Ok, Angel fans, here we go, again, on this all to familiar path to begin the playoffs against the hated Red Sox. For the past several seasons, the Angels, for one reason or another, have disappeared as the calender turned to October. This year, it has to end. They must get through this first round – they have to.
I’m going to break down as best I can the offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, and x-factors for each team and what the Halos need to do in order to not become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
You’ve got to give the edge on this one to the Angels. Losing Mark Teixeira in the offseason to the Yankees made all Angel fans turn pale in the face. However, this has turned into being a huge blessing in disguise for the team as Kendry Morales turned in near identical numbers as Mark and should finish in the top 5 this year for AL MVP, despite batting 6th for the majority of the year. The Angels lineup is littered with .300 hitters throughout. The addition of Bobby Abreu has literally been huge. Combine that with the Angels aggressiveness on the basepaths. It’s truly a question of if this offense is going to show up against two of the best pitchers in the league, Jon Lester and Josh “Mr. Necklace” Beckett.
I give this one as well to the Angels. The Red Sox do have Jacoby Ellsbury in center, but, we have Torii Hunter. We also have an infield of Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, and Maicer Izturis/Howie Kendrick to go along with Kendry Morales who is much better defensively than he gets credit for. Also, the Red Sox catchers throw out runners at a pathetic clip, which is why I give this one to the Halos. The Angels defense at times this year has self destructed, most notably last time in their last visit to Boston. They simply cannot let that happen in this series.
You can’t argue with success here. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and company have been here before and shined brightly. Combined with Clay Bucholtz and Daiske Matsuzaka as well as an injured Tim Wakefield – and this one goes to Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Angels rotation, especially with the addition of Scott Kazmir, but the Angels starting pitchers have shown that they don’t have as dominating stuff as the Sox, especially in October. This one goes to the Sox
The Angels bullpen of late has been pretty good. They started the year though, as the worst in all of baseball, and then followed that by a 3 month period of being nearly lights out. They somewhat limped to the postseason, with Brian Fuentes blowing his fair number of saves and making those other ones that he converts, very nervewracking. Fuentes just doesn’t have an out pitch – I mean he barely thrown 91 MPH and has trouble locating at times. The Angels will lean heavily on Ervin Santana who will be in the bullpen for the series, as well as Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver. Jason Bulger will be a question mark as he had some shoulder issues at the end of the season. When it comes to the Sox, it gets a little scary. Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner and a cast of others are extremely potent, and then they get to hand the ball to Jonathan Papplebon to finish things up. As much as I dislike Papplebon, the guy gets the job done, and he definitely has that “out” pitch.
The Angels can win this series, and this is how. They must press the issue. Chone Figgins and his .390 on base percentage need to be on base as much as possible. They must also need to be dirty thieves on the basepaths. The Red Sox have a big weakness, and that is throwing out opposing basestealers. On top of this, the bullpen, when called upon, needs to be nails. Fuentes absolutely cannot blow any save opportunities, and the rest of the guys need to do the job in getting him the ball. Offensively, the Angels must continue to follow Bobby Abreu’s example of patience as they have all year long.
The Red Sox will win simply if they can take one of the first two games in Anaheim. Keeping Figgins off of the bases will also make their lives much easier. Getting to the Angels bullpen as well as the continued clutch players on their roster coming through when it matters, will make give this series an all too familiar ending for the Sox.
My prediction though, is Angels in 5. Why, you may ask? Nick Adenhart. The team is going to get after it unlike we’ve ever seen them. They want to honor Nick, plain and simple.
Until next time Angel fans.