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Series Preview: Red Sox-Angels

Posted: Monday October 4, 2004 3:04PM; Updated: Monday October 4, 2004 3:54PM
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By John Donovan, SI.com

Red Sox vs. Angels
GAME 1 GAME 2 GAME 3 GAME 4 GAME 5
@ ANA
Tue.
4:09 ET
@ ANA
Wed.
10:09 ET
@ BOS
Fri.
4:09 ET
@ BOS
Sat.
TBD
@ ANA
Sun.
TBD
      If Necessary If Necessary
p1_schilling_ap.jpg
Curt Schilling stepped in the ace's role in Boston with a 21-6 record, 3.26 ERA and 203 Ks.
AP

Romantic setup: Two resilient franchises, one beset by a rash of injuries this year, the other by the ever-present shadow of its most bitter rival, meet in a best-of-five American League division series.

Cynical setup: The Red Sox and Angels, the Nos. 2 and 3 payrolls in the game, with almost $230 million between them, clash in a hoity-toity AL division series to see who spent their money more wisely.

May the best story win.

The Red Sox and Angels have a lot in common. Big wallets. Big swingers. They're beloved in their respective cities. (The Angels, for you snooting Red Sox Nationals, drew more than 3.3 million fans this season, ahead of the crosstown Dodgers and behind only the Yankees.)

The two teams played nine times this season, with Boston winning five of them. The Red Sox couldn't pitch against the Angels (a 6.08 ERA, and the Angels hit .305) in those nine games. But, then again, the Angels couldn't pitch much, either (5.77 ERA, while the Red Sox hit .305).

There are sluggers on both teams. Great sluggers. This series showcases two of the leading candidates for the MVP award: Boston's Manny Ramirez and Anaheim's Vladimir Guerrero.

But, as we all know, there is a major difference here. The Red Sox haven't won a World Series since 1918. Just two years ago, Angels manager Mike Scioscia led his free-swinging wild-card gang to a seven-game win over the Giants for their first World Series title.

You could argue that none of that matters now. Not the history, not the money, not the fans. From here on out, this is all on the field. From here on out, the best team wins.

In baseball, that's about as romantic as things get.

The Rotation (AL Rank)
  W-L ERA WHIP K BB HR CG
Red Sox 73-47 (1) 4.31 (3) 1.28 (1) 796 (1) 286 (3) 113 (3) 4 (10)
Angels 67-54 (5) 4.70 (4) 1.40 (5) 670 (4) 316 (5) 128 (9) 2 (13)
Curt Schilling had Cy Young numbers (21-6, 3.26 ERA), but he will finish second to Johan Santana. Three-time winner Pedro Martinez (16-9, 3.90) still is capable of greatness, though maybe not against the Yankees. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield could frustrate the big-swinging Angels, and Bronson Arroyo was 3-0 in September.
Lone lefty Jarrod Washburn (11-8, 4.64 ERA) bombed in the '02 Series, so he has plenty of incentive to get back to the Fall Classic. After a terrible start, Bartolo Colon (18-12, 5.01 ERA) came around. He was 10-4 with a 4.05 ERA after the break. Kelvim Escobar has a losing record (11-12), but he's the only one of the regulars with an ERA below 4.00.
The Edge: Red Sox

Bullpen
  Saves ERA WHIP K BB HR W-L
Red Sox 36 (6) 3.93 (4) 1.31 (2) 333 (14) 161 (1) 46 (3) 25-17 (4)
Angels 50 (3) 3.46 (1) 1.30 (1) 492 (1) 185 (5) 42 (1) 25-16 (3)
This is not the old, shaky Boston pen. These guys are legit. Righty Mike Timlin and lefty Alan Embree are the workhorses, giving way to a group that includes lefty Mike Myers and righties Ramiro Mendoza and Scott Williamson. Closer Keith Foulke (32 saves, 2.17 ERA) is an absolute chiller to lefties (.185 batting average against).
The Red Sox want no part of Francisco Rodriguez, who has struck out 123 batters in 84 innings. Lefties are only hitting .213 off the young right-hander, and righty swingers have no chance at all. Righties Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Kevin Gregg help, but it's mainly K-Rod and closer Troy Percival (33 saves) that make this the best pen in the AL.
The Edge: Angels

The Lineup
  Runs HR BA OBP SLG SB CS K BB
Red Sox 949 (1) 222 (4) .282 (T1) .361 (1) .474 (1) 68 (11) 30 (13) 1,189 (1) 658 (2)
Angels 836 (7) 162 (10) .282 (T1) .341 (6) .430 (10) 141 (1) 45 (6) 942 (14) 449 (14)
Manny Ramirez (43 homers, 130 RBIs) and David Ortiz (41, 139) form the heart of a banging lineup that boasts the best combined on-base/slugging percentage in baseball (.832). Oft-overlooked leadoff caveman Johnny Damon (.380 on-base) gets it running. With Damon at the top, and speed on the bench, the Red Sox can score in other ways, too. They average almost 5.9 runs a game, best in baseball.
Leading MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero (.337, 39, 126) makes his first trip to the postseason after a scorching September in which he hit .371 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs. Adam Kennedy (knee) and Jose Guillen (temper) are out, so the Angels need Troy Glaus (seven homers in September) and gimpy Garret Anderson. The aggressive Angels (most steals in baseball), will lean on speedsters David Eckstein and Chone Figgins heavily.
The Edge: Red Sox

The Defense
  Errors Fielding Pct. Range Factor Zone Rating Efficiency
Red Sox 117 (11) .981 (T11) 37.23 (8) .829 (14) .694 (5)
Angels 90 (T1) .985 (T2) 36.36 (13) .841 (10) .688 (T8)
With Orlando Cabrera at short and Doug Mientkiewicz at first, the Red Sox are better than they used to be. But Damon's arm is subpar in center, Ramirez is an adventure in left and no one else really stands out. Pokey Reese is a Gold Glove infielder, but he's on the bench much of the time. The "D" may not cost them games, but it won't win them any, either.
No one runs on Vlad. But without Guillen in left, and with Anderson hurting in center, the outfield defense is shaky. Jeff DaVanon, Figgins and Adam Riggs all have filled in. The infield has been hurt by Kennedy's loss, leaving shortstop Eckstein with Figgins, usually, as his double-play partner. Somehow, the Angels make it work.
The Edge: Red Sox

Bottom Line
If the postseason comes down to pitching -- and it usually does -- this series belongs to Boston. Schilling and Martinez rule over any Angels' starting duo. Still, the Angels won the World Series in '02 with a shaky rotation when their bullpen bailed them out. Can the Angels do it again? They've come a long way through a lot of pain, but the best lineup in the AL, coupled with that rotation and a good Boston pen, puts an end to Anaheim's season here.
Red Sox in five

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