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No saving them

After Angels rally from an early deficit to tie, Rodriguez gives up a ninth-inning homer to Drew

October 04, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Torii Hunter implored his teammates to get that "dawg" in them, an attitude the Angels center fielder described as a mixture of confidence, bravado and swagger and not an ounce of timidity.

Ervin Santana, the Angels' fine young right-hander, brought a pooch, putting his team in a four-run, first-inning hole. The Angels' offense brought a pit bull, roaring back to tie the score in the eighth.

But in the end, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who set a major league record with 62 saves this season, couldn't put the collar on the Boston Red Sox.

Rodriguez, who entered in the eighth inning for the first time this season, gave up a leadoff double to David Ortiz and a two-run home run to J.D. Drew in the ninth, as the Red Sox pulled out a dramatic 7-5 victory in Game 2 of the American League division series.

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the final six outs in Angel Stadium, and the Red Sox took a commanding two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-five series, which shifts to Fenway Park for Game 3 Sunday.

"This team has some fight in it, a lot of it," said Hunter, who remained in the game after injuring his left knee while arguing an umpire's call in the third inning.

"As long as we have a game left, a breath left, we're going to keep fighting and scratching and clawing to stay in this series."

The odds are not in their favor. Since division series play began in 1995, 35 teams have gone down 2-0. Only five have come back to win the series, the last being the Red Sox over the Oakland Athletics in 2003.

The Angels have now lost nine straight playoff games since 2005 and 11 straight playoff games to the Red sox dating to 1986, the longest string of postseason mastery one team has ever had over another.

If the Angels are to avoid their third division series sweep at the hands of the Red Sox in five years, they'll need some production from the bottom of the order.

The final four batters in the lineup went one for 15 Friday night, including Howie Kendrick's 0 for 5 with four strikeouts, and they are two for 31 in the series.

They also need to do a better job in the clutch. Though they racked up 11 hits Friday, they went three for 14 with runners in scoring position, stranding two runners in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings and leaving the bases loaded in the seventh, and are four for 21 with runners in scoring position in the series.

"Hitting with runners in scoring position has been our Achilles' heel," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We had to play catch-up tonight, and we finally caught up, but things haven't fallen the way we want them to."

Things looked promising for the Angels when Chone Figgins led off the eighth with a triple to right-center off reliever Justin Masterson, the Angels' first extra-base hit in the series.

Boston Manager Terry Francona summoned Papelbon, who got Garret Anderson to pop to third and gave up a sacrifice fly to Mark Teixeira that tied the score, 5-5.

But Reggie Willits couldn't make a leaping grab of Ortiz's drive off the right-field wall in the ninth, and Drew. who entered the playoffs having played only two games since Aug. 17 because of a bad back, crushed a changeup, which has been Rodriguez's best pitch this season, for a two-run homer to center for the game-winner. It was only the fifth homer Rodriguez has yielded this season.

"I was just trying to square the ball up, get it out there, and with his speed, he would have been able to score," Drew said. "I got down two strikes and put the barrel on the ball enough to get it out of the park, so it worked out well."

The Angels had pulled to within 5-4 in the seventh on Mike Napoli's two-out, bases-loaded walk off Masterson, but Erick Aybar struck out to end the inning.

Though the Angels also scored in the first inning on Hunter's RBI single, in the fourth on Figgins' RBI single and in the fifth on Hunter's RBI single, each inning ended in frustration, the Angels letting Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka off the hook.

With runners on first and third and two out in the first, Rivera grounded to short. With runners on first and third and two out in the fourth, Anderson struck out on a changeup. With two on in the fifth, Rivera struck out, Kendrick flied out and pinch-hitter Kendry Morales popped out.

"We had some good at-bats, we battled to get back into the game, which is a positive," Figgins said. "But now, as a team, we have to come through more in the clutch."

After getting the first two hitters of the game, Santana gave up singles to Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and Drew's RBI double.

Jason Bay, whose two-run homer keyed Boston's Game 1 win, drove a pitch into the rock pile beyond the center-field wall for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead, and you could almost hear the air hissing out of all those noise sticks in the crowd.

Almost four hours later, it was Drew's homer that left the Angels deflated.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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