Archive for the ‘LAA Angels’ Category

How sweep it is!!!

The Boston Red Sox are going to the American League Championship Series. Let’s enjoy this for a day or two, then I think it’s important to reflect on some good things and some bad things that need to be worked out before game one on Friday.

First of all, anytime you sweep a team it’s great, but we need to remember that Boston swept a very beat-up team. The Angels’ two best players were playing with one arm (Vlad Guerrero) and one eye (Garrett Anderson). Their best defensive centerfielder was out (Garry Matthews Jr.), and their only pitcher with playoff experience was left off the playoff roster (Bartolo Colon). Not to mention the Angels had John Lackey pitch at Fenway, which pretty much concedes a Boston victory. I don’t want to sound like “the glass is half empty,” but the point I want to make is that whoever Boston plays in the next round (Cleveland) is going to be healthier, hungrier, and more determined than the Angels were.

In order for Boston to advance to the World Series they are going to need a repeat performance from their pitching staff. Beckett, Schilling, and the bullpen were phenomenal. Francona managed aggressively. He had guys stealing, hitting and running, and going for the extra base. They also had some big hitting from Papi, Manny and Lowell.

One of the bad things I noticed was that it seemed like Boston left a ton of runners on base. As the World Series gets closer, every run is important. These guys can’t be stranded. It also seemed like Boston grounded into a bunch of double plays. They are going to need Drew, Pedroia, and Coco to be more consistent at the plate. They looked lost up there a few times.

Another thing, and I hope Terry Francona finally realizes this: Eric Gagne sucks. He blew Schilling’s hard earned shutout tonight. I was surprised that he was even put on the playoff roster. Gagne has not pitched one meaningful inning since his acquisition. He has been a bust. Theo Epstein needs to eat a little crow and admit he blew it on this one. I personally would have given that spot to Julian Tavarez. Tavarez is much more versatile. He can start, as well as be the long reliever if needed. He has done whatever the Sox have asked of him this year. He’s a goofball, but even when he rolls the ball to first base, it’s still better then when Gagne is out there.

The Red Sox have the players to get the job done and win the World Series, but they can’t count on always getting the clutch home run. Getting the little things right is what is going to take Boston to the next level.

Throwing Dice

When a team is down one game to none in a five-game series, game two is a must-win. With the exception of the 2004 Red Sox, teams don’t come back from a 2-0 deficit.

That’s why tonight the Angels are going to put out their best lineup and leave it all out on the field. We’ll see Vlad playing right field. Mike Scioscia will have his guys trying to bunt for hits and steal bases, with a few hits and runs mixed in for fun. These are the things that got the Angels into the postseason. If they can’t do these things now, it will be what puts them into the off-season. You could say that this is the most important game for both teams to win.

Terry Francona knew the importance of this when he announced the starting rotation. Game one was a no-brainer. Cy Beckett was starting – easiest decision ever. For game two he had some options: Curt Schilling, Dice K, or Tim Wakefield. What we didn’t know at the time was that despite his solid final start of the season, Wakefield’s back was still hurting, so he was out. I think everyone assumed Schilling would start game two. After all, he’s pitched well during his last five starts, and is arguably one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.

Dice K has looked good, not great this year pitching in the Major Leagues. Earlier in the season, he caught a lot of teams off guard with his array of off-speed pitches picking up some wins. The second time against these same teams, batters would force him to hit his spots, driving up his pitch count and frustrating Dice K at times. The key for Dice K is getting that first pitch for a strike and then nibbling the corners with his off-speed pitches. If he gets too cute with his pitches and can’t command his fastball it could be a rough outing.

What concerns me about Dice K is that he is a different pitcher when there are runners on base. I don’t know if he focuses too much on the baserunner, or he doesn’t get enough leg push pitching from the stretch, but with a team like the Angels, who can get on base and are disruptive on the base paths, I worry how Dice K will do. But this is a guy that had very little run support and was still able to win 15 games as a rookie, playing in the toughest division in baseball.

