The Red Sox repeat World Series title run will continue on to the American League Championship Series.The Angels provided more of a challenge this year than they did last year, but they had good reason to.
To start, the Angels did not have the injury problems that plagued them last year. They also pitched better, giving up an ERA of 4.50 as opposed to last year's 6.66. Arguably the biggest difference, however, was the addition of Mark Teixeira, who was one of the hottest hitters in the series.
The Red Sox were a different team this year. The lack of Mike Lowell was an obvious difference, but I will get to him later. As a team, the Red Sox are not as powerful offensively as they have been in the past. Ortiz has lost power, Manny is gone (although Bay provided some fireworks), and Varitek is not the hitter he used to be. Their offense is built to produce doubles now. It is not a bad thing, but they can't rely on three-run homers anymore, and they know that.
As for Mike Lowell, he is a pretty big loss, but more for his bat than his defense. Kevin Youkilis has shown that he can play third base almost as well as Lowell. Mark Kotsay figures to replace Lowell in the lineup for the ALCS. Kotsay is a quality bat and a decent fielder, so he should do fine.
The Sox will square off with their division rival, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays will be a tough opponent for Boston due to their versatility. They can run, they hit for power, and they have a very good pitching staff. I expect the series to go beyond four games. It is very possible that it will be a six or seven game series.
The Red Sox have shown that they can beat the Rays, and the Rays know that they can beat the Sox. The series could go either way and should be exciting to watch. If the Sox can beat Tampa Bay, they will be one step closer to a repeat World Series championship.