Historically, the Red Sox have fared well against the Angels.
The Sox swept Orange County's favorite sons in the 2004 and 2007 AL Division Series, going on to win the World Series both times. So history is on their side.
But what does that matter? The past is behind us. This is a new season. The Angels should have tons of confidence based on their success against Boston in 2008; they absolutely owned the Sox this year, going 8-1. In fact, they owned everybody, finishing with an MLB-best 100 wins.
The playoffs are all about being simultaneously hot and healthy. The Angels were all banged up last year. They had a MASH unit taking the field against the Red Sox during the 2007 ALDS. It's a different story this year. This time it's the Sox who are all banged up.
Mike Lowell and JD Drew will either be absent or limited, at best. And as a result, the Sox will suffer from diminished offensive power.
Lowell had 17 HR and 73 RBI this season, in limited action due to two stints on the DL. His hip is in such bad shape that it will require offseason surgery. And if the Sox weren't in the playoffs, he'd probably be under the knife this week. That will have to wait, for at least a little while longer.
Drew has had just four at-bats since August 17. He's suffering from an aggravation of an old herniated disc injury. This season Drew stroked 19 HR and 64 RBI. His speed, defense, and hitting will be diminished, if not lost entirely.
The Sox will try to take up the slack by utilizing Mark Kotsay in right and Sean Casey at first. It probably won't help much; the pair combined for just six homers and 66 RBI this season -- that's just six more homers than Johnny Pesky. You get the point.
Then there's Josh Beckett and his strained oblique. Beckett is arguably the best big-game pitcher of his generation (6-2, 1.73, in nine starts), but this was a down year for him. He went from 20 wins in 2007, and a runner-up finish in the Cy Young balloting, to a 12-10 record with an ERA over 4 this year. That's solidly mediocre, and now he's hurt too. Beckett had his second-worst outing of the season on July 30 against the Angels, when he allowed eight runs in 5.1 innings of a 9-2 loss.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21) looked like the staff ace this year, throwing a no-hitter, and leading the team with two complete games and 210 innings.
However, with a team-leading 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA, Daisuke Matsuzaka would seem to be a Cy Young candidate. Crazy stat: Opponents are 0-14 against him this season with the bases loaded.
The guy sure does whistle his way through the graveyard, doesn't he? He's got to be the sloppiest 18-game winner, sub-3 ERA pitcher, I've ever seen.
In last year's ALDS, Dice-K went just 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and three runs, in a no-decision. His cumulative post-season pitching line looks like this: 2-1 (with 1 no decision), 5.03 ERA, 17 strike outs and 22 hits, in 19.2 innings over four starts.
The Angels hit .305 and averaged 6.8 runs in the nine regular-season meetings, while the Red Sox batted .252 and averaged 3.7 runs. Los Angeles' ERA was 3.60, Boston's was 6.23.
The bottom line is that Red Sox pitchers haven't fared well against the Angels this year; the Red Sox no longer have Manny Ramirez in the lineup; and two of their most potent and important remaining bats are questionable, at best. On top of that, the Angels have home field advantage.
It's for these reasons that I predict an Angels victory in the ALDS. After losing nine consecutive playoff games to the Red Sox, they're due to turn it around and come out on the winning end.
That said, I really hope I'm wrong.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.
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