Rosenthal: Postseason rants and rumblings

BY Ken Rosenthal • October 9, 2009

Maybe now the psychology will shift.

The Angels never won Game 1 while losing to the Red Sox in the 2004, '07 and '08 Division Series.

In fact, the only game they took from the Sox was in '08 — after they already were down, two games to none.

Just as the Angels torture the Yankees, the Red Sox torture the Angels.

That is, until Thursday night.

Until Angels 5, Red Sox 0.

The Angels beat the Red Sox's best pitcher, left-hander Jon Lester. On Friday night they will face righty Josh Beckett, who had back spasms in September. And on Sunday they will see righty Clay Buchholz, whose inexperience makes him a coin flip, despite his talent.

The Red Sox will not go easily, if they go at all. Beckett, 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 career postseason appearances, could stir all of the Angels' old demons, assuming he is healthy. Anything will be possible once the Red Sox return to Fenway, no matter where the series stands.

Still, it's almost as if the Angels are saying, enough is enough.

Right-hander John Lackey, adding to his free-agent credentials, pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings for his first post-season win since Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

Right fielder Bobby Abreu drew four walks. Center fielder Torii Hunter hit a three-run homer in the fifth. The Angels increased their lead to five runs in the seventh, enabling their questionable bullpen to avoid a save situation.

This series still figures to be quite competitive. The Sox will be in fine shape if they win Friday night and manage a split on the road.

But the Angels' rotation — Jered Weaver, followed by lefties Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders in Games 3 and 4 — is deeper than the Red Sox's. And only one team, the Yankees, scored more runs than the Angels during the regular season.

Even knowing all that, the Angels had a psychological barrier to overcome against the Red Sox.

Game 1 should eliminate that barrier, once and for all.

Holliday not the only one to blame

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday will see that ball forever. Or not see it. Whatever.

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Closer Ryan Franklin will fret over allowing the tying and winning runs after seemingly getting the final out.

Center fielder Colby Rasmus will regret getting thrown out at third with none out and costing the Cardinals a potential insurance run.

Manager Tony La Russa's teams almost always max out, draining every ounce of ability from every player.

Not Thursday night. Not in a crushing 3-2 defeat that left the Cardinals trailing the Dodgers, two games to none.

La Russa, too, might question himself for lifting Adam Wainwright after 109 pitches. Wainwright worked a stressful, 17-pitch eighth, hitting a batter, issuing his only walk and loading the bases after getting two outs. But he escaped by jamming Matt Kemp, who ended the inning on a grounder to first.

Wainwright threw 130 pitches on Sept. 26 at Coors Field, exceeded 120 three other times. He probably was done. Then again, the Cardinals' bullpen is suspect, and Franklin had a 7.56 ERA in September. Why not give Wainwright one baserunner?

Ah, let's not even get into it.

The game should have been over.

Left-hander Trever Miller retired Andre Ethier to start the ninth. Franklin came in for the right-right matchup with Manny Ramirez and got him on a flyball to center.