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Bill Shaikin / ON BASEBALL

Lights have gone out in Anaheim, and Angels are powerless to stop it

October 04, 2008|Bill Shaikin

In the parking lot, the halo was dark. So was Angel Stadium, empty and still.

If a stadium had emotions, this one would be forlorn, drained, exhausted, disappointed. The Angels did not go quietly, and neither did their fans.

It might take six months to recover from this one, starting today. The Angels won't play here again for six months, barring a miracle.

The promise of summer faded into the silence of October. You might not be back here until April.

Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira might not be back here at all, at least in a home uniform.

"That makes this loss pretty tough on me," Teixeira said. "I don't want Sunday to be my last game as an Angel. I want to keep this thing going."

The Angels spotted the Boston Red Sox four runs, then tied the score in the eighth inning and had Rodriguez on the mound in the ninth. They lost, and not just for want of a home run.

That's two losses, and with them the prospect of sudden death in Fenway Park. The Red Sox are one victory from a three-peat, one win from sweeping the Angels out of the playoffs in 2004 and 2007 and 2008.

"They've been beating us," Garret Anderson said. "It's very obvious. Everybody here is aware of it."

The Angels almost beat the Red Sox at their own game, taking pitches and taking walks, then taking our emotions from despair to anticipation and back, then doing it again.

They had us believing. They were down four runs in the first inning, three runs in the fifth inning, two runs in the seventh inning, one run in the eighth.

And then -- holy Scott Spiezio! -- the Angels had tied the game. All even, into the ninth, with their record-setting closer on the mound.

David Ortiz, double. J.D. Drew, home run. Red Sox 7, Angels 5.

That's two ninth-inning losses for Rodriguez in his last two playoff appearances -- last year in Boston, this year in Anaheim.

That's three home runs for the Red Sox in this series, none for the Angels. That's nine extra-base hits for the Sox, one for the Angels.

That's two victories for the Sox, none for the Angels.

The Angels just might have played their last home game of the season, not that Torii Hunter would entertain the thought.

"Hell no," Hunter said. "You don't think like that as an athlete. If you hear anybody say that, let me slap them."

The Angels did so many things right, but not enough.

Teixeira got on base four times, with three hits, scoring three runs. Vladimir Guerrero got on base four times, with three hits.

They got Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka out of the game after the fifth inning. They got as many hits off him -- eight -- as any team has gotten this season. They made him throw 108 pitches in those five innings.

They got into the sixth inning with Ervin Santana, who barely got out of the first.

They got the potential go-ahead run to the plate with none out in the fifth inning, with none out in the seventh and again with none out in the eighth.

Yet, for a team that relies on the clutch hit amid a shortage of power, they're batting .190 with runners in scoring position. In two games, they have left 21 men on base.

"We had a ton of baserunners," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just couldn't finish it off."

Chone Figgins led off the eighth inning with a triple, sliding into third base and thrusting his fist into the sky as he stood up.

That was the Angels' first extra-base hit in the series, after 19 singles.

The Sox, up 5-4, turned to closer Jonathan Papelbon, with an unwitting assist to Scioscia. Since Scioscia had chosen the series with Thursday and Saturday as rest days, Boston Manager Terry Francona did not need to hesitate about using Papelbon for two innings Friday.

Teixeira hit a sacrifice fly to tie the score. The Angels had fought back from a 4-0 hole, and a 5-1 hole, but that would simply make defeat all the more painful.

No sooner had the Angels tied the score than Ortiz, their October nemesis, led off the ninth with a double off Rodriguez.

One out later, Drew launched his home run, high and deep, beyond right-center field and into the night. Rodriguez turned to watch, hands on hips, staring at the ball as it defied his wishes.

He stood and stared, for more than a few moments. That might have been the last image of him here, if not the lasting image.

He, like Teixeira, is a free agent. He might not be back. The Angels won't be back here until next season, unless divine intervention can light up that halo in the darkness of the parking lot.

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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