ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Jered Weaver(notes) followed in John Lackey’s(notes) day-old footsteps throughout the night, all the way to his final triumphant walk off the Angel Stadium mound. He even waved his cap at the standing, cheering crowd with nearly the same sweep of his arm.
Weaver yielded two hits while dominating Boston into the eighth inning, and Maicer Izturis(notes) drove home the tiebreaking run in Los Angeles’ 4-1 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night, extending the Angels’ first-round lead to 2-0.
Erick Aybar(notes) followed Izturis’ RBI single with a two-run triple during the Angels’ two-out rally in the seventh to break up a stellar pitching duel between Weaver and Beckett, Boston’s ace and most reliable playoff pitcher.
“These two guys were matching each other pitch for pitch,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I thought we did a really good job of staying focused, settling down. … The only way we’re going to beat good pitching is to pitch with them, and we were able to do that the first couple of nights.”
Weaver was comprehensively better than Beckett in just his second career postseason start. He allowed just four Boston baserunners and struck out seven while matching Lackey’s 7 1-3 innings in Los Angeles’ streak-snapping shutout victory in Game 1.
“It’s always nice going up against a lineup like that,” Weaver said. “You know that if you make any mistakes, they’re going to hurt you. … Hopefully these two (wins) will carry us into Boston with some positive momentum.”
The Red Sox eliminated the Angels in three of the past five postseasons, winning nine of 10 games, but Boston has mustered just one run and eight hits in this series. After twice outpitching Boston’s best starters and coming through with timely late-inning hits, Los Angeles is one win away from its first AL championship series since 2005.
“We want it,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter(notes) said. “I mean, I can’t say we want it more than those guys, but we definitely want it. I’m pretty sure they want it, too. It’s just not working out for them. We’ve just got to keep putting the pressure on them and stay hungry. You’ve got to kick somebody when they’re down, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Aybar’s hit chased Beckett, who yielded five hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings during his first playoff loss in a Red Sox uniform. It was his first defeat in nine postseason starts since Game 3 of the 2003 World Series with Florida.
“A lot of guys in here have been here before,” Beckett said of Boston’s 0-2 deficit. “It’s not the ideal start. … I felt good for six innings, (but) just not making pitches when I needed to.”
Although the Red Sox scored their only run of the series in the fourth on Victor Martinez’s(notes) RBI single, Boston’s sixth playoff run in seven seasons is in serious trouble against the Angels, who had lost 12 of their last 13 playoff games against the Red Sox before taking the first two at Angel Stadium.
“We’ve had a tough time these last two games swinging the bat, that’s an understatement,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
Boston got the tying run to the plate in the ninth with Kevin Youkilis(notes) doubled off Kevin Jepsen(notes) and Jason Bay(notes) drew a two-out walk from Brian Fuentes(notes). Although Red Sox fans might have conjured visions of Dave Henderson’s memorable ninth-inning homer for the Red Sox in Anaheim at Game 5 of the 1986 AL championship series, Fuentes retired Mike Lowell(notes) on a fly to center for his first career postseason save.
Weaver just completed his best pro season, going 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA as the Angels’ most dependable starter. Despite a late-season three-game losing streak, he has been largely outstanding since mid-August, pushing the Angels to their fifth AL West title in six years.
“When he’s in a zone, man, he’s pretty impressive,” Hunter said of Weaver. “His off-speed is like a cartoon curveball, and tonight he hit like 91 (mph), and I hadn’t seen that in a long time. He was very amped up, and it was a tremendous job by Weaver. Lackey and Weaver, man, those are bulldogs to me. I love ‘em.”
Both teams combined for just seven baserunners over the first 6 1/2 innings of Game 2, but free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero(notes) drew a walk from Beckett to open the Angels seventh. After pinch-runner Howie Kendrick(notes) swiped second—no surprise for one of the majors’ most active teams on the basepaths—Izturis worked the count before driving Beckett’s 94th pitch into center for the go-ahead run.
Izturis, the second baseman who batted .300 in his breakout regular season, missed last fall’s playoffs with a thumb injury, and he sat out Game 1 in favor of Kendrick. He spent the year playing stellar infield defense alongside Aybar, the young shortstop who posted career highs in most hitting categories this year.
“In the first at-bats, I was trying to pull the ball too much,” Izturis said through an interpreter. “In that situation with the big hit, I just tried to hit the ball back up the middle, and I hit a curveball.”
Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) led off the fourth with a triple over Hunter’s outstretched glove in center and later scored on Martinez’s single, ending Boston’s string of 20 consecutive scoreless postseason innings. The Red Sox didn’t score in the final eight innings of Tampa Bay’s series-clinching Game 7 win in last year’s AL championship series, and Lackey blanked them in Game 1.
NOTES: Except for a lingering headache, Francona was mostly recovered from a brutal 24-hour bout of what he suspected was food poisoning. … Ellsbury’s triple snapped an 0-for-24 playof skid for Boston’s leadoff hitter.
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