Series Glance: Angels-Red Sox

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports


Games 1 and 2 at Boston, Wednesday and Friday.
Game 3 and Game 4 (if necessary) at Anaheim, Sunday Oct. 7 and Monday, Oct. 8.
Game 5 (if necessary) at Boston, Wednesday October 10.

What got the Angels here: The Angels won their third American League West title in four years behind solid pitching at the top of their rotation (John Lackey won 19 games, Kelvim Escobar 18 and Jered Weaver 13), just enough bullpen and their usual offense – Vladimir Guerrero and downhill baserunning. They led the league in going first to third on singles and steal bases all over the lineup. The Angels withstood summer-long pressure from the Seattle Mariners, then cruised into the playoffs when the Mariners collapsed in early September.

What got the Red Sox here: After finishing near the bottom of the league in pitching last season, the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, scrapped their plan to move Jonathan Papelbon from the ninth inning into the rotation, then had Josh Beckett become a Cy Young Award candidate. They still had plenty of offense, though their big signing there – J.D. Drew – didn't do much and Manny Ramirez missed a month near the end of the season. The division title is their first in 12 years, unseating the New York Yankees.

Angels difference-makers: Vladimir Guerrero failed to hit 30 home runs for the first time in a full season, but batted .324, drove in 125 runs and should again finish in the top five in the AL Most Valuable Player voting. A sore right triceps has kept Guerrero from playing right field for a month. As a DH, he's batted .270. John Lackey won 19 games and led the AL in earned-run average. The Angels' Game 1 starter, Lackey, is 1-6 with a 6.27 ERA in 11 career starts against the Red Sox, 1-4 and 7.46 at Fenway Park.

Red Sox difference-makers: Despite back, knee and shoulder ailments, David Ortiz batted .333, with 35 home runs, 117 RBI and 110 walks. The only left-hander in the Angels' bullpen is Darren Oliver, and he has been more effective against right-handed hitters. In his walk year, Mike Lowell had his best offensive season (.326, 21 home runs, 120 RBI) and is still one of the league's better third basemen.

Angels unlikely hero: Maicer Izturis batted .308 in the second half and .347 in September, and for the season hit .406 with runners in scoring position. Not a prototypical run producer, Izturis has occasional pop and had a lot of big hits for the Angels.

Red Sox unlikely hero: Coco Crisp's second season in Boston went only a little better than the first, but he could be a factor when the series goes to Anaheim. Crisp, an L.A. native, is a career .357 hitter at Angel Stadium, his highest average in any park in which he has played at least 10 games.

Why the Angels should win: The back end of the bullpen, a consistent advantage during the Mike Scioscia era, looked better in the past week, after a shaky second half. The Angels didn't score, pitch or defend better than the Red Sox in the regular season, but their aggressiveness at the plate and on the basepaths could turn a short series. Garret Anderson had 65 second-half RBI, becoming the bat the Angels have needed behind Guerrero.

Why the Red Sox should win: The Red Sox had among the best starting pitching in the AL, and clearly the best relief pitching, and the Angels can be pitched to. In their careers against the Angels, Josh Beckett is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and Curt Schilling is 6-2 with a 3.67 ERA. Daisuke Matsuzaka has never faced the Angels, which should benefit Matsuzaka. Manny Ramirez has been back from his oblique strain for a week, completing the Red Sox lineup.

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