Sox Tops?

The prevailing opinion among Major League Baseball enthusiasts is, simply, that Boston is the best team in baseball, though fans of Colorado, winners of 17 of the last 18, would make a solid argument for their Rockies.

The 2004 World Series champions begin pursuit of another flag Friday night at Fenway Park versus Cleveland, the American League's Central Division champions and this season's Yankee slayers.

Red Sox supporters point to a postseason experienced pitching staff that's anchored by Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling and a potent offense that's paced by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

Beckett and Schilling are a combined 11-2 with an impressive 1.88 ERA in 168 playoff innings. Backing them up in the bullpen is Jonathan Papelbon, who has a career 1.62 ERA.

Ortiz and Ramirez belted four home runs in Boston's three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the postseason.

Professional Handicappers League member Steve Zukiel is going against conventional wisdom and picking the Indians, who toppled New York 3-1 in the opening series, to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1997, when Florida won in seven games.

"It is going to be a very entertaining series," Zukiel said.

"We know they both are going to score their fair share of runs, but as always, it is going to come down to pitching.

"With that being said, I believe the Tribe has the better overall pitching.

"If the BoSox don't care about winning, then they will put Eric Gagne in as much as possible.

"This guy has to be one of the most overrated relievers in baseball.

"I love the Tribe's bullpen.

"They have some great young pitching and I love the man they call Fausto (Carmona)."

Beckett was a minus $1.55 favorite over big C.C. Sabathia in the opener at Bodog early Thursday morning.

The Las Vegas Hilton opened the Red Sox at 10/1 and Indians at 30/1 to win the Fall Classic when odds were posted during last years World Series.

PHL member Bill Fishman says whichever American League club advances should be able to handle either Colorado or Arizona, who begin NLCS play Thursday night.

"The American league winner is far deeper then anything the National League will throw at them, pitchingwise and offensively," Fishman said.

"Arizona and Colorado are fun teams to watch, however."

by: Staci Richards - - Email Us

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