A look at the best-of-five American League division series between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics:
Schedule: (All times Eastern) Game 1, Wednesday, at Oakland (10:06 p.m., ESPN); Game 2, Thursday, at Oakland (4:06 p.m., ESPN2); Game 3, Saturday, at Boston (TBA); x-Game 4, Sunday, at Boston (TBA); x-Game 5, Monday, at Oakland (TBA).
Season Series: Oakland won 4-3 (all games after All-Star break).
Projected Lineups Red Sox: CF Johnny Damon (.273, 12 HRs, 67 RBIs, 30 steals,) 2B Todd Walker (.283, 13, 85), SS Nomar Garciaparra (.301, 28, 105, 120 runs), LF Manny Ramirez (.325, 37, 104), DH David Ortiz (.288, 31, 101), 1B Kevin Millar (.276, 25, 96), RF Trot Nixon (.306, 28, 87), 3B Bill Mueller (AL-leading .326, 19, 85), C Jason Varitek (.273, 25, 85).
Athletics: 2B Mark Ellis (.248, 9, 52), DH Erubiel Durazo (.259, 21, 77, 100 BBs), 3B Eric Chavez (.282, 29, 101), SS Miguel Tejada (.278, 27, 106), 1B Scott Hatteberg (.253, 12, 61), C Ramon Hernandez (.273, 21, 78), LF Jose Guillen (.311, 31, 86 for Cincinnati and Oakland), RF Jermaine Dye (.172, 4, 20 in 221 ABs), CF Eric Byrnes (.263, 12, 51).
Projected Rotations Red Sox: RH Pedro Martinez (14-4, 2.22 ERA, 206 Ks), RH Tim Wakefield (11-7, 4.09), RH Derek Lowe (17-7, 4.47 ERA), RH John Burkett (12-9, 5.15 ERA).
Athletics: RH Tim Hudson (16-7, 2.70), LH Barry Zito (14-12, 3.30, 231 2-3 IP), LH Ted Lilly (12-10, 4.34).
Relievers Red Sox: RH Byung-Hyun Kim (8-5, 3.18, 16/19 saves after Arizona traded him in late May), RH Jeff Suppan (3-4, 5.57, acquired from Pittsburgh), LH Alan Embree (4-1, 4.25, 1), RH Mike Timlin (6-4, 3.55, 2), RH Scott Williamson (0-1, 6.20, acquired from Cincinnati), LH Scott Sauerbeck (0-1, 6.48, acquired from Pittsburgh), RH Bronson Arroyo (0-0, 2.08, 1, 6 games) or RH Todd Jones (2-1, 5.52).
Athletics: RH Keith Foulke (9-1, 2.08, 43/48), LH John Halama (3-5, 4.22), RH Chad Bradford (7-4, 3.04, 2), LH Ricardo Rincon (8-4, 3.25), RH Jim Mecir (2-3, 5.59, 1), RH Rich Harden (5-4, 4.46).
Oakland GM Billy Beane was offered the Red Sox job last winter. He accepted it and worked briefly with assistant GM Theo Epstein before changing his mind. Epstein took over as general manager ... Both teams stress patience at the plate, although Boston was much more successful with a major-league best .360 on-base percentage. Oakland was back at .327. The Red Sox led the majors with a .289 batting average, the A's led the Al with a 3.63 ERA. ... Martinez led the AL in ERA and Hudson was second. ... The A's are going with a three-man rotation. ... Lowe was Boston's No. 2 starter all season but was given the assignment for Game 3, the first at Fenway Park, where he was 11-2 with a 3.29 ERA. ... Manager Ken Macha still points to the Athletics' series in August at Boston as the turning point in theirs season. The A's won two games at Fenway Park after getting the news of Mark Mulder's leg injury, sparking the second-half surge that propelled Oakland into the playoffs for the fourth straight season. ... Macha spent four years in the Red Sox system, managing at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Hatteberg played seven seasons as a backup catcher with the Red Sox. ... Guillen is 7-for-22 with one homer lifetime vs. Martinez. ... Ramirez was 10-for-27 with three home runs against Oakland this year. ... Hernandez hits well against the knuckleballing Wakefield, with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 at-bats.
Big Picture Red Sox: Mueller and Ramirez competed for the AL batting title down the stretch. Mueller finished .326, one point ahead of Ramirez, last year's batting champ. ... Looking for their first World Series title since 1918. Eleventh time in playoffs since then, last in '99. Made it this time as the wild card. ... Manager Grady Little's contract expires at the end of the year and Epstein has praised him, although no new deal has been announced. ... Epstein, at 29, is the youngest GM in baseball. He overhauled the Red Sox lineup, adding Ortiz, Mueller, Millar and Walker in the offseason. He then added relievers Kim, Williamson and Sauerbeck during the year. He also traded for starter Suppan. All that helped change the atmosphere of the club from one that lacked team chemistry under former GM Dan Duquette. ... The Red Sox set a major league record with 647 extra-base hits. They also led the majors in runs, hits, total bases and doubles. Boston became the first team in history with eight players to hit 30 or more doubles. ... The Red Sox can hit from both sides of the plate. Righty Ramirez led the team in homers and lefty Ortiz was second. Mueller and Varitek are switch-hitters. Lefty Nixon and righty Gabe Kapler are a strong combination in right field. Athletics: Earned their fourth straight playoff appearance with another second-half surge, waiting until Aug. 27 to take sole possession of first place the AL West before rolling to their third division title in four seasons. ... Despite its success, Oakland has lost all three division series - twice to the New York Yankees before last season's disappointing five-game loss to Minnesota. ... Will be without LH ace Mulder, who's a long shot to return in the playoffs after breaking a leg bone near his hip in August. Lilly has filled in capably, making a late-season run that included six straight wins. ... Hard-throwing rookies Justin Duchscherer and Harden both made quality starts down the stretch. They'll pitch from the bullpen in the division series, giving Macha plenty of choices in tight games.
- Yes or no for Nomar? Garciaparra batted just .301, his lowest full-season average, after starting September at .323. Can he break his slump and, if not, will Boston's other batters be able to make up for it?
- Trottin' time. Nixon strained a calf muscle on Sept. 9 and had just 11 at-bats after that. If he doesn't play, Kapler was productive and could see action against lefties Zito and Lilly.
- Crunch time. Epstein's bullpen by committee approach flopped early, so the Red Sox went with a more traditional approach as Kim became the closer. But the relievers were inconsistent down the stretch and remain a question mark.
- Running out of runs. Will declining offense finally catch up to the A's? Oakland's run production has declined in each of its four playoff seasons, with the A's falling well short of 800 runs this season after scoring 947, 884 and 800 in the previous three.
- Marquee matchup. Game 1 could set the tone for the series, when Martinez pitches against Hudson. When they met at the Coliseum on Aug. 11, Hudson won 4-0 to hand Martinez his first loss in three months.