Boston at Cleveland 8 p.m., WTTG-5, WBFF-45
Cleveland cruised to its fifth consecutive division title, winning by 21 games, but now has to face Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox.
The Indians led the majors in runs scored with 1,009, becoming just the seventh major league team to score more than 1,000 runs. They were first in on-base percentage (.373), second in slugging percentage (.467) and walks (743) and seventh in stolen bases (147).
When healthy, the top of the Indians' lineup is one of the best in the league. CF Kenny Lofton (.405 on-base average), SS Omar Vizquel (.333 batting average) and 2B Roberto Alomar (.323, 24 HR, 120 RBI) set things up for an equally spectacular middle of the lineup. Manny Ramirez (.333, 44 HR, 165 RBI) figures to finish in the top three in AL MVP voting, and Jim Thome (33 HR, 108 RBI), Richie Sexon (31 HR, 116 RBI), David Justice (21 HR, 88 RBI) and Harold Baines (.312, 25 HR, 103 RBI) are all serious long-ball threats.
Pitching continues to be Cleveland's main concern. Its team ERA (4.89) is nearly a full run higher than Boston's, and Bartolo Colon (18-5, 3.95 ERA) has been the only consistent starter. The Indians have had trouble against the AL's elite, with a 4-8 record against Boston this season.
Pedro Martinez, an almost guaranteed AL Cy Young winner, has put up mind-boggling numbers in an era of inflated offensive statistics: He is 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts and 37 walks in 213B innings.
Martinez anchors a pitching staff that led the AL in seven major categories, including ERA (4.00) and opponents' batting average (.253). Boston hopes closer Tom Gordon can pitch well despite an elbow injury that sidelined him for more than 3A months. He struggled in his first two return stints last week.
Offensively, Boston is led by SS Nomar Garciaparra, who hit 27 home runs with 104 RBI in addition to hitting .357 and winning his first AL batting title. LF Troy O'Leary (.280, 28 HR, 103 RBI), 1B Brian Daubach (.294, 21 HR, 73 RBI), DH Butch Huskey (.282, 22 HR, 77 RBI) and C Jason Varitek (.269, 20 HR, 76 RBI) had solid years, but none can match the Indians' sluggers. Garciaparra is Boston's only player to hit over .300, which puts more pressure on the pitching staff.
If the series goes to a fourth game, Manager Jimy Williams -- who is the front-runner to win AL manager of the year -- will have to decide whether to start right-hander Martinez on three days' rest.
AL Central Champions
1. Kenny Lofton CF
2. Omar Vizquel SS
3. Roberto Alomar 2B
4. Manny Ramirez RF
5. Jim Thome 1B
6. Harold Baines (vs. RHP), Richie Sexon (vs. LHP) DH
7. David Justice LF
8. Travis Fryman 3B
9. Sandy Alomar C
AL Wild-Card Winner
1. Jose Offerman 2B
2. John Valentin 3B
3. Brian Daubach 1B
4. Nomar Garciaparra SS
5. Butch Huskey DH
6. Troy O'Leary LF
7. Jason Varitek C
8. Damon Buford CF
9. Darren Lewis RF