By Bill Murphy

Terry Francona made sure nobody compared his managing style to Buck Showalter. He utilized both of his close down bullpen men as much as he could, to take the Division series lead against the Red Sox in a 5-4 victory.

Most importantly, Francona won the game.

One certainly understands Dustin Pedroia’s frustration in thinking he checked his swing. IF Ron Darling, Cal Ripken, Pedro Martinez and Bill Murphy thought he checked his swing live, you can certainly excuse Pedroia’s belief. Too bad the umpire didn’t see it the way many of us did live. BUT, first play-off division series game umpire Brian Knight proved his worth, by getting it correct without instant replay.

As we stated earlier, most importantly for Francona, the Indians won, BUT…….

Now, there is all kinds of pressure on David Price and Corey Kluber. Sox fans know that Price has never won a postseason game as a starter. The Red Sox have had their way with Kluber at times and the Indian ace knows the most important guns in his teams bullpen have already used most of their bullets yesterday. Thus, for both, the pressure is mounting.

Both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen ran up their highest one game pitch counts of 2016 in Game 1 and there is wonder about what their availability will look like for Game 2. Kluber knows the team expects him to go deep into this contest. He took the mound Opening Day against the Sox and went 5 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs and nine hits. How deep will he be able to go?

That was the same game Price started for Boston and he looked much better. Many of you possibly forgot that Price start. The expected Sox ace went six innings in that one and gave up two runs on five hits, while striking out 10. The Red Sox brass and fans knew when Price came their way, that he had never had play-off success, so what do they expect now? Certainly, the truth is, they expect whatever it takes.

Last but not least, any series can be won IF, you win your home games and win ONE game on the road. The Sox are very much alive.

So when Price toes the mound this afternoon, with a rested bullpen against Kluber and a questionable bullpen, the Sox have a big edge on paper. We all know what type of guarantee that gives in the end. NONE.

FOOTBALL SETTLING- Vermont football’s three divisions have pretty much settled on who will get many of the top seeded positions. The majority of the most important match-ups this week focus on who will get the very few home seeds remaining and who will fill out a field or two. In the past two weeks, most of the bigger question marks have been erased.

Division II has the most questions resolved, even though they have an extra week to go in the regular season. Divisions I and III have only three more weeks of play remaining to set up the postseason’s first round contests, while four weeks are left in DII, who only qualifies four for the title run, compared to the other divisions eight.

One will not receive many arguments IF they say the four play-off teams in D-II have already been determined. There are still a number of big games to be played in the loop, BUT it says here, defending state champion Burr + Burton, Bellows Falls, Burlington and Fair Haven will play when the big games arrive. BF still has to play each of the other contenders, while Burr + Burton has already conquered Burlington 28-0 and Fair Haven 62-14. Burlington and Fair Haven still must meet each other and the Falls, BUT, regardless of those outcomes we think we know the four teams. This week on Friday night at 7, Milton (2-3) is at Burlington ((4-1) and North Country (1-4) entertains D-III Oxbow (1-3), while the majority of the games will kick-off Saturday at 1 p.m. with Lyndon (0-5) hosting Bellows Falls (5-0), Mount Abraham (2-3)  at Burr + Burton (5-0) and Fair Haven (4-1) is at Mount Mansfield (2-3). Everyone in the division, except Lyndon, appears to be fighting for fifth place, BUT, a play-off berth does not go with that honor.

From this vantage point, ten of the twelve teams in D-I are very much alive for the eight play-off spots. We do not expect Mount Anthony or South Burlington (both 0-5) to elevate themselves far enough to earn the final position. St. Johnsbury is the lone unbeaten team in D-I and they travel to Rice (1-4) Saturday at 1 p.m. Hartford is undefeated in state, BUT, they play a traditional game with Massachusetts powerhouse Catholic Memorial and that contest to date is their only loss. Mount Anthony is at HartfordFriday night at 7 p.m.

Hurricane coach Matt Twombly feels the CM game is very important to the Hartford program and to the teams growth each fall. Twombly told us “Catholic Memorial is a big help. We always get better after that game. Playing against that speed makes Vermont teams seem slow. It is about teaching kids to compete no matter what and keep competing to the end. It makes us focus on fundamentals. If you don’t play fundamentally sound, their size and speed exploit that.” The two teams have met for years now and with such thinking, it is clear how Hartford challenges themselves to reach a needed level.

Twombly went on to say, “we try to be competitive every year and play our game. We don’t worry much about who we play. Once we get into the play-offs, anything can happen.” It looks like Hartford is coming close to not having to worry about homefield advantage in the postseason.

Middlebury (4-1) is battling Hartford and Champlain Valley Union (4-1) for second place presently and the Tigers travel to Essex (3-2) for a big encounter Friday at 7 p.m., while CVU hosts Colchester (2-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. In other D-I play, Brattleboro is at Rutland Friday at 7 p.m. in a meeting of teams who both sit at 2-3 and expect to really raise their play-off chances with a victory and Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans(1-4) is also home Friday night hosting South Burlington.

There are a couple of unbeatens (5-0) in D-III and they, Woodstock and Windsor, don’t meet until the final week of the season in Woodstock. The Wasps play on Saturday this week at 1 p.m. on the road against Poultney/Mount Saint Joseph (0-5), BUT, Windsor could have their hands full for their Homecoming game at the same exact time, as they meet a good Mill River (4-1) team. The Minutemen were undefeated until they faced Woodstock a week ago. A tough back to back for the eleven from Clarendon.

Union-32, Otter Valley and Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax are all two loss teams, (the first two 3-2 and BFA 2-2) and all are hoping to land a homefield advantage for the first round, BUT, chances are only one of them will become that lucky. Otter Valley is at Union-32 Friday night at 7 p.m. and that game could go a long ways towards determining who actually ends up with that turf in their favor. BFA hosts Springfield (1-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. and will be favored to keep pace with the Friday night winner. In the other D-III match-up this week, two winless teams Spaulding (0-5) and Missisquoi (0-4) will meet in Swanton.

Had a good week with our forecasts a week ago with the Colchester 25-22 victory over Brattleboro keeping us from being perfect, thus, we went 15-1, bringing us to a 68-12 mark on the season. There are a number of tougher games to choose this week, BUT, here goes:as we make our choices in the toughest week of the season.  The winners will be: BFA (St. Albans), Rutland, CVU, Middlebury, Hartford, St. Johnsbury, Bellows Falls, Burlington, Burr + Burton, Fair Haven, North Country, BFA (Fairfax), Windsor, Spaulding, Union-32 and Woodstock.