So what made Francona go with a rookie for the biggest game of the series? Everyone has heard the stories of Dice K throwing 250+ pitches in a high school playoff game, then going out and throwing a no-hitter in the final for only the second time in Japanese high school baseball history. He followed that up by dominating the competition during the World Baseball Classic, posting a 3-0 record and winning the MVP pitching against the best players on the planet. Some pitchers have the ability to take it up a notch when it matters. It’s like they have an extra gear.

So why would Tito Francona send out a 15-win rookie with the knack of pitching lights out in big games against a team that has never faced him?

Something tells me we’ll find out tonight.

Game One goes to the Sox

The score for last night’s Red Sox/Angels game doesn’t do justice to just how badly the Angels were beaten. The score may have been 4-0, but it could have easily been 10-0.

Beckett dominated. There are not enough words to describe his performance. Complete game, 4 hits, no walks, no runs. This guy is a big game pitcher.

This game could have been so much uglier for the Angels if it weren’t for Crisp, Drew and Varitek hitting into inning-ending double plays. Or the second base umpire calling Lugo out on his steal attempt when he was safe by a mile. Or the home plate umpire calling strike 3 on Man-Ram when the ball was clearly 6 inches off the plate. Boston could have been in double digits by the 5th inning.

The Sox had their chances to put a big number on the scoreboard tonight but were unable to capitalize. A couple of days off before Game 1 may have cooled their bats a little, but fortunately there is no better batting practice pitcher around than John Lackey. I still can’t believe that Lackey won 19 games this year. Who exactly was he pitching against, the Oakland Little Leaguers of Santa Monica? What makes this even better is that if Boston is to lose one of the next two games, we get to see Beckett face John (S)Lackey again in Game 4. But I think it’s more likely we’ll just see him next season.

This was a good game for the Boston Red Sox. Great pitching, stellar defense, and decent hitting. The Sox played with a lot of confidence last night. I can only see them getting better as the playoffs continue.

The next Sox game is Friday night. This gives Red Sox fans the opportunity to become temporary Indians fans tonight. Let’s all hope A-Rod continues his post-season struggles, Chien Mien Wang gives up 15 runs, and Joba Chamberlain eats Derek Jeter before the game. Go Tribe!

Round 1, Sox vs. Angels

As I am off celebrating my 10th anniversary with Mrs. TheFoulLine today, Dylan steps in with his assessment of Round 1, Sox vs. Angels. Enjoy.

It’s here. October. Down here in the southern portion of Red Sox Nation you can feel the air beginning to slip into a crisp autumn 88 degrees, and you know that fall is upon us. Everything is the same, somewhere leaves are changing colors, that Robert Frost poem “Apple Picking” is being read, and the rest of the world forgets about baseball to a point to watch the NFL. Here it is, fall, playoff time for baseball.

Yet this year brings a new feeling for me, one I hope to share with the rest of Red Sox Nation, a feeling of, dare I say it, confidence? Could it be? I’ve felt this feeling before, granted it was with the Patriots and not the Sox, but I know the feeling when I feel it. I honestly have confidence in the Sox, at least against the Angels thus far, and we’ll cross the next bridge when we get to it.

Here is why I am confident going into this series. This is the best October team we’ve had. I’ll break down our second round when we figure out who the Sox second round victim will be, but for now we’ll break down the Angels series.

Josh Beckett vs. John Lackey. Beckett is firing right now. He is the AL Cy Young guy, he’s consistent, and he’s pitching in Fenway. While we send our ace to the hill, John Lackey is 1-5, 7.09 in Fenway Park. During the 2007 season, he made two starts in Fenway, losing both while allowing 20 hits in 9.2 innings, and sported a 8.38 ERA. If the series extends to five games, he might have to make two starts in Fenway.

Big Papi is on fire right now. Ortiz hit .404 for the month of September. The Dominican God of Designated Hitting enters October destroying the ball, getting 12 hits in his last 18 at-bats, including four doubles and three homers. And the Angels’ pitching staff doesn’t match up particularly well against him. Ortiz is back in his playoff form, and ready to show us why he is the new Mr. October.

