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We all know the history by now. The Red Sox are 4-0 in playoff series against the Angels all time, beating them in 1986, 2004, 2007, and 2008. So, the Mike Scoscia led Angels will take another shot, perhaps their best yet, to send the Red Sox to the links.
The Angels won the season series with the Sox 5-4, and have owned the Sox in the regular season the past two years. We all know the regular season helps us take a look at match-ups, but in the end, October Baseball is a whole new ball game. For an extended look at this Sox-Angels showdown, let’s begin by taking a look at the “Tale of the Tape.”
|Stat||Overall (AL Rank)||vs. Angels||Overall (AL Rank)||vs. Red Sox|
|Wins||95-67 (2nd, East, Wild Card)||4||97-65 (1st West)||5|
|Runs||873 (3)||40||882 (2)||44|
|Home Runs||212 (3)||10||173 (8)||8|
|Extra Base Hits||572 (2)||23||499 (7)||29|
|OBP||.352 (2)||.335||.350 (3)||.352|
|SLG||.454 (2)||.399||.441 (4)||.438|
|Steals||126 (5)||8||148 (3)||15|
|ERA||4.35 (7)||4.37||4.45 (9)||3.59|
|WHIP||1.41 (8)||1.52||1.41 (8)||1.37|
|Strikeouts||1230 (2)||52||1062 (9)||66|
|Home Runs Allowed||167 (3)||8||180 (7)||10|
|Steals Allowed||151 (14)||15||128 (12)||8|
|Errors||82 (3)||3||85 (4)||6|
Interestingly, the Red Sox hold the edge in bullpen ERA, 3.80 (#2) to 4.49 (#11), while the Angels hold the edge among starters, 4.44 (#4) to 4.63 (#8). The Angels will try to leverage this edge with a four-man rotation in the series, so they will attempt to maximize their starter’s innings, leaving as short a bridge as possible to the back end of their bullpen. The Red Sox, with a deeper bullpen, will be able to mitigate starter’s ineffectiveness and play matchups.
The Red Sox were 41/59 (69%) on save conversions while the Angels were 51/70 (73%). However, the Red Sox have the definitive edge here because only Papelbon (1.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10.06 K/9) will be seeing save opportunities and he was 38 for 41 (93%) while Angels’ closer Brian Fuentes (3.93, 1.40, 7.53) was a little shakier, at 48 for 55 (87%). What does this mean? If the Red Sox are down in the ninth and David Ortiz is coming to the plate, there is a chance for more postseason heroics.
There are a couple other concerning metrics. The Red Sox struggled in extra innings (4-6), while the Angels excelled (7-4), interesting considering those are bullpen games. The Halos (27-18) are marginally better as well in one-run games (22-17 for the Red Sox).
Only Beckett has faced the Angels so far, so Lester and Buchholz will give Heaven’s Hitters a look they have not seen yet this season. Kazmir has only faced the Red Sox this season as a member of the Rays, but he was acquired specifically for October in the AL playoffs as he has positive experience against the Red Sox and Yankees and is especially good at Fenway Park. The Angels will play it safe and pitch ace John Lackey in the opener, leaving Game 2 duties to Jared Weaver, who has torched the Red Sox this season, but the Red Sox have had success against him in the past couple years.
A close look at the stats says two things. First, the Red Sox are better on paper, having the edge in power and a slight leg up on the mound. Secondly, and more importantly, the Angels neutralized or reduced every gain the Red Sox would seem to hold. The Angels were as good or better in the breakdown in the season series, while the Red Sox were way off. If the game was played on the statsheet, the Red Sox appear lucky to have come away with four wins in the season series.
Jason Bay had a very good series with the Angels, accounting for almost half of the team’s home runs with four (of the 10). He also hit .313 with seven walks, 12 RBI, and six runs. Jacoby Ellsbury was the Red Sox leading hitter against the Angels, among the regulars, with a .342 average, but only had one extra base hit among his 13 knocks (a home run). He drove in four and scored six times, but his speed was a non-factor as he was three for six in steal attempts. J.D. Drew (.192, 2 HR), Mike Lowell (.167, 1 HR), and Ortiz (.167, 1 HR) all struggled against the Angel arms, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the order.
The difference in the season series was the middle of the Angels lineup, still able to damage the Red Sox despite the loss of Mark Teixiera. Four regulars hit over .300 in the series: Howie Kendrick (.379, 1 HR), Torii Hunter (.367, 3 HR), Erick Aybar (.326), and Bobby Abreu (.314). Mike Napoli hit three bombs and had a .292 average against the Sox in just 24 ABs. The other half of the catching duo, Jeff Mathis, hit .438 in the series.
The Red Sox should win this series in five games. There is a reason the Red Sox have owned the Angels in the postseason and it is not measured on the stat sheet: clutch performances. Over the years, the Red Sox have had numerous big hits, but not just in late innings. They have been able to score early runs against the likes of Lackey and Weaver to get into the soft middle relief corps of the Angels. Francisco Rodriguez, now a Met, was even vulnerable, and he is a far more formidable weapon than Fuentes is in the ninth. The Angels will frustrate the Red Sox hitters enough for win a couple games, but the Red Sox should prevail.