video thumbnail

TOR@BOS: Dice-K dazzles through seven one-hit frames

The Angels briefly ignored their historical abuse by the Red Sox to sweep the 2009 American League Division Series between the teams, starting it with back-to-back wins in Angel Stadium. The Red Sox seem bent on not letting them forget that.

Teams have a lot of ways to assess a season's success, and many early indications of how well it might go. The Angels' barometer may as well be the Boston Red Sox. In 2008, Los Angeles went 8-1 against Boston, and went to the playoffs; last season, the Angels went 1-9 against Boston, and went nowhere in October.

The Red Sox haven't lost in Angel Stadium since Game 2 of that ALDS, making it five straight wins with Friday night's 4-3 decision. Overall, Boston has taken 11 of the last 12 meetings with the Angels, outscoring them 76-41 in the process.

The responsibility of braking, or at least slowing, that trend befalls Ervin Santana, who tries again for his first victory, this time opposite Daisuke Matsuzaka.

For a change, Santana does not have a tough act to follow: Dan Haren couldn't be bailed out of a rough start on Friday, denting the perfection he had shared with Jered Weaver. But keeping up with the dual aces never was Santana's concern.

"I try to be perfect like them," he said, "but I have to be myself. Nobody can try to be somebody else."

The Angels just want the righty to try to be the Santana who averaged seven-plus innings for his first three starts while surrendering three runs in each -- not the one raked for 10 hits and six runs in Texas on Monday.

"The first couple of starts, he was getting the ball out of the middle of the plate. It was down," detailed Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "In Texas, he has having trouble getting in that zone. It's really about fastball command with Ervin. The ball was elevated [in Texas]. He missed a lot of spots and paid a price for it."

A virtual stranger to the Angels, Dice-K makes the fourth start of his five-year career against them, and first in Angel Stadium, on quite a roll. He came out of his previous start, Monday against Toronto, with seven one-hit innings and 16 consecutive batters retired.

His biggest recent enemy, however, has been inconsistency. Matsuzaka has not has consecutive quality starts since last July 19-25.

"Well, as long as Daisuke has been pitching, you get in that class, these type guys are really good at turning the page and getting on to the next start," said his pitching coach, Curt Young.

Compared to the six days of rest he had prior to his last start, Dice-K will make this one on the routine four days' rest.

"He took a couple extra days rest after that start against Tampa Bay and then got right back on his cycle," Young said. "I think extra rest can help any of these guys, even at this early stage of the season, just to give that arm extra time to recover."

Matsuzaka plans to not give the Angels offense any time to recover. His pitching savvy could certainly continue to exploit a young lineup that on any give day can include two or three players with less than a full season of Major League experience.

"Our younger guys are holding their own," Scioscia said. "They're studying the game, the pitchers. We've got veterans who are trying too hard with runners in scoring position. That trend will reverse itself moving forward."

Red Sox: Youkilis expects Saturday return
• Kevin Youkilis is expected back in the lineup Saturday after negative X-rays on his left shin. Youkilis had to come out of Thursday night's series opener early after fouling a ball off the shin.

• Youkilis' absence caused quite a lineup shakeup: Jacoby Ellsbury led off for the first time since Game 6, and David Ortiz moved into the cleanup slot for the first time this season.

• Team captain Jason Varitek, on his .043 average: "Oh, I'm locked in. You can't hit much worse. I don't mean that in a funny way. I can't. I've never hit this bad."

Angels: Haren takes first loss
• The two unearned runs allowed in the fourth inning by Haren doubled the total he had given up in his prior 22 starts, reverting to his Arizona Diamondbacks days.

Worth noting
Manager Terry Francona celebrated his 52nd birthday on Friday by guiding the Red Sox to their fifth win in nine games on the day. As a manager, his overall birthday record is 6-5 (splitting two games, with two byes, during his 1997-2000 tenure at the helm of the Phillies). Comments