10/02/08 3:00 AM ET
Angels on wrong end of Game 1 duel
Lackey's mistake tips momentum in Boston's favor for good
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
A demoralizing 4-1 loss has the Red Sox -- the Halos' October demons -- needing to hang two more on the team with the Majors' best record to claim the American League Division Series.
John Lackey pitched superbly, except for one pitch Jason Bay sent deep into the night in left field to turn a one-run lead into a one-run deficit. Vladimir Guerrero lost his way on the bases and was thrown out from here to Nantucket trying to go from first base to third on a single. The Angels had chances to hurt Red Sox starter Jon Lester early, but the lefty's cutter sliced them up when it counted.
There was more, but those were the crucial elements in a galling defeat that left the Angels grasping for answers. They have a day to absorb it all and cast aside all the negative thoughts before sending Ervin Santana out on Friday night in a Game 2 showdown against fellow bazooka Daisuke Matsuzaka.
"It's only one game," Guerrero said through broadcaster Jose Mota's translation. "We have to keep our heads up and go forward, play the game the way we can."
Guerrero's ill-advised excursion on Torii Hunter's looping single beyond first baseman Kevin Youkilis' reach came with one out in the eighth inning, the Angels down by a run. It drained the emotion from the hometown fans, and very possibly the hometown team.
"It was behind me, and I didn't know if the ball was going to drop or not," Guerrero said. "If I had taken off and run hard all the way, I might have been doubled off. I kept running. If I had seen [third-base coach] Dino [Ebel] telling me to stop, I would have stopped.
"I feel bad, but it's over now, and we have to go on."
Lackey also felt frustration over his one miscalculation. Facing Bay for the first time, the Angels' ace made the painful discovery that the new Boston bomber can make you pay if you leave a fastball in the wrong place.
Having struck out Bay twice with curveballs, Lackey was rolling along with two outs in the sixth, Youkilis having reached on a walk, when a heater up and in Bay's wheelhouse was launched.
"You can't throw the same pitch every time," Lackey said. "This is the big leagues."
And this was the 10th loss in a row in postseason play by the Angels against the Red Sox, the defending World Series champions.
Lester, mixing offspeed stuff with a heater that varied from 92-95 mph, held the Angels to one unearned run through seven masterful innings. The lefty proved to be more than adequate in his stand-in role for Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, who was pushed back to Game 3 with a muscle strain in his side.
Turning away the Angels in order in the seventh, Lester departed with seven strikeouts against one walk, having scattered six hits.
Game 1 tidbits
|· Teams that go up 1-0 in the ALDS are 12-14. By contrast, teams that go up 1-0 in the NLDS are 23-3.|
|· The Red Sox have tied the all-time mark for postseason wins against one team at 10, matching the Oakland A's vs. the Red Sox (1988-2003). They also were tied with the Yankees vs. Rangers for the longest current streak.|
|· The Red Sox are now 23-6 in the postseason since 2004, including four series sweeps.|
|· The Red Sox have won Game 1 in each of their past four series.|
|· Jason Bay is the seventh player in Sox history to homer in his first career playoff game, the first since Todd Walker in 2003. He is the seventh native of Canada to homer in the postseason. (The Dodgers' Russell Martin became the sixth earlier Wednesday.)|
|· David Ortiz's RBI single in the ninth extended his Red Sox record for postseason RBIs to 39.|
|· The Angels have lost eight consecutive postseason games, including five in a row at home.|
|· Vladimir Guerrero has no extra-base hits in his past 53 postseason at-bats and just one in 64 total postseason at-bats.|
|· The entire Angels Division Series roster is now 2-for-42 against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.|
Right-hander Justin Masterson escaped the eighth with the aid of a sprawling catch by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury -- who robbed Mark Teixeira of his third hit -- and by Guerrero's risky venture toward third. Youkilis' throw found Mike Lowell about 10 feet away from the bag, and he was able to apply the tag.
Hunter, whose two-out RBI single in the third inning gave Lackey the lead, felt the big right-hander deserved a better fate after going 6 2/3 innings and limiting the Red Sox to four hits and three walks, while striking out three.
"Lackey pitched his butt off," Hunter said. "We had a lot of opportunities and didn't capitalize. You've got to give Lester credit. He was nasty. He made pitches when he needed them."
The Angels, who won the final eight games against the Red Sox in the regular season to go 8-1 in the season series, haven't beaten Boston in postseason play since Game 4 of the 1986 AL Championship Series. The Red Sox swept the Angels in the ALDS in 2004 and '07.
It was the first career postseason homer by Bay, the former Pirates slugger acquired when the Red Sox sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-team swap at the Trade Deadline.
Lackey was in trouble with his fifth pitch of the game. Ellsbury, who had three of Boston's eight hits, planted it off the wall in right-center field for a leadoff double, but he was stranded at third when Youkilis grounded out.
The Angels loaded the bases in the bottom of the first on singles by Garret Anderson and Teixeira and a Hunter walk, but Howie Kendrick grounded into a forceout to end the threat.
Anderson's second single and a two-out error by shortstop Jed Lowrie on Guerrero's grounder were cashed in when Hunter fought off a cutter and dropped it into left to deliver Anderson. A .366 hitter with runners in scoring position in the regular season, Kendrick left two more stranded with a grounder to Lowell at third.
"Lester's cutter started over the inner half of the plate and was cutting in on your hands," Kendrick said. "I had a few opportunities where I could have gotten the job done, but he made his pitches.
"We've got to come back Friday and play our game against Matsuzaka. We have to get in our game and do our job -- pitch, hit and play defense."
Two-out singles in the fifth by Teixeira and Guerrero presented Hunter with another RBI chance, but he grounded back to Lester.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia lauded the work of Lackey and bemoaned lost chances to bust the game open in the first, third and fifth innings.
"John pitched a terrific ballgame and certainly gave us a chance to win," Scioscia said. "Early runs are going to be key in this series, and we got one. But we couldn't mount enough against Lester to pad it and give John leeway to pitch. He didn't make many bad pitches tonight, and the one he made was to Bay."
With two outs in the seventh, Ellsbury hit a line drive that Gary Matthews Jr., charging forward, misjudged in right, the ball sailing over his head for a three-base error.
Lackey left to an ovation after walking Pedroia. Darren Oliver struck out Ortiz to keep it a one-run game.
Run-scoring singles in the ninth by Ellsbury and Ortiz against Scot Shields gave Jonathan Papelbon a cushion to close, and he did so with a flourish by striking out the side.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.