Mike Scioscia‘s troops got to Jon Lester on Thursday and to Josh Beckett on Friday, effectively tearing down Boston’s two best pitchers en route to a commanding 2-0 series lead in the ALDS. Beckett was spectacular through six innings but gave up three runs in the seventh as the Red Sox dropped a tough 4-1 contest to the Angels. Meanwhile, Angels starter Jered Weaver was almost perfect, allowing one run on two hits in 7 1/3 innings.
This is a situation the Angels have never faced against Boston. Now, all the Halos need is one win at Fenway Park to ensure a trip to the ALCS and send the Red Sox packing for the year. The only thing that stands between the Red Sox and a three-game sweep is Clay Buchholz.
Angels 4, Red Sox 1
Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, Calif.
Oct. 9, 2009
Headliner: Was Weaver exactly what the Boston bats needed? Apparently not. The Angels' starting pitcher — who entered the game 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA in four regular-season starts against Boston — was just as good as John Lackey was on Thursday night. Weaver allowed just one run on two hits with six strikeouts on Friday. His one iffy inning was the fourth, when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a triple and eventually came around to score on a one-out single by Victor Martinez. The run snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak in postseason play for Boston.
Dirt Dog: Beckett pitched just as well as Jon Lester did on Thursday, but he still received the same treatment: barely any run support. And this one can't be blamed on the umpiring crew. Boston's No. 1.5 starter lasted 6 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and a single walk in six innings. The Angels got to Beckett once in the bottom of the fourth, when Bobby Abreau led off with a single and came home on a Kendry Morales sacrifice, and again with two outs in the seventh.
Better Luck Next Time: Are the Red Sox hitting a huge offensive slump at the wrong time, or are they just running into some really, really good pitchers? Probably the latter, but regardless, if Boston hopes to advance anywhere but home this October, it has to start making something happen in the clutch. The Red Sox' key to this series is getting the starting pitchers out of the game and trying to get to the Angels' bullpen, and for the second straight night, Boston couldn't do it, mustering a meek effort against Weaver and letting him last deep into the ballgame.
Last season, the Red Sox capitalized on bad mistakes by the Angels and ended up taking the series. Back then, their offense struggled mightily, too. It appears that not much has changed, except now the Angels aren't making mistakes. Boston's offense needs to find its groove — fast.
Key Moment: Beckett was so close to getting out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh. He started the inning with a walk to Vlad Guerrero — who was promptly replaced by Howie Kendrick — but then got two outs when Morales lined out and Juan Rivera grounded out. But in the process, Kendrick stole second, and as always, Angels baseball bit Boston. When Maicer Izturis singled to center with two outs, Kendrick easily scored from second to put the Angels up 2-1.
Erick Aybar — who started the Angels' fifth-inning rally against Lester on Friday — struck big with a two-out triple to seal the deal for L.A.
On Deck: Buchholz's biggest test comes on Sunday, bright and early at 12:07 p.m. at Fenway Park. He will be making his first postseason appearance (he missed the '07 playoffs because the Red Sox were worried about his mounting innings count) and looks to rebound from a rough couple of outings. In his last two starts, he has surrendered 13 hits and 13 runs in 11 innings. Still, though, the young righty went 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in September. He hasn't faced the Angels this season, and now he'll face them in the biggest possible pressure situation.
His opponent will be old nemesis Scott Kazmir, who was traded from Tampa Bay to L.A. late this season. Kazmir has more career starts against Boston than any other club and is 8-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 23 total regular-season starts against the Red Sox. He faced Boston twice in the ALCS last year, allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2 and then submitting 6 2/3 shutout innings in Game 5 before Boston made its famous comeback against the bullpen to win 8-7.