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Angels know direction home

They clinch best overall record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. They'll face Boston in the first round.

September 27, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

It's been more than two weeks since the Angels learned they'd be going to the playoffs.

But it wasn't until Friday that they found out who, when and where they'd be playing.

With Tampa Bay and Boston losing earlier in the evening, the Angels clinched home-field advantage for the duration of the postseason despite being routed, 12-1, by the Texas Rangers.

And with its loss Boston was eliminated from the American League East race, leaving it to advance to the playoffs as the AL wild card.

Add it all up and it means the Angels will open the playoffs Wednesday in Anaheim against the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

"We wrapped up home field," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Now we're going to get ready for our next challenge."

By finishing the regular season with the league's best record, the Angels also got their choice of playoff schedules -- an eight-day series beginning Wednesday or a seven-day format starting a day later. Choosing the longer series allows the Angels to go with a three-man starting rotation -- bypassing struggling right-handers Jered Weaver and Jon Garland -- while keeping everyone pitching on their normal four days' rest.

"It's good. I'd rather be on my regular rest," said John Lackey, who will start Game 1 followed by 16-game winners Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. "Have my work on the regular days and just go about it normally."

Yet that choice is risky because it means the Angels could face Boston's Josh Beckett and Jon Lester twice in five games.

However, the Angels appear to have a couple of other edges against the Red Sox, who stumble into the postseason a bit the worse for wear. Third baseman Mike Lowell, who missed a week because of a partially torn labrum in his right hip, returned to the lineup and batted once Friday at rainy Fenway Park. He said he'll try to play through the pain -- if not the rain -- in the playoffs.

But outfielder J.D. Drew, limited to two at-bats since Aug. 16, had his sore back reexamined Friday and his status is uncertain, as is that of center fielder Coco Crisp, who has a bad foot.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Last October it was the Angels who went into the postseason in Boston down a starter (center fielder Gary Matthews Jr.) and with two others (Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson) ailing. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox swept the series.

So don't expect Boston to get any sympathy from Scioscia.

"My focus is in-house. I'm worried about what we're going through," Scioscia said. "At this point every team is going to be nicked up. And we are also."

Yet with outfielder Juan Rivera and second baseman Howie Kendrick both playing together in the field for the first time in a month Friday, just six days after third baseman Chone Figgins returned to the lineup, the Angels are the healthiest they've been in weeks.

Plus, the Angels, who hadn't won a season series from Boston in six years, dominated the Red Sox this season, winning their last eight games with the World Series champions.

And then there's the home-field advantage.

Tampa Bay, Boston and Central Division leader Minnesota all have better home records than the Angels. But all are below .500 on the road.

"It's important, but it's only important if you play well," Scioscia said. "If you don't play well it doesn't matter what field you're playing on. You're not going to advance."

In the meantime, the Angels have one other goal they'd still like to accomplish. With one more victory they'd become the first team in franchise history to win 100 games -- and the first in the majors to do it since the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals.

"One hundred wins will be nice. But it's just a number," Scioscia said. "There's some things this weekend [that are] important. We turned everything inside out and I think we have a good idea of what we'd like to do and how we want to proceed."





Divisional playoff series, Angels vs. Boston (times TBA):

Wednesday: at Angels

Friday: at Angels

Oct. 5: at Boston

Oct. 6: at Boston*

Oct. 8: at Angels*

* -- if necessary

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