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RED SOX FYI

For Angels, playing Red Sox might be a steal

Boston has had little success stopping runners, giving up 151 stolen bases this season, worst in the majors.

October 08, 2009|Kevin Baxter

If the Red Sox hope to keep the Angels' potent offense in check, they'll have to start by shutting down the running game -- something they haven't been able to do all season.

Boston gave up 151 stolen bases this season, 19 more than any other team, and threw out only 13% of would-be basestealers, also the worst figure in the majors.

That plays right into the Angels' strength, because Mike Scioscia's team features six players who stole at least 11 bases, including leadoff hitter Chone Figgins, who was fourth in the American League with 42 steals.

"It's no secret that's a big part of their game, the running game," Boston catcher Victor Martinez said in Spanish. "The best thing is to keep those guys off the bases. But at the same time, they're pretty good hitters."

Boston bullpen coach Gary Tuck, one of baseball's top catching instructors, said that although catchers frequently take the blame for stolen bases, the responsibility for keeping runners close starts with the pitcher.

"If you hold them good enough, you've got a chance," Tuck said. "If not, it doesn't matter who's behind the plate. Johnny Bench or whoever."

In that case, the Red Sox have the right man on the mound tonight. Although left-hander Jon Lester gave up 19 stolen bases during the regular season, his six pickoffs were second-best in the American League.

"You just have to be conscious of varying your looks and your holds," Lester said. "But at the same time, you can't take the focus away from the hitter at home plate."

Sitting and waiting

Jason Varitek has caught 1,381 games for the Red Sox, the most in franchise history. But he isn't likely to start tonight and might not catch at all in the series.

Martinez, who batted .336 in 56 games with Boston, is expected to get most of the playing time behind the plate. But if Varitek is unhappy about that, he isn't saying so publicly.

"There's one job to do and that's to support my teammates," said Varitek, who has batted .134 since the Martinez trade. "All I can do is go and do what I do and be a good teammate.

"You can't control, really, your playing time. But you can control the other parts of what you can contribute. And it might not be by playing. It may be just being on the bench. It's not the time of year, really, to be selfish."

Big Papi production

David Ortiz was hitting .188 with one home run three games into June before getting himself on track, finishing with 28 homers and 99 runs batted in. But none of that -- neither the good nor the bad -- matters tonight, he said.

"There's no tomorrow," he said. "You've got to go and play your best. If they catch you sleeping, you know where you're going to be. The next round you're going to be watching from home."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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