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MATCHUP ANALYSIS

Battle off the Soxes

Pop-up Red Sox-White Sox statistical comparison

Starting lineups
The White Sox can't match up with the Red Sox on paper, but while it's popular to cast them as a pitching-speed-and-defense team, they slugged 200 home runs for the sixth straight season, cleanup man Paul Konerko leading the way with 40 homers and 100 RBIs, including a .429 average, 4 home runs, and 7 RBIs against the Sox. In seven games against Boston, the White Sox scored as many runs (36), hit more home runs (15 to 12) and outhit the Sox (.291 to .282). But they bunt (53 sacrifices) even more than the Angels and were third in the league in steals with 137. Hard to believe that the league's winningest team comes into the playoffs unsettled at the No. 3 position. DH Carl Everett was dropped from third to sixth after a month-long slump (.206), but Everett was 10 for 32 his last week and plays with extra intensity against Boston. Jermaine Dye, who hit 31 home runs, will be in the 3-hole in Game 1, but Guillen would prefer to have him hitting behind Konerko. Leadoff man Scott Podsednik is one of the league's premier base-stealing threats, but because of leg problems he went nearly two months before a multiple steal game last week, his first since Aug. 6. Podsednik, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and switch hitter Everett are the only lefthanded bats in the lineup every day. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was not the slugger that he was in Japan, but he hit a big home run over the Indians Saturday. The White Sox have excellent defense on the left side in shortstop Juan Uribe and third baseman Joe Crede, though Crede dropped a popup that led to a Boston win in US Cellular Field. Center fielder Aaron Rowand (right knee, back) has been almost as banged up as Johnny Damon but is outstanding defensively. For the Red Sox, Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz have combined to homer 21 times in the last 22 games. The knee-jerk assumption that Kevin Millar would sit and John Olerud would play in Game 1 against Contreras is skewered by the numbers: Millar is 5 for 10 with 2 HRs against Contreras, and Olerud has never faced him. But the numbers are no help against Buehrle in Game 2: Millar is 1 for 18, Olerud 1 for 11.
Edge: Red Sox

Starting pitchers
The starting pitching is so deep, general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were not sure they could find a roster spot for Brandon McCarthy, the rookie who may have pitched Chicago's best game against Boston this season, the Labor Day makeup game. By winning his last eight starts, Jose Contreras has emerged as the staff ace, and the White Sox insist that the Cuban defector is a completely different pitcher than the one the Sox knocked around (.345 average) when he was a Yankee (2-4, 11.67 ERA). Contreras attacks hitters much more aggressively with his fastball rather than relying on his splitter. He is scheduled to pitch at home both times, which is a bonus for a man who has not responded well to pressure in Fenway (1-3, 13.50). One scout said All-Star Game starter Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland had to work harder against the Red Sox than any other club this season; they have had their hands full with Manny Ramírez (.444, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs against Buehrle, .533, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs against Garland.) Garland won just two of his last 10 starts. Former Mariners ace Freddy García draws the Game 3 start; he's been especially tough on David Ortiz (3 for 17, .176) and Johnny Damon (9 for 41, .220).

No team in the tournament can throw the kind of postseason experience the Sox have in Curt Schilling, described by his much-rumored critic, Kevin Millar, as the best big-game pitcher of his generation; David Wells, who embraces the big stage; and Tim Wakefield, the team's most consistent starter this season and battle-tested through all of his October duels with the Yankees. But Schilling, who has struggled all season since his ankle was rearranged, isn't scheduled to appear in this series until Game 4. The last time Wells pitched in a postseason game was for the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, when his back gave out in the second inning of Game 4, and his early departure led to a 3-1 Series lead for the eventual champion Marlins. Wakefield has been manhandled by the White Sox this season (16 H, 4 HRs, 9 ER in 12‚ IP). Game 1 starter Matt Clement, meanwhile, has not been the dominating presence that inspires confidence. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA lifetime against the White Sox, but had a no-decision in his only start this season.
Edge: White Sox

