Spin Forward: Stopping Boston's duo
In Game 3, Weaver must contain Red Sox's Ortiz, Ramirez
ANAHEIM -- Seventy years after Paul and Lloyd Waner tormented the National League as the Pirates' Big and Little Poison, a new toxic pair is on the loose in the 2007 postseason."Pick your poison" has emerged as the cliché of the American League Division Series, as the Red Sox's David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have taken turns hurting the Angels. In Game 1, it was Ortiz's two-run homer. In Game 2, by walking Ortiz a DS-record four times, Los Angeles picked Ramirez, who answered with a walk-off three-run homer in the ninth inning on Friday. So the surest key to beating the Red Sox clearly is to stop both, and Jered Weaver may be just the antidote. During the course of the entire 2007 season, Ortiz and Ramirez were both held hitless in the same game they started only six times. The Sox went 0-6 while scoring a total of only eight runs in those games. And one of the pitchers to apply the double-collar was Weaver. The Angels' young right-hander, in fact, was the most recent to do so, on Aug. 6 at Angel Stadium in Los Angeles' 4-2 victory over Curt Schilling -- a pitchers' duel that will be re-enacted in Sunday's Game 3 at 3:07 p.m. ET. The pregame grilling of Weaver focused on his other run-in of the season with Boston, on Aug. 18, when the Red Sox raked him for six runs in 4 1/3 innings to beat him, 10-5, at Fenway Park. Cornered to explain that aberration, Weaver said, "Obviously, they've got a great lineup up and down. Anybody can hurt you." But left unmentioned was the Aug. 6 mini-masterpiece in Anaheim. Weaver went six innings, allowing six hits and two runs and keeping the Poison Pair hitless in five at-bats, with a strikeout of each. Sunday's stakes, of course, will be a bit higher, the screws turned a little tighter than for a regular-season game at the outset of the dog days.
It will be Weaver's first start as a 25-year-old, a birthday he celebrated on Thursday."I'm going to try not to treat it differently than any other game," Weaver said. "I'll try to keep my heart in my shirt." That would be almost as important as keeping Ortiz and Ramirez in the park. In four career starts against Boston, Weaver has been taken deep twice by Ortiz. "There's more than David Ortiz to worry about in that lineup," said Weaver, 24-9 in a season and a half with the Angels. "So I'm just going to try to pitch my game." Game 3 -- either pivotal or terminal -- will revolve around far more than just Weaver's battles with the Poison Pair. Although, how he handles them early will certainly be critical to the Angels' currently very fragile psyche.
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"Both those guys are terrific, and we've talked about it all week," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "But in certain situations, we just have to take our chances with some matchups."In the ninth-inning situation that arose on Friday night, some might have expected Scioscia to have closer Francisco Rodriguez also intentionally walk Ramirez, loading the bases with two outs. Alas, such evasion would simply have brought up Mike Lowell, who, while perhaps lacking the celebrity of the Poison Pair, actually led the Red Sox with 120 RBIs. Given the game's vitality, Weaver, lest he show absolute dominance, may not even stay on the mound for long. The grassy path from the Angels' bullpen may be worn out by the late innings. The Halos can talk all they want about unleashing their aggressive running game, even get it rolling at an optimum level, and it still may not do much good if their hustle runs are negated by a couple of swings by the Poison Pair.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.