"It's going to be a great matchup," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Their guy is one of the best in the game. We feel like our guy is one of the best in the game."
Beckett was the majors' only 20-game winner this season, and he had a 3.27 ERA. Sabathia was one of several pitchers who won 19. He led the majors with 241 innings pitched and was fifth in the AL with a 3.21 ERA.
They both won their starts in the division series, although Sabathia, who allowed three runs over five innings against the Yankees, was not nearly as dominant as Beckett, who shut out the Angels on four hits with eight strikeouts.
The righthanded Beckett is not caught up in any personal rivalry with his lefthanded counterpart.
"Our hitters have to worry about C.C., not me," Beckett said. "I've just got to get their guys out."
Beckett already has a stellar postseason resume. While pitching for Florida in the 2003 World Series, he shut out the Yankees on three days' rest in the Game 6 clincher at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox, back in the American League Championship Series for the first time since winning the World Series in 2004, are hoping for a quick strike with Beckett tonight and Curt Schilling tomorrow. Schilling is a remarkable 8-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 16 postseason starts.
The Red Sox moved Schilling ahead of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the rotation after Schilling threw seven shutout innings against the Angels in the division series clincher.
The Indians are just as capable of a quick strike. After Sabathia, they will send righthander Fausto Carmona to the mound in Game 2. He went 19-8 this season and had a 3.06 ERA, second best in the league.
Though Boston enjoyed a 5-2 advantage in the season series, these teams are evenly matched.
"They've got great pitching and we do, too," Sabathia said. "They've got huge bats and we do, too. I think we're dead even."
Boston had the league's best team ERA and Cleveland was third.
Both teams showed their pitching prowess in a July series in Cleveland. On July 24, the Red Sox won a 1-0 game. The next night, the Indians won a 1-0 game. Interestingly, Sabathia and Beckett were the hard-luck losers in those games.
Offensively, both teams ranked in the top six in the AL in runs scored.
The Indians' offense features gifted leadoff man Grady Sizemore and 100-RBI men Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez.
The middle of the Red Sox' order is a bear with David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell.
Ramirez, who drove in 145 runs for the last Indians team to reach the American League Championship Series in 1998, has owned Sabathia since joining the Red Sox. He is 12 for 21 (.571) with four homers and an almost unreal 1.286 slugging percentage against Sabathia.
Sabathia debuted in the majors in 2001, at age 20, and won 17 games for then-Indians manager Charlie Manuel. The lefthander always has had a fastball that could top 95 m.p.h. In recent years, he has taken something off his fastball - though he can still rear back when he needs to - and that has helped his command of the strike zone. He enjoyed his best season this year. In 241 innings, he struck out 209 and walked just 37.
"He's a true No. 1," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
So is Beckett.
That's why you couldn't ask for a better matchup in Game 1 tonight.
Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or email@example.com.