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Seeking an edge

Gordon Edes breaks down the teams and tells you who is sharper

CLOSERS
Keith Foulke was ‘‘superhuman,’’ according to Sox general manager Theo Epstein, in throwing 100 pitches in the span of three games of the postseason. Foulke was not needed in the Game 7 blowout over the Yankees, so he will be rested. Foulke outperformed Mariano Rivera in the ALCS and would appear to have an edge over Jason Isringhausen, who is your traditional 95-mile-per-hour pitcher and who has been knocked around some in the postseason, coming in with an 0-1 record and 4.66 ERA. Isringhausen held opposing hitters to a .152 batting average, but has given up two home runs.
EDGE: Red Sox

MIDDLE RELIEF
The Cardinals have been hurt by the absence of lefthander Steve Kline, who has been sidelined by a torn tendon in the index fi nger of his throwing hand. His availability is still in doubt, placing the burden of getting out the lefthanded-hitting David Ortiz on Ray King, who held lefthanded hitters to a .150 batting average during the regular season but was taken deep twice by Lance Berkman in the NLCS. Julian Tavarez pulled a Kevin Brown, breaking a bone in his left hand punching a dugout telephone, but redeemed himself in the fi nal two games of the NLCS. He may be Tony La Russa’s most reliable setup man. Kiko Calero, who in September came off the disabled list with a sore rotator cuff, also will see work. The Sox’ bullpen, battered in Game 3 against the Yankees, allowed just one run over 141/3 innings in Games 5 and 6, and will be bolstered by the addition of Bronson Arroyo. Manager Terry Francona used lefthander Mike Myers against Hideki Matsui with mixed results, but Mike Timlin and Alan Embree appearedto have regained their 2003 postseason form, which was mostly unhittable.
EDGE: Red Sox

0 Keith Foulke has not allowed a hit in a save situation in the postseason (0 for 7).

.208 When the Red Sox have the lead, opponents batted .208. The breakdown: Alan Embree (.211), Keith Foulke (.218), Ramiro Mendoza (.184), Mike Timlin (.230), and Scott Williamson (.057).

5.74 During the regular season, Curtis Leskanic’s ERA was 5.74 when he entered the game at the start of an inning, and 0.75 when he entered in the middle of an inning.

KARMA
The Cardinals had the majors’ best record and have a history (1946, 1967) of beating the Sox in Game 7s. The Sox are coming off the greatest comeback in baseball history, and have shown little regard for the burden of 1918.
EDGE: Red Sox

STARTING PITCHERS
If the novel medical procedure doctors used to hold a tendon in Curt Schilling’s right ankle in place continues to hold up, the Sox have a decided advantage. Derek Lowe, off his one-hit, six-inning performance in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, draws the Game 4 start in St. Louis, with Bronson Arroyo bumped back into relief duty. Tim Wakefield draws the Game 1 assignment at Fenway and should benefit from most of the Cardinals never having had to deal with his knuckleball. Pedro Martinez goes in Game 3, and off his ALCS performance, there’s no reason to believe he can’t give the Sox two quality starts. Righthander Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ best pitcher, has been out with a nerve irritation in the biceps of his pitching arm, and is a long shot to appear in the Series. Woody Williams, who pitched one-hit ball for seven innings against the Astros in Game 5, will match up against Wakefi eld, but Tony La Russa would not commit beyond that. Former Sox righthander Jeff Suppan fi gures to pitch Game 3 in St. Louis and would be on track for a Game 7 in Boston, where he was ineffective last summer after the Sox got him back from Pittsburgh. Matt Morris has been erratic and Jason Marquis, who probably has the best stuff on the staff, has been roughed up (7.36 ERA) in his two postseason starts.
EDGE: Red Sox

