MLB Postseason Preview: Red Sox vs. Angels

Boston Red Sox (95-67) at Los Angeles Angels (97-65) 

LAARed Sox

OVERVIEW

In 2004 and 2007, the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS en route to winning the World Series. I really hope that doesn’t happen again. People always make a big deal about Red Sox “having the Angels’ number” in the postseason. But the truth is that those teams were different from these teams: The Angels didn’t have Kendry Morales, Torii Hunter or Scott Kazmir, and Boston didn’t have Victor Martinez, Jason Bay or a steroidless David Ortiz. This series will actually probably come down to some marquee pitching matchups: Lester v. Lackey, Beckett v. Weaver.

THE LINEUPS 

It’s hard to believe, but the Angels more or less experienced no drop-off offensively when Mark Teixeira left last off-season. Kendry Morales, combined with the frugal but wise acquisition of Bobby Abreu, have actually made the 1-5 hitters in this lineup (Figgins-Abreu-Hunter-Guerrero-Morales) very scary.

The Red Sox lineup is harder to gauge: Jason Bay seemed like an MVP candidate for the first three months of the season, then cooled off dramatically, then picked it up a bit in September. David Ortiz had an atrocious first half, but has taken out the old syringe hitting stick and quietly become a power hitter again. Victor Martinez has been a great addition for them, but it puts them in an odd position of having to bench Jason Varitek (shouldn’t be that hard, but he’s the sentimental favorite and captain) or Mike Lowell.

THE ROTATIONS 

I’m always a little down on John Lackey as an ace, but he has actually had a very formidable second-half, plus he has the coveted and intangible “playoff experience.” Not to mention the fact that this a free agent year in, and he is the best pitcher on the market, and that’s been known to result in some exceptional playoff performances. The acquisition of Scott Kazmir has also nicely rounded out their rotation. He has been excellent in six starts with LA, and he always pitches well against Boston.

People are going to give Boston’s rotation credit for having “been there before,” but the truth is that I’d be worried if I were a Red Sox fan. The depth of this rotation isn’t very good, and they will likely have to use four starters in this series. Lester is as good as any ace in the postseason, but Beckett’s been lackluster down the stretch, Clay Buchholz looked good for a while but got shelled by Toronto and Cleveland in his last two starts, and relying on Dice-K or Wakefield in a potential Game 4 would make anyone uncomfortable.

LINGERING QUESTIONS

TIM: Seriously, Jason Kubel? Kendry Morales? Get yourself a league!

JOHN: Just imagine how excited FOX is: Cuddyer! Figgins! It’s the ALCS on FOX!

TIM: Why isn’t Jon Lester that good anymore? What happened to that guy?

JOHN: Lester’s still good, he just doesn’t go deep into games very often. He’s more of a six-inning guy, although that may change in the playoffs. It’s the rest of the rotation that’s weak.

TIM: Is Clay Buchholz really their Game 3 starter? And Tim Wakefield made the All-Star Team!

JOHN: They might go with Matsuzaka in Game 3. He’s been good in four starts since coming off the DL, but that guy was Chien-Ming Wang levels of bad this year before he got hurt.

TIM: Is putting “playoff experience” in quotes a shot at me? Name me one guy on the Yankees who has started and won Game 7 of the World Series.

JOHN: Yeah, it was a truly a miracle that the ’96-’00 Yankees won four World Series titles without a single guy starting and winning Game 7 of the World Series. Good players are good in the playoffs, it’s just that smaller samples are magnified on a the higher stage.

TIM: What’s the deal with the Angels’ rotation? From what I recall, Kelvim Escobar, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana have all been both great and awful within the last few years. And has Joe Saunders officially replaced Joe Mays as “Most Nondescript Pretty Good American League Pitcher of the Decade”?

JOHN: Escobar hasn’t pitched since 2007. Joe Saunders had a pretty good year last year, but has been mostly mediocre throughout his career. Ervin Santana only pitches well in even numbered years, and Joe Mays was only “pretty good” for like a four month stretch.

TIM: Who do you want to see in the ALCS?

JOHN: The Red Sox. The Yankees always have trouble with the Angels, in the regular season and the postseason, and we’ve won nine of our last ten against Boston. I may not be able to take the emotional strain of another Yankees-Red Sox ALCS, but I’d rather see Boston.

TIM: Yeah, I could see them giving the Twins problems.

JOHN: That hurts, Tim. Who are the Mets playing, btw?

TIM: Is there any logical reason to pick the Red Sox besides “They have the Angels’ number”?

JOHN: Well, someone like you who thinks “playoff experience” is like magical fairy dust that gives pitchers special powers might think Lester/Beckett will dominate the Angels.

TIM: Who ya got?

JOHN: I’ll take the Angels in four, with Kazmir pitching a gem in a pivotal Game 3 in Boston.

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