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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: ANGELS VS. BOSTON

Won-lost record means little now

October 01, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna

The Red Sox have won nine straight playoff games against the Angels dating to 1986. The Angels were 8-1 against the Red Sox this season. Which is more relevant in the division series? Here's a look at the issues and matchups when the Angels play the Red Sox:

Numbers game

The Angels had the best record (100-62) this season, but that lofty status hasn't meant much to teams in the past.

Only twice since the advent of division series play in 1995 has the team with baseball's best record won the World Series, the 2007 Red Sox and the 1998 Yankees.

The Angels think that statistic is irrelevant, just like the Red Sox think their 1-8 record against the Angels this season won't be a factor, just like the Angels think their two division series sweeps at the hands of the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and their 4-12 record in the playoffs since winning the 2002 World Series won't have a bearing.

"You have to throw all that stuff out the window," Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "It's like when St. Louis (83-78) won the World Series in 2006 with the least amount of wins. Sometimes the team that wins 100 games doesn't win the World Series."

Said Angels center fielder Torii Hunter: "What you do in the regular season means nothing."

Run, Forrest, run

The Red Sox finished third in the league with 120 stolen bases and were caught 35 times, a 77% success rate. Jacoby Ellsbury led the league with 50 stolen bases, and Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp swiped 20 each.

Countering Boston's running attack will be Angels catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, who combined to throw out only 25 of 109 base-stealers this season.

"They absolutely run more, and they have a high success rate," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "And they do it at times that are important to the outcome of the game."

Expect Angels pitchers to vary their times in the stretch and to use an occasional slide-step to the plate.

"There are some things we'll put in place to help control the running game," Scioscia said, "but not to the point where you distract the pitcher from making a pitch."

The ice pack is on the other foot

Last year, it was the Angels who were ravaged by injuries during a division series in which they were swept by the Red Sox.

Gary Matthews Jr. sat out the series because of a knee injury, Vladimir Guerrero was slowed by bad knees and a triceps injury, Garret Anderson could barely see out of his right eye because of an infection, and Casey Kotchman spent Game 3 in the hospital because of food poisoning.

This year, the Red Sox are hurting, with Mike Lowell (hip), J.D. Drew (back) and ace Josh Beckett (oblique) battling injuries and shortstop Julio Lugo out because of a torn quadriceps.

"Last year, Vladdy was hurt, G.A., by the end of the series, looked like Muhammad Ali at the end of the Joe Frazier fight, it's a completely . . . it's the same team, but with different personnel," Matthews said. "We're deeper, with good health."

Back to basics

The Red Sox spent almost the entire first hour of a two-hour workout Tuesday working on pitchers fielding practice, bunt defense and infield defense.

The Angels may have added significant power with their July 29 acquisition of Mark Teixeira, but Boston Manager Terry Francona has faced Scioscia enough to know what his teams do best.

"They play an aggressive style of baseball, and if you're not prepared for it, they can run you into problems," Francona said.

No comparison

Scioscia won two World Series rings as a Dodgers catcher and one as an Angels manager, and there was no question which he cherishes most.

"As far as winning as a manager or a player, that's a no-brainer," Scioscia said. "It's as a player.

"When you're in your backyard playing with your friends or your brother and you're out there making up those games, you're the guy who's in the batter's box in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and hits a grand slam, not the manager who makes the pitching change that hopefully wins the game."

Win shares

Lost in all the talk about how the Angels and Red Sox thump the ball is the fact that the team's starting pitchers finished one-two in the major leagues in victories, with the Angels getting 73 wins from their rotation, two more than the Red Sox got from theirs, according to STATS LLC.

And if Beckett is able to pitch Game 3 for the Red Sox, the series will feature three of the league's four top winners over the last two seasons in Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka (33 wins) and Beckett (32) and Angels' starter John Lackey (31). Only Toronto's Roy Halladay (36) has more.

Last word

Francona, when asked if he thought Guerrero, a notorious bad-ball hitter, was no longer the power threat he once was:

"We certainly respect his ability to do damage. I've said it numerous times, there's not a pitch you throw that Vlad doesn't think he can hit. You can throw it off his shoe tops, you can throw it head high, and he can leave the ballpark on any swing.

"When you talk about missing off the plate with him, you better miss off because he's swinging that thing."

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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STATS Corner

The Red Sox have dominated the Angels in their last two postseason series. But the situation has been reversed in their last eight regular-season meetings, with Francisco Rodriguez's performance exemplifying the sharp turnaround, according to statistics compiled by STATS LLC:

How the Angels have fared against Boston in the postseason (PS) since 2004 compared with their last eight regular-season games (RS):

*--* -- PS RS Record 0-6 8-0 Runs per game 2.7 6.9 Runs given up per game 7.3 3.3 Starter ERA 5.65 3.57 Bullpen ERA 6.93 1.89 *--*

How the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez has fared against Boston in the postseason compared with this season :

*--* -- PS 2008 Appearances 3 5 Record 0-2 0-0 Saves 0 5 ERA 7.20 2.08 Opp. BA 263 133 K-BB Ratio 1.5 6.0 *--*

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