10/07/2004 9:12 PM ET
Angels take Game 3 fight to Fenway
Anaheim must weather rowdy Fenway crowd
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
|Bronson Arroyo and Kelvim Escobar take the mound for Game 3 in Boston on Friday. (AP Photos)
BOSTON -- A few minutes after his team's disheartening loss in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Mike Scioscia sat behind a table in Angel Stadium's interview room, saying repeatedly, "Testing ... testing."
The Angels' manager, showing the patience of a real angel, was merely helping troubleshoot a cranky microphone.
But he could just as well have been referring to his lineups. He keeps looking for the right combination, but that's not working, either.
It has not been a matter of where he plays Chone Figgins or Dallas McPherson or Alfredo Amezaga. But the fact that he has to play them.
"We have a lot of confidence in them," said Scioscia, speaking of his lesser experienced Angels. "We look for them to play better baseball. If it happens, we will turn this series around."
And if it doesn't, the Angels will turn around after Friday afternoon's Game 3 in Fenway Park, and head home.
It is not looking good for the Angels, the 16th team in 54 five-game postseason series in baseball history to go 0-2 at home.
Of the previous 15, only the 2001 New York Yankees came back to win the series, against the Oakland A's. Ten of the 15 were swept.
On the other hand, the Red Sox are a portrait of perfection. For two games, everything has leapt right off the drawing board for them.
Top starters Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez both pitched into the seventh innings. Heavyweights Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz have driven in six runs total.
Even the bullpen blueprint has been perfect, highlighted by a Game 2 eighth inning, when Terry Francona went from Mike Timlin to Mike Myers to Keith Foulke on consecutive batters and got a strikeout from each of his three relievers -- in what was still a one-run game.
As hosts of the next two games, the Red Sox are set up to clinch a postseason series at home for the first time since 1986, when their American League Championship Series victims were the Angels.
Fenway Park is a tourist trap under ordinary circumstances. Boston's 55-26 home record was the best in the Majors.
Under the extraordinary conditions in which Bronson Arroyo will try to finish off the series against Kelvim Escobar, the place will have a pulse all its own.
"Obviously, we'll be excited," Francona said. "This is a great place to play. With the playoff atmosphere, it will be special."
The manager conceded that amid the surrounding emotion, his players will have to tone it down a bit. They won't be dressing in shoulder pads, after all.
"We are not going to go out and try to knock people down like a linebacker," said Francona.
But there is room even in this game for an extra layer of aggression, to take advantage of a weakened opponent. That will be Arroyo's intent in his first postseason start.
"You know, when you're down, 2-0, and it's a do-or-die game like it is for them," Arroyo said, "it allows you to go out and try to be aggressive early in the game and just try to establish the strike zone."
Scioscia has received some funny looks for opening the series with left-hander Jarrod Washburn, but the Angels' manager knew what he was doing when he set up his rotation.
Having Washburn work in Anaheim saved Escobar for Fenway Park, where the former Toronto reliever is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA over his last seven appearances, holding Boston hitters to a .197 average.
While Washburn's erratic start was decisive in Game 1, the Angels' undoing in Game 2 was the result of their bullpen.
Bartolo Colon hung tough enough for six innings, and some good plays (catcher Jose Molina's second-inning pickoff of Mark Bellhorn off second with the bases loaded) to balance some bad plays (Figgins' bobble of Johnny Damon's roller for an infield single that helped set up Ramirez's bases-loaded walk in the same inning) left the issue unresolved in a 3-3 tie.
Then, it was startling to see Frankie Rodriguez lose by allowing the tie-breaking run in the seventh, and Brandon Donnelly allow four more in the ninth for the 8-3 final.
How startling was it? While K-Rod appeared in 69 games during the season, Donnelly in 40, Wednesday's game was just the second time all year that both relievers had allowed runs in the same game.
"That was great," Francona conceded. "Because they feel good when they get to their bullpen."
"They got to one of the best bullpens in baseball," Scioscia said. "Our relievers have been terrific all year. You've got to give them credit. They got it that time.
"These first two games, they've taken it to us. We haven't done things offensively that we need to do, and we'll have to take our aggressiveness back to that level [on Friday]."
If they can't rebound on Friday, the Angels will add a new chapter to what had already been a checkered postseason history prior to their inspirational run to the 2002 World Series.
The Halos had never won a postseason series until going all the way to that title. However, they can also draw upon the fact that they have never been swept in a postseason series, either.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.