Angels Gearing Up for Halo-Turned-Rival John Lackey, Red Sox in Three-Game Set

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July 26, 2010

Angels Gearing Up for Halo-Turned-Rival John Lackey, Red Sox in Three-Game Set If their success against the Halos back in May was any indication, the Red Sox have to be happy to see the Angels again.

Boston used a four-game series sweep in early May against Anaheim to crawl above .500 for the first time since winning their Opening Day tilt over the Yankees. The Red Sox bats were on fire, as the team averaged nine runs a game in the series. The Sox arms cooled the Angels, holding them to one run in two separate contests.

The Red Sox could use some resuscitation at the plate in the upcoming series, as they have plated four runs or fewer in 10 of their last 11 games. Enter the Angels? struggling pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.40 ERA, but has showed some life as of late, limiting opponents to three runs or less in seven of their last nine. The addition of Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks should be the kick in the pants the rotation needs.

The return of Victor Martinez — he could be in the first game of the series on Monday — should help bolster the struggling lineup.

Boston has to be pleased with the trio of Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Josh Beckett getting nods. Buchholz and Beckett had a chance to shake off some rust in Seattle after stints on the DL, and Lackey is fresh off flirting with a no-hit bid.

The Angels counter with Joel Pineiro, Jered Weaver and perhaps Haren, as Joe Saunders — who was shipped to Arizona in the deal — was penciled in to start Wednesday afternoon's series finale. Weaver and Saunders each pitched gems against the Rangers but, similar to Red Sox pitchers recently, received two and zero runs, respectively, from their teammates.

The Red Sox and Angels enter the series remarkably similar: struggling at the plate, impressing on the mound and falling further back in the division. For some help sorting out the teams? similarities and an in-depth look at the upcoming series, Chuck Richter of Angelswin.com shared his thoughts with NESN.com.

NESN.com: What is different about this Angels team that the Red Sox saw in May and swept in four games? 

Chick Richter: Well for starters, they lost their most productive hitter in the lineup in Kendry Morales. Secondly, the Angels corner outfield defense steadily declined from below average to poor. Hideki Matsui and Juan Rivera have poor range in left field and Bobby Abreu is the worst right field outfielder in baseball on the defensive side — I don't think I've ever seen anyone worse going back on a ball in the outfield. Speaking of which, Abreu, Rivera and Matsui, who all performed well after Morales went down for a few weeks, have all been unspectacular offensively this season — thus far.
 
Two other items different from the Angels you saw in May come in the form of personnel changes
 
We have a new third baseman in Alberto Callaspo who is a big upgrade from what Brandon Wood provided to this point and on Sunday the Angels replaced Joe Saunders in the rotation for Dan Haren, another gigantic upgrade.

NESN.com: The Angels rank No. 11 in the AL in team average, but rank sixth in runs and fifth in homers. Is this an all-or-nothing team when it comes to putting runs on the board?

CR: Quite different from the Angels' club you're used to right? It's no wonder they're chasing the Rangers. The Angels are not playing the type of ball that has made them so successful over recent years, as stolen bases are down, defense is below average and they're not capitalizing with RISP. Sure, the Angels are scoring runs and hitting homers, but this club hasn't fired on all cylinders this season. One game the offense is great and the pitching is terrible, resulting in a high scoring loss or late inning bullpen meltdown.  

NESN.com: Will Tuesday's probable matchup against John Lackey be an opportunity to see an old friend or a chance for sweet revenge? 

CR: Red Sox fans should appreciate this when remembering Johnny Damon. Yes, it will be sweet revenge, no doubt.
 
Sure he was the Angels' ace for long period of time and he won Game 7 of the World Series — that will never be forgotten.
 
Besides whining to the media about his teammates and management while he was with the Angels, the bottom line is, John Lackey left the Angels for their postseason rival, the Boston Red Sox. A true slap in the face to the fans. So yes, we have forum threads and blog posts on Lackey throughout the season, updating the fans on what has been an unspectacular season for such a highly paid pitcher.
 
Because he beat the Angels in Boston back in early May, it would be great to send Lackey to an early shower while he ponders the beautiful weather, beaches and sea of red at Angel stadium he left in exchange for a peppered green monster, a pesky pole and a .291 BAA at Fenway Park. You won't find many Lackey fans at Angelswin.com, the internet home for Angels fans. Though the fans already had a love-hate relationship with Lackey to begin with.

NESN.com: The Angels have a surprisingly high ERA, hovering just below 4.50 as a team. Jered Weaver and the inconsistent Ervin Santana are carrying the load (sub-4.00 ERAs). Do you expect the likes of Haren and Scott Kazmir to turn things around? 

CR: The team ERA is bloated a bit by Scott Kazmir and a bullpen that is below average at best. I would say that Weaver, Haren and Santana are the best 1-2-3 punch in the American League and possibly right there with the St. Louis Cardinals Top 3 (Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia). Joel Pineiro is a pretty solid No. 4 guy with three complete games this season (including a shutout) and an ERA that is just a tick above 4.00 after getting hit hard by the Yankees last week. If the Angels can get Kazmir back on track, like they did with Saunders last season after putting him on the DL with a mysterious injury, the Angels will sport the best starting five in the game for the stretch run against the Rangers, who usually fade in the August and September heat.

NESN.com: The Red Sox series is sandwiched between a home-and-home series against the AL West-leading Rangers. Will the Angels be peeking at the three games after the series with the Red Sox and possibly lose focus?

CR: Absolutely. Once Boston leaves town I can speak for all Angels fans when I say that we will be rooting for the Red Sox to sweep the Rangers. We have more games with the Rangers later on, but we'll be rooting for all teams to beat the Rangers from here on out. 

Thanks again to Chuck Richter from Angelswin.com for helping us out. Be sure to check out his Halos blog by clicking here.

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