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Brian Fuentes nails it down for the Angels

Closer gets the ninth inning to himself and sets down Red Sox 1-2-3.

October 12, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna and Bill Shaikin

BOSTON — This was not a routine save for Brian Fuentes, and not just because this game clinched the Angels' victory over the Boston Red Sox in the American League division series.

Fuentes inherited a one-run lead to start the ninth inning and retired three batters in order to close the Angels' 7-6 come-from-behind victory. He had done that only once since the All-Star break.

Yet there he was, a four-time All-Star closer at the bottom of a dog-pile for the first time in his career.

"I finally did it," he said. "It definitely felt nice to win this series, and to get that last out was really special. I'm enjoying the moment."

Fuentes led the major leagues with 48 saves, but he was erratic enough in the second half that Manager Mike Scioscia would use rookie Kevin Jepsen to start a ninth inning, then bring in the left-handed Fuentes when a left-handed hitter came up.

"Mike has stuck with me through thick and thin," Fuentes said. "I feel I can get anybody out at any time. That's his job, to tell me when to pitch, and I'll go whenever he needs me. To have the whole inning to myself feels awesome."


Off the hook

Scott Kazmir "wasn't the happiest man when I left the mound" on Sunday, but a few hours later, the Angels left-hander was "the happiest guy alive."

The Angels acquired Kazmir from Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 with an eye toward the playoffs. The 25-year-old had an 8-7 career record and 3.59 earned-run average in 23 games against the Red Sox and was 6-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 games in Fenway Park.

But after blanking the Red Sox through two innings Sunday, Kazmir gave up three runs in the third on Dustin Pedroia's two-run double and Victor Martinez's run-scoring single and two in the fourth on J.D. Drew's homer to center.

Kazmir recovered to throw scoreless fifth and sixth innings before handing the ball -- and a 5-2 deficit -- to the bullpen.

The Angels rallied for their first playoff sweep in club history.

"To come back like that, wow, you couldn't have written it up any better," Kazmir said. "No one thought we'd have a chance against the Red Sox. To sweep them . . . that makes a statement right there."


Relief effort

Boston reliever Daniel Bard, armed with a 98-mph fastball, replaced starter Clay Buchholz with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and got Juan Rivera to bounce into a double play, a run scoring, and Maicer Izturis to pop to short.

Bard then struck out two of three in a scoreless seventh before yielding to Billy Wagner and closer Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth.

"I was more comfortable with Papelbon pitching in the eighth and ninth than seeing Bard," General Manager Tony Reagins said. "We've had good at-bats against Papelbon in the past. And once you see a pitcher so much, you get a comfort level. You're not intimidated. You get good at-bats after good at-bats."

The Angels got solid relief work from right-hander Jason Bulger, who threw a scoreless seventh, and left-hander Darren Oliver, who got the last out of the eighth to gain the win.


Short hops

Kendry Morales got the Angels on the board Sunday with a solo home run to right field off Buchholz to pull the Angels to within 3-1 in the fourth inning. . . . The Angels limited Boston to seven runs in the three-game sweep. It was the fewest runs scored by the Red Sox in any three-game stretch of the postseason since they were held to three runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 division series.


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