ALCS Betting Preview


The National League has young, fresh and exciting new teams in the league championship series, but the American League has two very powerful squads that are destined to make a very interesting series. Boston and Cleveland tied for the best record in major league baseball with 96 wins during the regular season. The Red Sox quickly dispatched the Angels and Cleveland was impressive in eliminating the Yankees. Unlike those from the senior circuit, these two teams from the AL have a roster full of talent that will make the winner a heavy favorite heading into the World Series.

Both Boston and Cleveland have dominant starting pitchers at the top of the rotation. Boston will start Josh Beckett (21-7, 3.13) in game one and will follow him up with Curt Schilling (9-8, 3.87) in the second game at Fenway Park. The twosome really gives manager Terry Francona an edge. Schilling is one of the great postseason pitchers of all time with 9-2 record. Since coming back from arm ailments, Schilling's fastball is not breaking the 90 MPH barrier, however his uncanny control allows him to spot it on the black and his out pitch the split, was un-hittable against the Halos. Beckett also is developing quite a reputation pitching in October. With his shutout against L.A., he now has three in his career in the postseason. In Beckett's last five postseason starts his ERA is 0.70, with a strikeout to walk ration of almost 7 to 1.

Cleveland takes a back seat to nobody when talking about 1-2 starters. C.C. Sabathia (20-7, 3.26) can single-handily take over a game with wicked stuff. He has matured as pitcher as well, like he proved in ALDS start against New York, where he had almost nothing working, yet kept it together to put his team in position to win, which they eventually did. The lefty and his team will be game one underdogs despite his brilliance and are 6-0 in 2007 in this spot. Sabathia has faced Boston twice in each of the last two seasons, surrendering two runs in 15 total innings. In game two in Boston, Fausto Carmona (19-8, 3.06) draws the assignment. The Dominican dandy is only 23 years old and earned his chance when Jake Westbrook went on the DL back in May. He is filthy against RH batters who hit a measly .216 against him. What both pitchers do is work inside portion of the plate, making hitters uncomfortable. If the hitter tries to make adjustment, each is one step ahead being able to work the outer half with equal adeptness.

Both teams can score runs, with Boston being third in the AL and Cleveland sixth. The Red Sox are overall better offensive team, being able generate more runs consistently on a daily basis. The BoSox led the American League in walks and was more particular at the dish with 160 fewer strikeouts then the Indians. What could really benefit Boston is David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are getting hot together. Cleveland has a deep and balanced line-up of sluggers with six players having 18 or more home runs. Catcher Victor Martinez was the team's triple crown winner (led in HR, RBI, BA), plus Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko are all top run producers. A major key was the addition of ageless Kenny Lofton who added toughness and determination to the Tribe.

Each team had a secret as to how they got this far. For Boston it was improved defense. Coco Crisp runs down everything in centerfield and corner infielders Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis gobble up batted balls. Shortstop Julio Lugo is often brilliant, with exceptional range and they have been hitting making them doubly tough. Cleveland's secret in becoming less so, with bullpen that can be downright dogmatic. They were sixth in baseball with 3.75 ERA during the regular season and stifled the heavy hitting Yankees on seven hits, two runs in 13 innings, striking out 15. Rafael Betancourt is perfect set-up man (soon to be closer) and Aaron Laffey's motion makes him brutal against LH batters.

The Red Sox won the season series 5-2, taking two of three at Fenway. The first two games are critical for both teams, since offense not pitching figures to matter more in games three and four in Cleveland. Boston is 49-24 against the money line as a favorite of -125 to -175 this season. With the redesigned format each manager will have decisions to make about when to start certain pitchers. Boston's bats are slightly better and the starting pitching is also. Though Joe Borowski earned a 45 saves, his 5.07 ERA proves he is flammable. Conversely, Jonathan Papelbon was 37 for 40 in save opportunities with 1.85 ERA. His 84 strikeouts in only 58.3 innings explain how domineering he can be.

Cleveland has be the best record of the four remaining ballclubs since August 15 at 34-13, yet the Red Sox have enough other edges on the field to make them a wager at -170 at to win the American League.

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