69 Derek Lowe has thrown a first pitch strike to 69 percent of the batters he’s faced in the postseason (59 percent in the regular season).
1 The Red Sox started a lefthanded pitcher in only one game this season – Abe Alvarez July 22. The St. Louis Cardinals also started a lefthander only once, Randy Flores, a September call-up.
6.11 Opponents’ starting pitchers recorded a 6.11 ERA against the Red Sox, highest in the major leagues (5.54 vs. Texas was second). They pitched 866 innings, fewest in the major leagues (913 vs. Atlanta was second). They won only 38 games, fewest in the American League (45 vs. Cleveland; 37 vs. St. Louis).
11-6: During the regular season, Derek Lowe was 3-6, 8.26 in day games, 11-6, 4.50 at night.
8 Pedro Martinez allowed 8 fi rst-inning home runs in 33 regularseason starts this year. Before 2004, he had allowed 7 home runs in the first inning in 168 starts.
2-5 Tim Wakefield was 2-5, 5.55 against teams with a winning record in the regular season, 10-5, 4.55 against teams with a losing record.
12-0 Curt Schilling was 12-0 with a 2.91 ERA against teams that fi nished with a winning record in the regular season; 9-6, 3.52 against teams with a losing record.

INTANGIBLES
The Cardinals are 6-0 at home in the postseason, which makes the home runs hit by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the All-Star Game, helping the AL win, all the more meaningful, because it gave the Sox home-field advantage in the Series. The Cardinals are superior to the Sox in their ability to manufacture a run; Jeff Suppan squeezed home their first run against Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the NLCS, while the Sox’ pitchers haven’t hit since June. The Cardinals have speed on the basepaths, though Tony Womack’s bad back may be limiting.
EDGE: Cardinals

17 The Red Sox were 17-12 in games decided in the last inning, 14-3 at Fenway and 3-9 on the road.

53 The Red Sox left the bases loaded at least once in 53 games. They won 33 and lost 20, winning the last 11 times.

60 The Red Sox played 60 games decided by two or fewer runs, the fewest in the major leagues (Anaheim and Tampa Bay, 67 each). They won 33 and lost 27.

24-6 The Red Sox were 24-6 when Johnny Damon scored a run in the first inning during the regular season.

47 The Red Sox recorded 47 come-from-behind wins and 30 blownlead losses. Since Aug. 14, they have come from behind to win 20 times and have lost only two games in which they took a lead.

DEFENSE
There isn’t a team in baseball that catches the ball like the Cardinals, who have Gold Glovers at third (Scott Rolen), shortstop (Edgar Renteria), center field (Jim Edmonds), and behind the plate (Mike Matheny). Edmonds made a series-saving catch early in Game 7 of the NLCS, but the spectacular is the norm for him. Renteria is an experienced, more polished version of Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera. The Sox’ defense will take a huge dip on the right side in St. Louis, where the absence of a designated hitter means David Ortiz will have to use a glove. Doug Mirabelli, who has just one at-bat in the postseason, will catch Game 1 with Tim Wakefi eld on the mound, and can expect a long night from the Cardinals’ speedsters.
EDGE: Cardinals

1 The Red Sox have allowed only one batter to reach base via error in the postseason.

26 Derek Lowe was charged with more unearned runs than any other starting pitcher in the major leagues (26). Bronson Arroyo, Tim Wakefield, and Brian Anderson (Kansas City) were second with 17 each. Pedro Martinez was charged with 5 unearned runs; Curt Schilling 2.

KARMA
The Cardinals had the majors’ best record and have a history (1946, 1967) of beating the Sox in Game 7s. The Sox are coming off the greatest comeback in baseball history, and have shown little regard for the burden of 1918.
EDGE: Red Sox

BENCHES
With possibly three games in St. Louis, with no designated hitter, the Sox’ strong bench will become a greater factor, as Kevin Millar, Gabe Kapler, Dave Roberts, and Doug Mientkiewicz can all expect to be used as pinch hitters and part of double switches. Roger Cedeno, a switch hitter, gives Tony La Russa some fl exibility and an experienced bat on the bench, but La Russa has used his reserves sparingly in the postseason. The lefthanded John Mabry is the team’s best pinch hitter.
EDGE: Red Sox

MANAGERS
Tony La Russa, like Joe Torre, is a future Hall of Famer, though that guarantees nothing. La Russa’s teams in Oakland came into the World Series heavily favored in 1988 and ’90, and were beaten handily by the Dodgers and Reds, respectively. Francona, vilified for the handling of his bullpen in Game 3 of the ALCS, could do no wrong over the last four games, and with four years of managing in the NL with the Phillies, won’t be surprised by anything.
EDGE: Cardinals

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