Curt Schilling going in Game 3 instead of Game 2. I like this. I don’t even know really why I do, I just do. I like giving Curt the extra day of rest, and I like putting Schill in the position where he feels like he has something to prove. There will be speculation he’s injured worse then we think, etc., etc… And amongst the questioning of Curt, i.e. 2004, playoff Schilling will appear, the Schilling we have come to love. Also, the way the series is setting up, we will see Beckett come up once again if needed I believe in game 4, giving us the bullpen presence of Tim Wakefield. I like this set up a lot.

Finally, why I have so much confidence this year is that we mean business this year. This is not the cowboy-up team of ’03 or the come-from-behind idiots of ’04, this is a winning baseball team, that knows what is expected of them: Ortiz swinging the bat like he’s Roy Hobbs swinging Wonder Boy in the Natural. Manny, well, he’s Manny, but he’ll show up for the playoffs, and that helps. The Pitching staff dealing pretty well this season, and the right mix of youthfulness getting fired up and veterans leading the way.

This is the best October Red Sox we’ve ever had.

God loves the Red Sox

Have I mentioned lately how much I love this Red Sox/Angels match-up? I really feel that Boston dodged a bullet by missing Cleveland in the first round, and being able to host the Angels. The Angels are a beat-up team right now. Vladamir Guerrero is stuck DH’ing due to a triceps injury. Which is good news for Sox fans. Keeping Vlad and his rocket arm out of rightfield will be a nice change of pace. Garry Matthews Jr. is also ailing with a knee injury. To make matters worse, Angels lead-off hitter Chone Figgins is in the midst of a 0-22 slump at the plate. Do you think facing Josh Beckett is going to help that number? Not to mention, John Lackey is pitching game one. This just proves that God is a Red Sox fan. Lackey has pitched at Fenway twice this year. He’s lasted 9.2 innings total, given up 20 hits and has a 8.38 ERA. Is this really the best Mike Scioscia could come up with?
People have been talking and writing about the Angels speed and aggressiveness on the bases. The key to this theory is actually getting on base.

Playoff scenario #2

If Boston holds on and wins the AL East, they will face the Cleveland Indians. There is good and bad news with this scenario. First of all, the Indians only claim to be from one city, which reduces confusion. Secondly, New York would end up playing the Angels, which could be really interesting.

The Yankees don’t match up well with the Angels. Here is an interesting fact: the Angels are the only team in the major leagues to have a winning record against the Yankees since Joe Torre became New York’s manager in 1996. Not to mention, it would be great to see the Yankees bust their asses to get into the playoffs only to lose in the first round.

Now the bad news. There are two things that scare me in a 5-game series against Cleveland.

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Fausto Carmona

Both of these guys are legitimate #1 starters. They both have 18 wins and sub-3.20 ERAs. They challenge hitters and are fearless. Add Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Casey Blake, and you’ll see the Indians are for real. What Boston has going for them is they’ve been in the playoffs before and have big-game players in Big Papi, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. The Indians’ lineup is young and untested. The playoffs are a whole new ball game. Teams that are great in the regular season sometimes crumble on the big stage. This could be a big opportunity for them to showcase their talent.

As a Red Sox fan, which scenario would you prefer?

Playoff scenario #1

The Red Sox have made the playoffs. Yippee. This is the extent of my excitement. Everyone knew they were going to make the playoffs. I really want to see them win the AL East for the first time since 1995.

But would it be better if Boston came in second and was the wild card? The way I understand it, if Boston wins the division, they play the Cleveland Indians in the first round. If Boston is the wild card, they would play the San Diego Angels of Oakland, or whatever their stupid name is these days.

Of these two scenarios, I think the Sox match up better with the Angels, even if the Angels have home field advantage. Boston always plays well against these guys. Remember the 2004 playoffs, when the Red Sox dominated them? Or even this year, when the Sox were on the verge of a series sweep until they put in Eric Gagne. The Angels have a good team that plays hard, steals bases, and is really good defensively. They have superstars in Vlad Guerrero and Garret Anderson, and quality starting pitching. But I think they all shrink in the clutch. Their superstars don’t step up and carry their team, and their pitching has the tendency to look ordinary. I know they’ve won their division three out of the last four years and won the World Series in 2002, but if they meet the Sox in the playoffs, they are going to get their butts kicked again.

Next up: The potential Red Sox/Cleveland Indians matchup.