By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
About The Boston Red Sox:
The 2007 World Series Champions Red Sox look to regain their title after Tampa Bay knocked them out of the ALDS last season.
They come in as the AL wild card, clinching it with a 95-67 record. This is a much different team than the 2007 Championship squad, but they have the tools to get back there. It starts with their pitching, behind Josh Beckett (17-6, 199 Ks) and Jon Lester (15-8, 225 Ks).
Look for either Daisuke Matsuzaka or Clay Buchholz to get the Game 3 start. Jason Bay is the new Manny Ramirez, and has shown up the former star quite well, with a .267 average and 36 home runs in 2009. He once again takes the pressure off of David Ortiz, who after struggling, bounced back with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs.
Mid-season acquisition Victor Martinez, hitting .336 since being acquired by Boston, fills in nicely with Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the rest of the Boston squad, who are stacked from top to bottom. Despite some middle inning bullpen issues, if they can get to the eighth inning, look for Billy Wagner to set up nicely for lights-out closer Jonathon Papelbon (1.85 ERA, 38 saves).
About The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
The AL West winner is still looking for title number two, but those pesky Red Sox are in the way again.
The Angels finished the season at 97-65. A more patient approach at the plate has worked out for them, as they are second in the AL in runs scored and sixth in walks. Howie Kendrick has hit .379 since the All-Star break, but the addition of Bobby Abreu (.293, 103 RBIs), and the emergence of Kendry Morales (.306, 34 HR, 108 RBIs), has helped the squad adjust to a declining Vladimar Gurerro. The starting pitching is so deep, 11-2 Matt Palmer is coming out of the bullpen. John Lackey needs to shake off his past performances against Boston (3-7, 5.00 ERA), so he can get out of game one with a win. The Angels bullpen is suspect, which explains why they lead the majors with six complete game shutouts. Look for some of their deep rotation to be thrown in middle and long relief.
The Red Sox seems to have the Angels number in the playoffs, winning the last three series by nine games to one. However, Los Angeles isn’t worried about the past, as they took the season series 5-3, scoring 47 runs, a much greater output than the 16 they put in the three playoff series. Boston has a great pitching squad, and the Angels will have to preach heavy patience in order to tire them out. The Red Sox arguably have one of the best teams from top to bottom, but the Angels have a strong pitching presence, that, if they can work them into the late innings, will work in Anaheim’s favor.
This series could start Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the play-off game in the AL Central. Either way, both teams are ready, and Los Angeles is extremely excited to shake off the three-playoff series losing streak. However, I don’t see Boston letting that happen, and Boston wins it in five.