Angels Rally in 9th to sweep Red Sox

BY foxsports • October 13, 2009


BOSTON (AP) -- Torii
Hunter emerged from the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park to spray
champagne over the fans and family gathered there. Erick Aybar did him
one better, handing over bottles of bubbly to those who came from
California to see the Los Angeles Angels go for the sweep.

History gave no reason to hope for such a celebration.

The Angels and Vladimir Guerrero shrugged off their postseason failures
and swept away the Red Sox on Sunday, scoring three runs off Jonathan
Papelbon in the ninth inning to beat Boston 7-6 and advance to the AL
championship series.

It was the first
postseason sweep in Angels franchise history. And they did it against
the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs the previous four
times they met.

"I told you guys earlier:
It's going to be a different scene," Hunter said in the clubhouse
afterward. "Vladdy came through. That's probably one of the biggest
hits of his career. They've been waiting for him to do it, and he did

Papelbon was one strike away from
extending the series with three different batters, but Aybar singled on
a two-strike pitch, Chone Figgins walked after fouling off a full-count
offering and Bobby Abreu fouled off three straight pitches before
doubling in one run.

Hunter was walked
intentionally before Guerrero singled the first pitch to center and
Figgins and Abreu raced home to give Los Angeles a 7-6 lead. Major
league saves leader Brian Fuentes pitched the ninth, and when Aybar
caught Dustin Pedroia's popup to end the game, pumping his right arm
even as he tracked the ball with his left, the Angels advanced.

"It's nice to be going home and playing again, instead of going home
and it's over," said pitcher John Lackey, who was part of the Angels
teams that were eliminated by Boston in three times in the previous
five years. "This is the most fun for me, and I've got a ring. That
says a lot."

An eight-time All-Star and
former AL MVP, Guerrero has a .321 career batting average, 407
regular-season homers and 1,318 RBIs. But he'd managed only one
extra-base hit in 69 at-bats going into Game 3, and he had one RBI in
19 playoff games since his grand slam against Boston in the 2004
division series.

And he came through against Papelbon, who had never before allowed a run in 27 postseason innings.

"You're not going to get to him too often. But we did this afternoon,"
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And I felt great for Vlad.
hopefully, that's a momentum-builder for him. ... I know he's relieved.
He's excited about contributing. And hopefully it will be the start of
something good."

For the AL West champion
Angels, it was a chance to extend their tribute to pitcher Nick
Adenhart, who was killed in an April car crash with a man who has been
charged with drunken driving. As they streamed out of the dugout to
celebrate, Game 2 winner Jered Weaver carried Adenhart's jersey onto
the field.

"When it comes down to honoring
Nick Adenhart, and what happened in April in Anaheim, yes, it probably
was the biggest hit (of my career)," Guerrero said. "Because I'm
dedicating that to a former teammate, a guy that passed away."

The Angels open their first ALCS since 2005 on Friday against the New
York Yankees, who beat the Twins 4-1 on Sunday night to complete a
three-game sweep.

"We're finally here,"
said Angels owner Arte Moreno, who bought the team in 2003, a year
after they won their only World Series. "I think that the fourth time's
a charm. It's great for us, because we've been knocking on the door for
a while."

Los Angeles trailed 5-1 early,
was behind 5-2 after seven innings and still down 6-4 when Papelbon
retired the first two batters of the ninth.

The crowd that just one inning earlier had been primed for a
celebration quietly filed out of the ballpark for the last time in
2009, having seen the wild-card Red Sox beaten.

"The season doesn't wind down. It just comes to a crashing halt,"
Boston manager Terry Francona said. "You go into the top of the inning
excited because you think you're going to keep playing. Half an inning
later, you're going home. So it's disappointing."

The Red Sox had won 12 of 13 postseason games against the Angels
heading into the series, including an 11-game winning streak that dated
back to Dave Henderson's homer off Donnie Moore in the 1986 ALCS.
Henderson, not coincidentally, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on
Sunday, even adding a little jump and twist like the one he did after
he helped propel Boston to within one strike of the '86 World Series

Hendu's shot in Game 5 sent the Red Sox to a win by the same 7-6 score.

Boston didn't win it that year, but they ended their 86-year
championship drought in 2004 after sweeping Los Angeles in the first
round. The Red Sox swept out the Angels again in '07 en route to a
second title, and beat them in four games last year before losing to
the Tampa Bay in the ALCS.

Darren Oliver
earned the victory after getting one out in relief, and Papelbon took
his first career postseason loss. The Red Sox closer had converted
seven of his previous eight postseason save opportunities.

But after Billy Wagner put two on with two out in the eighth, the Red
Sox were forced to bring Papelbon in with a 5-2 lead. He gave up a
two-run single to Juan Rivera that made 5-4 before picking pinch-runner
Reggie Willits off first base.

After Mike
Lowell's RBI single made it 6-4 in the eighth, Papelbon got Maicer
Izturis on a foul popup and pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. on a fly
ball to center. Abreu lined a double off the Green Monster to cut the
lead to 6-5.

The three runs Boston scored
in the third inning were more than it had scored in the first two games
of the series combined. In fact, Boston had scored a total of two runs
in 32 postseason innings before taking a 3-0 lead on Sunday.

The Red Sox hadn't been eliminated in Boston since the Chicago White
Sox finished off a three-game sweep in the 2005 first round. ... Mike
Napoli was hit by a pitch in the second inning, but Red Sox catcher
Victor Martinez argued that it hit the end of his bat. Napoli was also
hit in Game 2 by Josh Beckett, who argued that the batter didn't make
any effort to get out of the way.