10/10/09 11:34 PM ET
Angels ready to go after late arrival
Scioscia not concerned with early turnaround for Game 3
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"We had a walk-through, let the guys play some catch, stretch it out a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We took some batting practice. I think it's important for the guys to keep their edge. They wanted to work out. It was good we got a chance to do it this morning."Eagerly waiting for the Angels are the Red Sox, unaccustomed to chasing the Halos from behind. Boston is determined to avoid the fate of the Cardinals, who were unable to use hometown mojo to avert a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers on Saturday night in St. Louis. There will be no talk about a possible first Interstate 5 World Series from Scioscia's troupe, which keeps a remarkably low profile off the field with the notable exception of Torii Hunter. Always willing to face the cameras and fill up the notepads, Hunter talked about how the Angels would "drink a cup of coffee and stay hungry" for their Game 3 assignment matching lefty Scott Kazmir against right-hander Clay Buchholz in his postseason debut. "On Sunday," Hunter said, "we'll be hungry. It's good being up 2-0, but we know we haven't accomplished anything until we win that third game." Boston skipper Terry Francona, meanwhile, said the Red Sox would go with their customary "12 pieces of bacon and a Red Bull" for the early start. The Angels dominated the Red Sox at Angel Stadium behind right-handers John Lackey and Jered Weaver, limiting Boston to one run and eight hits in 18 innings. While they didn't exactly go crazy offensively with a total of nine runs on 13 hits and six walks, the Angels could have turned both games into routs if not for some superlative defense by the likes of Mike Lowell, Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Gonzalez.
That trio alone saved Boston at least five runs with dazzling plays, the one area where the Red Sox flourished while their offense was starving for runs and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett were outgunned by Lackey and Weaver.With one lefty, Kazmir, going in Game 3 and another, Joe Saunders, poised for Game 4, the Angels would seem to be going against the proverbial book. Southpaws in Fenway Park have a history of getting their feelings and earned run averages abused, but Scioscia is nothing if not an independent thinker. He lined up his rotation to have Kazmir and Saunders aligned for the New England challenges knowing both lefties have flourished in Fenway. Kazmir, whose acquisition from the Rays on Aug. 28 was the final piece in the puzzle, is 6-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 career starts at Fenway. He's 2-0 this year with a 3.27 ERA in two starts while still with Tampa Bay. Saunders, a Virginian who thrives in cool weather, is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in four career starts at Fenway and would be 4-0 if not for a late lead that got away on Sept. 16 in a 9-8 loss that had the Angels infuriated over balls and strikes calls.
0-2 Division Series deficits
"I think you just can't say generic left-handers, because there have been left-handers who have had success in any park they pitch in," Scioscia said. "I think it comes down to stuff. You have to evaluate a guy's pitches, how they'll play or how they'll potentially play in a ballpark."When Scott is on and when Joe Saunders is on, they can pitch anywhere. This is not a forgiving ballpark, especially like you're talking about for lefties. If you miss inner half and don't quite get a ball in the zone, they can hook a 295-foot fly ball, and all of a sudden, it's off the wall. That's obviously something to consider. "These guys are hitting their spots, Joe with the sinker, Kazmir [moving] that fastball around. Changing of speeds, they can be successful anywhere. And I think they've proven it. They've pitched well in this ballpark before. And we expect them to pitch well as we move forward in the series." Scioscia said he'll go with the same lineup that produced a 4-1 Game 2 win behind Weaver, with Mike Napoli behind the plate and Maicer Izturis -- the Angels' Mr. Clutch -- at second base. Perhaps the biggest difference in these Angels and the clubs that were knocked out in each of the past two postseasons by the Red Sox is the consistently superb play of middle infielders Izturis, Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick. All three were either sidelined or diminished by lingering injuries in the previous two postseasons. "If you look at what Erick Aybar has done, what Maicer Izturis has done and certainly Howie Kendrick, these guys are playing at a high level and that needs to continue," Scioscia said.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.