The Yankees are not to be underestimated. They've come from behind to win more often than any other team in major league history. Ask the Twins about late-inning pinstripe heroics.
But if the Sox don't beat the Yankees this year, they never will. They're just a better team, with more offensive depth and firepower (Sox led all of baseball in runs, OBP and Slugging), better starting pitching, and a much deeper bench. Three key improvements for the Sox from last year's heartbreakers:
(1) Curt Schilling. A warrior and big-game horse, he more than makes up for Pedro's down year.
(2) The defense. Improved at short and 2nd, and with a gold glover as your late inning replacement at first base. Since the Nomar trade, the Sox haven't beat themselves. Cabrera has been especially impressive.
(3) Depth. Dave Roberts is one of the best pinch-runners in baseball. Mankiewicz is a terrific backup, and Pokey Reese and Gabe Kapler could start for a lot of clubs.
This series will come down to Keith Foulke. Will he be able to withstand the Spanks' late inning charge? If he can shut 'em down, the Sox should dominate.
Sox in 6.
* Astros v. Braves tonight. I still expect the 'Stros to prevail, but Garner blew it by panicking and starting the Rocket on three days rest.
* Minnesota blew it when closer Joe Nathan was asked to go 3 innings in Game 2 after the Twins took the lead in the top of the 11th. Nathan had nothing left and ended up putting the winning runs on base. The question to ask: How often have teams lost to the Yankees because the manager asked a guy with nothing left to get a few outs? And how often have the Yankees lost because Joe Torre left a guy out there too long?
* Ken Caminiti, one of my favorite players during the mid 90s, died of a heart attack today at 41. The man laid it all on the line during the games, and evidently he lived life just as hard off the field. He became a poster child for steriod abuse, but the juiced up or not, the dude played his heart out.