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Is it all just a hill of beans?

Angels will face Boston again in playoffs, despite best efforts to contrary. They say it doesn't matter.

September 28, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

In two of their last three trips to the playoffs, the Angels suffered embarrassing first-round sweeps at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. So this summer they set out to avoid Boston altogether in the division series, rolling to baseball's best record in the regular season to earn a postseason opener against the American League's wild-card team.

What they didn't figure on was Boston's being the wild card. Yet that's exactly where the Red Sox wound up when the surprising Tampa Bay Rays -- managed by former Angels bench coach Joe Maddon -- clinched the AL East title two days ago.

"I did not call Joe today, no," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday when asked if he had congratulated Maddon.

No need to hold a grudge.

Because while the Red Sox and Angels will be wearing the same uniforms they wore last year when the division series begins Wednesday in Anaheim, they won't be the same teams that met in the 2007 playoffs.

"It's totally different from last year," said John Lackey, the Angels' starter for Game 1. "I don't think we're looking at last year at all. We're just trying to maximize the potential of this team."

It's a team that can set a franchise record with its 100th victory if it wins today's regular-season finale with the Texas Rangers. The Angels had a chance to set the record Saturday, but Texas beat them, 8-4, roughing up starter Ervin Santana, with Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis homering on consecutive pitches in a three-run second inning.

However, Santana, who gave up a season-high eight runs in 5 2/3 innings in the Angels' second straight loss, also ran his season strikeout total to 214, the most by an Angels right-hander since Nolan Ryan fanned 223 in 1979.

But back to the Red Sox, who are responsible for eight of the Angels' major league-best 99 wins this year, marking the first time in seven years the Angels have won the season series with Boston. All of which means . . . well, probably nothing, Scioscia said.

"If you go historically you can point to references for both sides, where a team has played very well against another team and continued it in the playoffs. Or teams that have been dominated by a team and come out and played well," he said. "But really it's academic. This is a whole second season. A whole different set of circumstances."

Including some circumstances that, in the last two days, have turned against the Red Sox. On Friday, World Series MVP Mike Lowell's return from a torn labrum in his hip ended after one at-bat, leaving his status for the playoffs uncertain. Also uncertain is outfielder J.D. Drew, who has batted twice since Aug. 16 while battling a bad back.

And if that wasn't enough, Boston's game with the Yankees was washed out Saturday, leaving them to play a day-night doubleheader today, the last day of the season.

Meanwhile, the Angels, the first team to clinch a playoff berth, have spent much of the last three weeks getting healthy and setting their pitching for the postseason. That's a luxury they didn't have before their last two playoff series with the Red Sox.

"Once we got in you're starting to get a lay of the land, see who you're going to be playing, where you're going to be playing," Scioscia said. "We've been geared up, ready to go."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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Playoff schedule

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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