Bullpens
The White Sox are vulnerable at the back end, where erstwhile Sox starter Dustin Hermanson enjoyed a rebirth as a closer with 34 saves, but lower back stiffness leaves him a big question mark. Ozzie Guillen turned to rookie Bobby Jenks, who has overcome off-field behavior issues and elbow trouble, as his closer, but while Jenks is a strikeout force with his 98-mile-per-hour fastball and a plus curveball, he had back-to-back blown saves and a loss in a span of four September games. Either Orlando Hernández or rookie Brandon McCarthy will work out of the pen; Guillen may prefer El Duque's big-game experience. The White Sox can match up nicely with lefthanders Neal Cotts and Dámaso Marte, though Marte was sent home by Guillen last month after he showed up late for a game and didn't get treatment for an injury that Guillen implied was suspect. Luis Vizcaino and Cliff Politte are the righthanded setup men. The White Sox are 35-18 in one-run games, so being in tight spots is nothing new for them. The Boston bullpen should be stabilized greatly by the presence of Bronson Arroyo, who should serve as a terrific bridge to Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and allow the submarining specialists, Mike Myers and Chad Bradford, to do their thing. Mike Timlin has faced three save situations in his career in the postseason and has blown two; he also will be pushing 90 appearances before it's all over.
Edge: Red Sox

Benches
Geoff Blum, picked up from the Padres at the trading deadline, is a lefthanded-hitting veteran who can play four infield positions. Former Met Timo Perez is the top outfield reserve, righthanded-hitting Pablo Ozuna and lefthanded-hitting Willie Harris are the backup infielders and have played a little outfield, and Chris Widger is the backup catcher. White Sox pinch hitters and Red Sox pinch hitters performed about the same (.205 to .202). The injury to Gabe Kapler leaves Adam Hyzdu as the only experienced backup outfielder for Boston, though Robert Machado can play there. Doug Mirabelli will have a big challenge trying to keep White Sox' running game in check when he catches Wakefield, while John Olerud did some serious damage to the White Sox when they were swept by Seattle in 2000: Olerud homered in Game 1 off Keith Foulke, and his single in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 keyed the decisive rally in a 2-1 win.
Edge: Red Sox

Starting lineups
The White Sox can't match up with the Red Sox on paper, but while it's popular to cast them as a pitching-speed-and-defense team, they slugged 200 home runs for the sixth straight season, cleanup man Paul Konerko leading the way with 40 homers and 100 RBIs, including a .429 average, 4 home runs, and 7 RBIs against the Sox. In seven games against Boston, the White Sox scored as many runs (36), hit more home runs (15 to 12) and outhit the Sox (.291 to .282). But they bunt (53 sacrifices) even more than the Angels and were third in the league in steals with 137. Hard to believe that the league's winningest team comes into the playoffs unsettled at the No. 3 position. DH Carl Everett was dropped from third to sixth after a month-long slump (.206), but Everett was 10 for 32 his last week and plays with extra intensity against Boston. Jermaine Dye, who hit 31 home runs, will be in the 3-hole in Game 1, but Guillen would prefer to have him hitting behind Konerko. Leadoff man Scott Podsednik is one of the league's premier base-stealing threats, but because of leg problems he went nearly two months before a multiple steal game last week, his first since Aug. 6. Podsednik, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and switch hitter Everett are the only lefthanded bats in the lineup every day. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was not the slugger that he was in Japan, but he hit a big home run over the Indians Saturday. The White Sox have excellent defense on the left side in shortstop Juan Uribe and third baseman Joe Crede, though Crede dropped a popup that led to a Boston win in US Cellular Field. Center fielder Aaron Rowand (right knee, back) has been almost as banged up as Johnny Damon but is outstanding defensively. For the Red Sox, Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz have combined to homer 21 times in the last 22 games. The knee-jerk assumption that Kevin Millar would sit and John Olerud would play in Game 1 against Contreras is skewered by the numbers: Millar is 5 for 10 with 2 HRs against Contreras, and Olerud has never faced him. But the numbers are no help against Buehrle in Game 2: Millar is 1 for 18, Olerud 1 for 11.
Edge: Red Sox

Starting pitchers
The starting pitching is so deep, general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were not sure they could find a roster spot for Brandon McCarthy, the rookie who may have pitched Chicago's best game against Boston this season, the Labor Day makeup game. By winning his last eight starts, Jose Contreras has emerged as the staff ace, and the White Sox insist that the Cuban defector is a completely different pitcher than the one the Sox knocked around (.345 average) when he was a Yankee (2-4, 11.67 ERA). Contreras attacks hitters much more aggressively with his fastball rather than relying on his splitter. He is scheduled to pitch at home both times, which is a bonus for a man who has not responded well to pressure in Fenway (1-3, 13.50). One scout said All-Star Game starter Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland had to work harder against the Red Sox than any other club this season; they have had their hands full with Manny Ramírez (.444, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs against Buehrle, .533, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs against Garland.) Garland won just two of his last 10 starts. Former Mariners ace Freddy García draws the Game 3 start; he's been especially tough on David Ortiz (3 for 17, .176) and Johnny Damon (9 for 41, .220).

