Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Angels Face Boston for Third Time in Five Seasons
By Adam Dodge - Angelswin.com Senior Writer

The Angels won a franchise record 100 games and finished with the best record in all of baseball. What did it earn them? A date with the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, which swept the Angels out of the post-season in the 2004 and 2007 ALDS. In total, Boston is 3-0 against the Angels in playoff series, including a miraculous comeback in the 1986 American League Championship series, which saw the Red Sox down three games to one and one strike away from elimination.

In all, the Angels have lost nine consecutive post-season games to the Red Sox.

After blowing a 5-1 lead in the first game of the season series at Fenway Park and losing 7-6, it appeared that 2008 would be yet another season that would conclude unfavorably at the hands of Red Sox. But the Angels rebounded, taking not only the final two games of that April series, but the final eight games in total. The Angels dominated their nemesis, outscoring the vaunted Sox 61-33 in the season series.

While the Angels have an impressive regular season resume, especially against the Red Sox, the records going into Wednesday’s series opener are all square at 0-0.


Edge: Angels

John Lackey (12-5, 3.75) will face Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21) in game one. Despite getting pounded in his final regular season start, Lackey was Ace-like most of the season, is playoff tested and was 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA against the Red Sox in the regular season. And while, Jon Lester’s 2008 resume is more impressive he was just a .500 pitcher on the road with an ERA more than a run and a half higher away from Fenway Park. The Angels managed four runs against Lester in his lone start against them.

In game two the Angels will send Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Ervin Santana (16-7, 3.49) to the mound against Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90). The Angels scorched Dice-K for 6 runs in 5 innings in his lone start against them, while Ervin Santana did not face the Red Sox in the regular season. He did shut out the Red Sox for two innings out of the bullpen in the playoffs a season ago.

In game three, the Angels will send Joe Saunders (17-7, 3.41). It’s appropriate for Saunders to start the first game at Fenway for the Halos. He was 2-0 at Fenway park this season, holding the Sox to just 5 runs in 12 innings pitched. Josh Beckett (12-10, 4.03) may or may not go in game three for Boston. A post-season hero from seasons past, Beckett has struggled with multiple injuries in 2008, including an oblique strain, which may force Terry Francona’s hand in this series. If Beckett is able to go, the Angels should be confident. The Angels beat him twice this season as Beckett posted a robust 7.42 ERA. If Beckett cannot go the Angels could see either Paul Byrd or Tim Wakefield, both pitchers the Angels have had success against in the past.

The stability in the Angel rotation, and the restructuring of the Boston rotation due to Beckett’s health should prove to be key in a short series.

Give the Angels a slight edge in the bullpen, where the roles are well defined. Darren Oliver and Jose Arredondo have been outstanding late in games. Scot Shields has bounced back to have a very strong 2008, and the all-time single season record holder for saves, Francisco Rodriguez is no stranger to post-season success. Mid-season it looked as if the Red Sox bullpen would be their downfall, but Hideki Okajima has rebounded in the second half, posting another solid season. Jonathon Papelbon is as good as it gets in the ninth inning, especially against the Angels. Papelbon has never allowed a run to the Angels in 17.1 career innings.

Offense: Wash

The Angels outscored the Red Sox in the second half 356-350, and were even better after adding slugger Mark Teixeira. In contrast, the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez in a three team deal. While Jason Bay is a nice player, he’s no Manny. And no Teixeira for the matter.

David Ortiz had a down year as a result of some nagging injuries. Ortiz hit just .264 with 23 homeruns in 419 at-bats. Kevin Youkilis picked up the slack, posting his best season in the Majors. But injuries to Mike Lowell and JD Drew have slowed down the Red Sox attack considerably. Drew and Lowell have just 5 combined at-bats since September 24th. But Dustin Pedroia may present the biggest obstacle, as he scorched Angel pitching in 2008. The Angel pitchers will need to go right after the patient Red Sox and avoid free passes as much as possible. With no Manny Ramirez, the Angels should find the Sox line-up a bit easier to navigate.

For the Angels, they get back Howie Kendrick just in time for the playoffs. No one in baseball is as hot as Mike Napoli, who led MLB with a homerun every 11.8 at-bats. Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero put up huge second halves, and Torii Hunter is a power bat with post-season experience, and success against the Red Sox.


As the 2008 Los Angeles Angels continue their quest for a World Series title, they will immediately have the opportunity, to not only send the defending champs home, but also to act out some sweet revenge against the team they’ve had more trouble against than any other, specifically in October.

Prediction: Angels in 5
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