The opponents in the American League Championship Series are now in place, as the Cleveland Indians defeated the New York Yankees 6-4 last night at Yankee Stadium, eliminating New York from the playoffs. (Nick Cafardo is crushed.) Game one between the Red Sox and Indians is now set for Friday night at Fenway Park.

Bob Ryan says that the Red Sox enter the ALCS playing their best ball of the season, and therefore have no excuses if they should fall short. Steve Buckley says that the expectations for the Red Sox are now similar to that of the Yankees every year…they’re expected to win. Sean McAdam has the Red Sox facing the challenge of keeping sharp between now and Friday. Jeff Goldberg has more on the Sox aiming to keep sharp for the next round of the postseason. Paul Jarvey also looks at the Sox trying to avoid the rust with their extended layoff. Mike Fine looks at the Red Sox as the toast of the town right now.

I agree with Tony Massarotti that Terry Francona is a terrific manager, who doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. I do find it amusing however, that Tony gets all over the WEEI guys for being “suckups” to Bill Belichick, when Tony has the same track record with Red Sox managers. You’ll recall he was one of the those vocal few (along with Sean McAdam) adamantly insisting that Grady Little deserved to keep his job after game seven in 2003. Jackie MacMullan has a piece on closer Jonathan Papelbon, who reveals that he was suffering from a migraine on that day in September against the Yankees when the Red Sox blew a 7-2 eighth inning lead with Papelbon giving up two runs and allowing two inherited runners to score. Rob Bradford says that while Jason Varitek may have hit only .182 in the Angels series, no one was more valuable to the Red Sox. Jon Couture notes that Dustin Pedroia struggled a bit in the Angels series, but finished on a high note in the seven-run rally in the eighth on Sunday.

Michael Silverman says that the scheduling this year allows the Red Sox to set up their ALCS rotation in a way that Josh Beckett will start games 1 and 5, and Curt Schilling games 2 and 7, Daisuke Matsuzaka getting the call in games 3 and 6 and Tim Wakefield game 4. Garry Brown notes that the Red Sox will be crossing paths with a couple of old faces in the Cleveland series, and could face even more should they get past the Indians. Lenny Megliola has a few thoughts to wrap up the Angels series. Bob Halloran says that baseball is different out West. Alex Speier says that the Red Sox made the sweep look easy. Joe Haggerty has Manny Ramirez turning things on in time for the postseason.

Silverman’s notebook has more on Wakefield getting the call for game 4. Edes notebook points out that Schilling’s performance on Sunday likely enhanced his free agent value.

Patriots

Over at Patriots Daily, Christopher Price looks at the impact that Randy Moss has had on Benjamin Watson’s career. He also has five things to look for this week against the Cowboys.

Michael Felger has his Patriots report card, with a “C+” to special teams being the lowest grade. Ian M. Clark also has his own version of the Patriots report card. Christopher L. Gasper has a look at Russ Hochstein, who filled in at center for the Patriots on his 30th birthday Sunday, and has proved to be valuable and versatile in his time in New England. Shalise Manza Young has the Browns enjoying some success against the Patriots offense on third downs. Douglas Flynn has the Patriots in the early stages of preparation for their biggest challege of the season to date.

Rich Thompson looks at ways in which Tom Brady and Tony Romo are similar, beyond the fact that they both took starting jobs from Drew Bledsoe. David Heuschkel has Bill Belichick focusing on areas in which the Patriots need to improve. Rich Garven has the Patriots record perfect thus far, even if they haven’t played a perfect game yet. Hector Longo says that there were some “inexplicable but expected shots from the sycophantic Patriots media at (Willie) McGinest” last week. Despite the win, David Brown says that the Patriots were eating humble pie yesterday. Christopher Price has his 10 Things We Learned from the Browns game.

The Globe notebook has Troy Brown still hopeful he’ll get to suit up for the Patriots this season. The Herald notebook has Cleveland’s Eric Steinbach accusing Mike Vrabel of being a dirty player. Young’s notebook has more on Brown.

Other

Marc J. Spears has Kevin Garnett getting to see many of his old Timberwolves teammates and friends in London. Steve Bulpett has Kevin McHale picking the Celtics as his favorite to come out of the East. Bulpett’s notebook has more on Garnett meeting up with his old team. Big Baby says everything seems backward in England.

Fluto Shinzawa has Dave Lewis and Brad Stuart reunited in Los Angeles with the Kings this season. Stephen Harris says that the Bruins aren’t going to rush Marc Savard back. Shinzawa’s notebook has the Bruins hoping to reduce Chara’s minutes.

Bill Reynolds says that this is an October to remember for New England sports fans.

John Molori isn’t impressed with the TBS postseason coverage, and has Sean McDonough lamenting again the loss of his dream job with the Red Sox.

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