Halos search for an enabler vs. Sox
Escobar looks to hold Sox at bay so offense can break through
BOSTON -- If the Los Angeles Angels are to get back into the American League Division Series -- and divert this city of Boston's attention from whom the Red Sox will get to beat in the ALCS -- they could start by getting into someone's bullpen.They have not done so in postseason play since Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS, after which the rotation of the Chicago White Sox went into route-going mode -- Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras throwing consecutive throwback complete games. On Wednesday night, it was Josh Beckett's turn, making it five straight October complete games against the Angels -- the only complete games against any team in the last 90 postseason affairs (reverting to Jose Lima's shutout in Dodger Stadium on Oct. 9, 2004 in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals). "We have more offensive depth, more options, than we had in 2005," said Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia, pointing out that even its Game 1 win in that ALCS was a low-scoring (3-2) decision. "We just need the trigger of some batter's box offense. That's all we're talking about now." The enabler may need to be Kelvim Escobar, who starts Friday night's Game 2 against Daisuke Matsuzaka, a pitcher the Angels have never faced. They can pore over all the scouting reports and videotape they want, Scioscia argued, but nothing will educate them more about Dice-K than actually facing him. In other words, the Angels will be better equipped to handle Matsuzaka the second time around the lineup. It becomes Escobar's task to keep the Red Sox in control until then, giving the Angels, handicapped when playing from behind, a chance to play from ahead. Considered by many Los Angeles' most fearless pitcher, Escobar matches up well with that assignment. This season, he held opponents to a .229 average through the first three innings -- and .199 through the first two. None of those opponents were the Red Sox, however. Escobar has not faced Boston since Aug. 23, 2006, and last pitched in Fenway Park a month prior to that. "He has a lot of deception," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "You have to make him bring the ball up in the zone by laying off those low sinkers.
"We did a great job [Wednesday, against John Lackey] swinging at strikes. If we keep doing that, we'll have a better chance against Escobar, too."In the course of the long season, the Angels have been far from the anemic team on display the last week -- counting the final five regular-season games, they have scored 10 runs in their last six games. While they can't play deep ball with a team like Boston, the Angels were the AL's fourth-highest scoring (822 runs) and fourth-best hitting (.284) club. "If we get on a roll, we can stay on fire for a long time. I believe in them," Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said of his charges. "We've always been able to turn the page. All year long, these guys have been able to bounce back. "If we get a chance to play our game, I'm confident we'll be able to manufacture some runs for our pitchers."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.