia, going 0-for-3.
"I've had success off guys like C.C. and [Tampa Bay's Scott] Kazmir, guys that throw hard," said Kielty. "To me, like I said, if you're seeing the ball out of his hand well, it definitely enhances your chances, and that's a guy I've seen the ball well against."
What kind of spark does Francona hope to get from Kielty?
"I hope he gives us about three home runs," quipped Francona. "He was brought in here to give us some right-handed punch. He has the ability, especially against some better left-handed pitching, to give you a pretty professional at-bat with the chance that he'll run one out of the ballpark. It's certainly not a guarantee that it happens, but he'll give us a good at-bat, and he's definitely a threat from the running side."
In his career, Kielty is a .296 hitter against southpaws.
Manny by numbers: This series is a collaboration of the two teams Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez has split his career with. In fact, Ramirez has spent nearly the exact same time with the Red Sox (3,588 career at-bats) as he did with the Indians (3,470).
The statistics are pretty balanced. Ramirez has hit 254 homers for Boston after hitting 236 in Cleveland. Remarkably, his batting average with the Red Sox (.313) is exactly the same as it was in Cleveland. Ramirez has 800 RBIs for the Sox after driving in 804 for Cleveland.
But there is a difference when it comes to October. Ramirez played in 52 playoff games with the Indians and batted .170 with 13 home runs and 26 RBIs. But he hit just .170 with runners in scoring position and the Indians were 27-25 in playoff games while Ramirez was there.
Manny: Boston vs. Cleveland
Manny Ramirez's career statistics
| || |
| || |
| || |
| || |
| || |
| || |
Ramirez has played in 32 playoff games for the Red Sox and they are 20-12 with him in the lineup. He's batting .315 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 61 fewer at-bats. He's also hitting .324 with runners in scoring position with the Red Sox. He also had a .473 postseason slugging percentage for the Indians as opposed to a .559 slugging percentage for the Red Sox.
The Indians went to the World Series twice with Ramirez, but lost both times. He was the World Series MVP when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the 2004 Fall Classic.
Minor roster maneuvering: The Red Sox didn't make any waves when it came to revamping their roster for the ALCS. The only change was the expected activation of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who will start Game 4. Wakefield will take the roster spot of No. 3 catcher Kevin Cash, who didn't get off the bench in the Division Series.
Sizing up Sabathia: The Red Sox know all about Sabathia's prowess. They witnessed it up close by barely beating him 1-0 at Jacobs Field on July 24.
What is the key to having success against one of the toughest pitchers in baseball?
"Sabathia throws strikes," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "He's one of those guys who seems to get along being effectively wild. Sabathia is not a guy who walks five or six guys a game. It's important not to chase his pitches. It's important for us to be able to put together professional at-bats."
Ramirez has had more success against Sabathia than anyone, going 12-for-21 with three doubles and four homers.
After their encounter with Sabathia, the Red Sox go against another ace in Fausto Carmona in Game 2.
"Like I say, you have to go out there and whenever you see a hittable pitch, try not to miss it," said designated hitter David Ortiz. "Those guys are not out there just giving things to hit every pitch or every at-bat. That's why they put it together the way they did. I have respect for all of them and you have to come in and do your best."
Dice-K works out kinks: Daisuke Matsuzaka will be on nine days' rest when he takes the ball for Monday's Game 3 at Cleveland. That's exactly why Matsuzaka, in full uniform, pitched three innings of a simulated game at a drizzly Fenway Park on Thursday.
Matsuzaka wasn't particularly sharp, which perhaps justified the extra work even more.
"Rather than throw a side, face some hitters, and that's not always the easiest thing to do," said Francona. "The hardest thing to do is try to come in aggressive against your own hitters. He left some pitches over the plate, which I'd rather him do than hit [catcher Doug] Mirabelli or someone in the back. I think it was pretty well worth the while."
Closing thoughts: One area the Red Sox appear to have a big strength in is closer. Jonathan Papelbon is overpowering, as evidenced by his 1.85 ERA, not to mention his 84 strikeouts over 58 1/3 innings. Joe Borowski gets more on guile, though he does have 45 saves to go along with his 5.07 ERA.
But Papelbon wasn't about to downplay what Borowski has done.
"He goes out there and challenges hitters and he puts them in a situation to swing at pitches and get themselves out," said Papelbon. "Anybody can go out there and throw strikes and command the zone like he does. He's got that curveball to go along with it as well. He's just a pitcher who has a lot of heart and you can tell that when he pitches."
Still, advantage Papelbon?
"I don't think it's that's big of an advantage," Papelbon said. "The guy's got more than 45 saves this year or something like that. I think the guy is doing the job pretty good and he's going out there and helping his ballclub win and he's producing."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter T.R. Sullivan contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less