Five quick thoughts/predictions/delusions regarding Sox vs. Sox, Chapter 1 . . .
1) If David Ortiz has more official at-bats than walks when this series is over, then that tells you he wasn't up in many key situations, because that nutjob Ozzie Guillen has all but admitted he plans on giving him the extreme Barry Bonds treatment. Which of course means it's up to not only Manny, but Varitek, Nixon, and the zombie formerly knowns as Kevin Millar to produce runs. I forever believe in Manny, and 'Tek seems to be snapping out of his funk, but the notion that Papi may not get many chances to be a hero is troubling. For all the talk about the depth of mighty Red Sox offense, it's really been two guys having phenomenal years (Manny, Papi), one guy having a very good year (Johnny D.), and quite a few guys who were not as productive as they'd been in the past.
2) I'm afraid this version of Jose Contreras is quite different from the stage-frightened meatball artist that the Sox used to knock around while he was a Yankee el busto. His command - along with his confidence - has improved significantly, and he has a splitter Curt Schilling would kill for right about now. I expect him to pitch well today. Which means that at the first sign of major trouble for Clement - who usually either has it, or he doesn't - it's imperative that Tito get him the hell out of there and get Bronson Arroyo in, because the Sox (Red) can't afford to fall behind, 5-0.
3) My biggest fear in this series is that the despicable Carl Everett plays a significant role in bringing down the Sox (Red). I hope Clement puts one under his chin during his first at-bat today, then when Crazy Carl gathers himself and shoots Clement his patented Crazy Carl glare, Clement yells back at him, "That one was from my friends the pterodactyls!" I do have unusual hopes, don't I?
4) Sox second basemen have a history of coming up monstrous in the postseason. Marty Barrett woulda/coulda/shoulda been the MVP of the '86 World Series, TATB favorite Todd Walker cranked five homers in the '03 playoffs (and might have had more if not for Grady Little's typically hare-brained decision to start Damien Jackson against lefties), and we all know what legendary things The 'Horn accomplished last year before his superpowers mysteriously deserted him this spring. I bring this up for one reason: I'm expecting similarly clutch things from Tony Graffanino this postseason. Not sure why - just a baseball vibe, I guess - but he does seem like one of those unsung, Mark Lemke-types who carves out a little piece of baseball history for himself in the playoffs.
5) You want a prediction? Fine, I'll give you a prediction, punk. Final score today: Sox (Red) 5, Sox (White) 4: For all the talk about the weakness of the Boston bullpen, it'll be Chicago's suddenly vulnerable relief corps that coughs it up today. In other words: Isn't it about time that Dustin Hermanson remembers he's Dustin Hermanson?
Go Sox. (You know. The red ones.)
Update, 2:42 a.m. . . . and unfortunately, Matt Clement remembered he's Matt Clement. He seems like a swell guy and all, but if he never pitches another meaningful game for the Sox, I'd be cool with that. He's too high-strung and erratic to succeed in big moments; at least Derek Lowe, whose mound mannerisms Clement duplicates, had the Spicoli thing going on, a goofy calmness which worked for him under pressure. Frankly, I don't know what was worse - Clement's wimpy performance, or Tito Francona's inability to realize after, oh, the five-run first inning (see item 2 above) that his pitcher didn't have anything - stuff, confidence, poise, control, whatever. Just a frustrating day at the ballpark all around. Fortunately, Big-Game Boomer, who is here precisely for situations like this, gets the ball tonight, and a split in The Cell would be satisfactory, all things considered. I'll post a Five Quick Things thingy pre-game, and I'll either write live during the game or post a full column in the wee hours afterward, so be sure to check in.