(Guest blogging by T.J Donegan; contact him at tdonegan@gwu.edu)

The Red Sox took a giant step toward claiming their second world series title in the last oh-so-many years last night, knocking Cleveland ace, and likely Cy Young winner, C.C. Sabathia all over town en route to a 10-3 victory.

On the first really chilly night-game of the year, the Boston bats stayed hot, delivering up 12 hits and 10 runs to land a pretty telling blow on the chin of the Indians’ World Series dreams. They were driven by the stellar work of Ortiz and Ramirez, who both reached base every time up. When your two best hitters do that to the other club’s ace, you’re not doing half bad.

Josh Beckett came into the game with a rather mind-blowing streak under his belt. Two playoff games. 63 batters up, 63 back to the dugout, none crossing home plate in the process. He’d add two more before Travis Hafner took him yard as Cleveland drew first blood in the opening frame.

Forget the streaks, the records, the shutouts, the burgeoning legend, all of it. You want to know what a young pitcher’s made of? You won’t figure it out when he’s got his fastball nipping the heels of triple-digits, when his curve looks like something out of Dante’s inferno, or when he racks up strikeouts like they’re going out of style. You’ll see it immediately after he gives up a homerun after having his you-know-what kissed for a week by the national media; when numero 66 puts one in the bullpen and the strikezone keeps shrinking, when things go wrong. Last night, things went wrong, and Beckett got even better.

Beckett was good. Damn good. He had all his pitches working and his curve was a living nightmare for Cleveland, letting him use it anywhere in the count. But what was really impressive about this outing was that everything didn’t fall his way, as it did against the Angels, and he didn’t let it get to him at all. On his last two post-season appearances–you may have heard something about them–he made almost no mistakes. Out of the 22 batters faced last night, he led 10 with first-pitch balls. Ready for the impressive part? Walks? Zero. Zilch. Goose-Egg.

He spotted 10 batters a free one and only Ryan Garko got a pass to first when Beckett pegged him.

Make no mistake, this is not the same Josh Beckett that walked into Yankee Stadium and broke 60 thousand hearts—he’s better. More mature, more refined, more controlled. Just better. Most importantly for us, though, is that on a night when Beckett was a B+ by his standards, he out-aced the Indians, the biggest obstacle left in the Red Sox’s path to another ring.

Curt Schilling takes the mound tonight to really try and put the Indians in a hole against Fausto Carmona, Fox has the game.

Still a ton of ball to be played this weekend, though, so let’s get right to it.

Here’s your coverage maps for the weekend:

College Football
CBS Early game
CBS Late game (Good news for you expat Pats fans, Dallas/New England have practically the entire country except the San Diego/Oakland markets.)
Fox Single
NBC’s night game will be New Orleans at Seattle.

Red Sox

Jimmy Golen of the AP has the game story from last night for Boston.com. Tony Massarotti has Beckett telling the Indians one thing with his pitching: not tonight. Dan Shaughnessy says the Red Sox have assumed their place as America’s team.

Jeff Horrigan is thankful at least one pitcher remembered there was a duel last night. Michael Silverman talks about the combined OBP of Manny and Ortiz this postseason, a mind-boggling .806. Steve Buckley says the Indians were simply outclassed on both sides of the ball. Gorden Edes talks about the Sox’s onslaught last night. Nick Cafardo also talks about the Sox’s approach to hitting Sabathia last night. Kevin Paul Dupont adds that Ramirez and Ortiz were great, but Lowell and Youkilis finished the job. Paul Jarvey has more on last night’s game.

Joe McDonald says it was complete and utter domination. Sean McAdam has Beckett giving the Red Sox more of the same: fantastic pitching. Jim Donaldson has more on Manny and David’s big night. Amalie Benjamin has Curt Schilling preparing to face Fausto Carmona tonight.

Bradford’s Blog has some quick statistical notes from the win last night. Bob Ryan’s Blog has his ALCS prediction (prior to last night’s game), in which he says Indians in 6…sort of.

Friday’s podcast of ESPN’s Baseball Today has Peter Gammons talking baseball and the ALCS (from about 5:00 onward) with Peter saying the Sox are at “the best level that they’ve been all year.” (Most of it concerns more than just Beckett/Sabathia, which we already know ended pretty well for us, but gives good insight on the whole series.)

Patriots

Jim Trotter over at Sports Illustrated says the Cowboys might be the team with the best chance to trip up the Patriot offense. Karen Guregian has Belichick being coy about whether Maroney will play against Dallas.

Judy Battista
at the New York Times seems to just be figuring out that Tom Brady’s having a good year. All the news that’s fit to print! (two weeks late) Christopher Gasper talks about the role the scout teams have on the Patriots’ preparation.

Guregian’s notebook has an update on Vrabel’s fine and some comments Wade Phillips made about Cameragate. Mike Reiss had a chat on Boston.com yesterday. Gasper’s Notebook has updates on the progress of Brandon Meriweather, Junior Seau reinventing his ancient self as a coverage linebacker, as well as the Patriots injury report.


ESPN Football Today
’s podcast from Friday has a preview of this weekend’s NFL matchups, with a good in-depth look at the Pats game. (Dallas/Pats preview is from around 9:30, if you want to just cut to that)

Celtics

Paul Pierce turns 30 today as the Celtics continue preparing to chase a 17th title, they’re 2-0 in preseason with an off day today. Their next game is this Wednesday against the Knicks.

Marc Spears has Kendrick Perkins eschewing stats to try and help the Celtics win a ring. Julian Benbow talks about Pierce injuring his leg in the Celtics’ first real practice at HealthPoint.

Murphy’s Notebook has some quick tidbits about injuries to Pierce, Perkins, and Pollard. Steve Bulpett’s Celtics Insider Blog has a wrap up of what he’s seen during his trip overseas with the team.

Boston College

The Eagles (6-0) will take on a woeful 1-5 Notre Dame squad this afternoon. This has all the makings of a trap game for the BC and their Heisman-hopeful quarterback, who head into the game ranked fourth in the nation and are expected to pile on an Irish program that has played pariah for much of the season. It’s always amazing to me how much pundits will trash a college team for not living up to the ranking that those same pundits handed out before even a single down was played. They really don’t like to be wrong, do they?

Regardless, Mark Blaudschun has a spotlight piece on starting quarterback Matt Ryan heading into this weekend’s game. Blaudschun also has an article this morning from South Bend about the Eagles and Notre Dame reversing roles heading into their game this afternoon.

ESPN has Scouts, Inc. giving their opinion on the matchup, which leans heavily in BC’s favor. (Insider Only)

That should do it for this morning, another big sports night on tap and the big game on Sunday still to come. It’s a good weekend to be a sports fan.

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