No team in the tournament can throw the kind of postseason experience the Sox have in Curt Schilling, described by his much-rumored critic, Kevin Millar, as the best big-game pitcher of his generation; David Wells, who embraces the big stage; and Tim Wakefield, the team's most consistent starter this season and battle-tested through all of his October duels with the Yankees. But Schilling, who has struggled all season since his ankle was rearranged, isn't scheduled to appear in this series until Game 4. The last time Wells pitched in a postseason game was for the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, when his back gave out in the second inning of Game 4, and his early departure led to a 3-1 Series lead for the eventual champion Marlins. Wakefield has been manhandled by the White Sox this season (16 H, 4 HRs, 9 ER in 12‚ IP). Game 1 starter Matt Clement, meanwhile, has not been the dominating presence that inspires confidence. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA lifetime against the White Sox, but had a no-decision in his only start this season.
Edge: White Sox

Bullpens
The White Sox are vulnerable at the back end, where erstwhile Sox starter Dustin Hermanson enjoyed a rebirth as a closer with 34 saves, but lower back stiffness leaves him a big question mark. Ozzie Guillen turned to rookie Bobby Jenks, who has overcome off-field behavior issues and elbow trouble, as his closer, but while Jenks is a strikeout force with his 98-mile-per-hour fastball and a plus curveball, he had back-to-back blown saves and a loss in a span of four September games. Either Orlando Hernández or rookie Brandon McCarthy will work out of the pen; Guillen may prefer El Duque's big-game experience. The White Sox can match up nicely with lefthanders Neal Cotts and Dámaso Marte, though Marte was sent home by Guillen last month after he showed up late for a game and didn't get treatment for an injury that Guillen implied was suspect. Luis Vizcaino and Cliff Politte are the righthanded setup men. The White Sox are 35-18 in one-run games, so being in tight spots is nothing new for them. The Boston bullpen should be stabilized greatly by the presence of Bronson Arroyo, who should serve as a terrific bridge to Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and allow the submarining specialists, Mike Myers and Chad Bradford, to do their thing. Mike Timlin has faced three save situations in his career in the postseason and has blown two; he also will be pushing 90 appearances before it's all over.
Edge: Red Sox

Benches
Geoff Blum, picked up from the Padres at the trading deadline, is a lefthanded-hitting veteran who can play four infield positions. Former Met Timo Perez is the top outfield reserve, righthanded-hitting Pablo Ozuna and lefthanded-hitting Willie Harris are the backup infielders and have played a little outfield, and Chris Widger is the backup catcher. White Sox pinch hitters and Red Sox pinch hitters performed about the same (.205 to .202). The injury to Gabe Kapler leaves Adam Hyzdu as the only experienced backup outfielder for Boston, though Robert Machado can play there. Doug Mirabelli will have a big challenge trying to keep White Sox' running game in check when he catches Wakefield, while John Olerud did some serious damage to the White Sox when they were swept by Seattle in 2000: Olerud homered in Game 1 off Keith Foulke, and his single in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 keyed the decisive rally in a 2-1 win.
Edge: Red Sox

Managers
Ozzie Guillen could never manage for Theo and the Trio. He's one of the game's ultimate ''feel'' managers, who studies the stats along with everyone else but is apt to ignore them, instead relying on his hunches. A former shortstop who played for the White Sox and coached for the Marlins, Guillen arrived in Chicago and publicly challenged reigning star Frank Thomas to become more of a team player, which Thomas took to heart before getting hurt. He's a quote machine, launching an expletive-filled condemnation of former White Sox star (and fellow Venezuelan) Magglio Ordonez. A lock for Manager of the Year until the Sox lost most of a 15-game lead, Guillen improved his stock again when Chicago swept the Tribe in Cleveland and finished the season 9-1 in Jacobs Field. Terry Francona's job will be made easier by having Arroyo in the pen and Ramírez playing with more intensity than he showed all season.
Edge: Red Sox

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