Boston Red Sox at LA Angels of Anaheim 10-9-09

October 9, 2009

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Boston Red Sox (0-1) at LA Angels of Anaheim (1-0), 9:37 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Boston – Josh Beckett (17-6, 3.86) LA Angels – Jered Weaver (16-8, 3.75)

If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim want to head to Boston with a commanding two games to none lead they are going to have to get past one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation.

Tonight, after a brilliant performance from John Lackey in the opener, Josh Beckett tries to get the Red Sox even in Game 2 of the best-of-five American League Division Series at Angels Stadium.

Lackey silenced Boston’s bats over 7 1/3 shutout frames and Torii Hunter hit a three-run home run, helping the Angels to a 5-0 victory.

However, winning the first game may not be a good thing for Los Angeles. All three times the Angels have taken a series lead – in 1982 against Milwaukee, in 1986 versus Boston and in 2005 against Chicago – they have lost the series.

Lackey (1-0), though, was spectacular on Thursday, mowing down a potent Red Sox offense with ease. The righty scattered four hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

“I felt pretty good in the bullpen. My arm felt good,” said Lackey. “My arm was alive tonight, and I had a breaking good fastball.”

Los Angeles hasn’t fared well in the postseason versus Boston, losing in the ALDS to the Red Sox in 2004, 2007, 2008, as well as the ALCS in 1986. It had lost six straight home playoff games to the Red Sox before Thursday, and the victory was just its second in the last 14 playoff meetings with Boston.

Jon Lester (0-1) absorbed the loss and gave up three runs on four hits with an uncharacteristic four walks and five strikeouts over six frames. His walk of Bobby Abreu paved the way for Hunter’s moon shot in the fifth.

Boston had just one fewer error (3) than hits (4) in the contest and were shut out in a postseason game for the first time since Cleveland blanked it back in 1995.

“We gave them extra opportunities,” said Boston manager Terry Francona. “Hunter’s homer was huge because of the way Lackey was pitching. He had a lot of life on his fastball.”

So with their backs against the wall, the Red Sox turn to Beckett, who dealt with back spasms down the stretch. Regardless, there are not many pitchers better than him in the playoffs, as Beckett has posted a 7-2 mark in 13 postseason games (12 starts) to go along with a 2.90 ERA.

Beckett, while battling an oblique injury, struggled a bit in last year’s postseason, surrendering 14 runs in 14 1/3 innings of his three starts a year ago, including four runs in five innings of a no-decision against the Halos in the ALDS.

Beckett won his last three decisions this year and ended the year 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA. However, the question remains whether or not he is healthy, as he allowed three or more runs in seven of his final nine starts.

“Well, there’s no issues physically at all,” said Beckett. “Obviously, last year was a little bit different. So as far as physically coming in, it’s a lot better. Last month it’s been better than it was two months ago, so I’m just looking forward to going out there and doing what I’m supposed to do.”

He is just 2-3 lifetime against the Angels with a 4.13 ERA in eight starts.

Jered Weaver goes for the Angels tonight, as he tries to carry the best regular season of his career into the postseason. Weaver won a team-high 16 games for the Angels this season, while pitching to a 3.75 in 33 starts.

Weaver, though, struggled down the stretch, losing three straight starts before closing the regular season with a victory against Oakland after pitching five scoreless innings.

Los Angeles won the regular season series, 5-4, after taking eight of the nine matchups a year ago.

This series will shift back to Boston for Game 3 on Sunday.

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