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Heaven Help 'Em: L.A. Angels' Embarrassing Loss Will Only Inspire Postseason Run

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2009

BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 15:  Torii Hunter #468 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is congratulated by teammate Howie Kendrick #47 after Hunter scored a run in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox on September 15, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox defeated the Angels 4-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It is hard to imagine a more pathetic loss than the one handed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday night.

Up by a run with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park, Angels closer Brian Fuentes gave up two walks and three singles, including a bases-loaded game-winning bloop to left, to hand the Boston Red Sox a 9-8 victory.

The walk issued to Nick Green that forced in the tying run was controversial, to say the least—Green appeared to first go around on a check swing that would have been strike three, then took a 3-2 pitch down the middle at the knees that was called a ball—but the fact remains Fuentes didn't get the job done.

Again.

Fuentes has blown seven saves this year, converting 42 of 49 opportunities. A quick fan might tell you that former Angel Francisco Rodriguez also blew seven saves last year. 

But a quicker fan will point out that Frankie also had 20 more opportunities, converting 62 of his 69 save chances and shattering the single season saves record. 

Oh, and his ERA was a sparkling 2.24.

Fuentes' is a muddied 4.35.

Of course, Fuentes' performance was but the cherry that topped an embarrassing night all around for the Halos. Three times they had the lead, and three times they blew it with poor fielding and nervous pitching.

But as bad as that game was—and there really is no other word for it—there is a silver lining to be found amidst the rubble and humiliation of Wednesday.

The Angels may have finally found the inspiration they need to beat the Red Sox in the postseason.

I know, I know. But please, hear me out.

Last year, the Angels entered the playoffs with the best record in all of baseball. The only 100-win team in either league, many experts picked them to at least make the World Series, if not win the whole thing altogether.

The pressure was on as they took the hopes of Southern California and the expectations of many more to bat against their playoff nemeses—the Boston Red Sox.

And they got trounced.

The Sox took three out of four games from the Angels in the 2008 American League Divisional Series, marking the third time in five years that Boston eliminated L.A. of A. in the first round of the playoffs.

Going all the way back to 1986, the first time these two teams met in the postseason, the Halos have dropped 13 of 17 October contests to the Red Sox, resulting in four straight series lost.

It's difficult to call an affair this one-sided a true rivalry, but that may all be ancient history after this year.

Wednesday's loss was as weak as any the Angels have had in recent memory, but that embarrassment is now permanently etched in the collective mind of this squad, and that is a very good thing.

The Angels and Red Sox are on a collision course to face off once again in the first round of the playoffs, so what better bulletin board material could there be than Wednesday's slap to the face?

Forget coaches and players calling each other out. This is about honor and dignity, the pride of the Angels.

No one likes to have their pants pulled down on the field the way the Angels' were, especially not in front of Red Sox Nation. 

Now, they'll seek out their revenge in the playoffs.

Earlier this season, the Angels hit an awful skid and were playing listless, uninspired baseball before manager Mike Scioscia lit a fire under his team and catapulted it into first place in the AL West.

Wednesday's loss should serve much the same purpose for these Halos, who've fallen into another offensive funk after leading the league in numerous categories, including batting average, average with men on base, and runs scored.

If they expect to get anywhere this postseason, the Angels have to confront their demons head on and be fearless in the face of Fenway. 

That embarrassment has to be the catalyst for a whole new approach to the season and beyond.

It's already started to take effect; just look at Thursday's game.

Sure, four runs in nine innings isn't exactly an offensive explosion, but the Angels played with a look of determination and burning desire in their eyes.

They have not had a four-game losing streak all season, and they weren't about to start now.

The starting pitching has been there for a month now, but suddenly the defense was clicking again, and the hits started coming in clutch situations—mostly off the bat of Howie Kendrick. 

It seemed like, if ever there was a time for the Angels to beat the Red Sox in the postseason, 2008 would be it. 

Now, that sentiment has to be reserved, and rightly so, for 2009.

This year, the Angels have the best starting rotation they've ever had, speed at the top and bottom of the lineup, and significant power threats in no less than four starters—five, if catcher Mike Napoli ever breaks out of his slump.

All that was missing was the fire to overcome their past, and Wednesday's shameful display may have provided the spark.

So enjoy your regular season series victory, Red Sox fans. We'll see you in the playoffs.

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