This is the 4th time the Red Sox and Angels have met in postseason play. The Red Sox have won all three previous series. The Angels haven't beaten the Sox in the playoffs since the 1986 ALCS.
However, the Angels were 8-1 against the Red Sox this season, including a 5-1 mark in Fenway Park. The Angels have the best record in baseball. And of course, the Angels have homefield advantage. The Sox were 39-42 on the road this season.
Josh Beckett was pushed back from Game 1 to Game 3 due to an oblique injury suffered in a bullpen session. This means Jon Lester will take the mound for the Sox to start the series. Opposing him is John Lackey.
Lester's history against the Angels isn't a good one. In 4 career starts he's 1-1 with a 7.78 ERA. This year he had a 5 inning, 4 run no decisions against them. But that was back in April. He finished that month with a mediocre 4.31 ERA. He'd finish the season with a 3.21 ERA. Since the end of April, Lester is 15-4 with a 2.97 ERA. He won AL Pitcher of the Month for September, and he's become the Ace of the Red Sox staff.
John Lackey finished the year 12-5 with a 3.75 ERA. The big righty actually did worse facing righthanded batters. He allowed a .301 average and 14 of his 26 HRs allowed were hit by righties. He was 2-0 against the Sox this year. He had a complete game, 2 run outing on July 29th (in the midst of the Manny Ramirez saga), and a 7 inning effort in an 11-3 Angels win earlier in July.
Some of the Red Sox hitters have good histories against Lackey. David Ortiz is 10 for 30 (.333) in his career off Lackey, with 3 doubles, a triple, and 2 homers. Pedroia's 5 for 12 (.417), Drew's 5 for 16 (.313), and Youkilis is 5 for 17 (.294) with a pair of homers. So the middle of the lineup should do fine against him.
The major advantage the Angels have in this series is their bullpen. The Red Sox have Papelbon - who may or may not be close to exhaustion from overuse this season - the Angels have Francisco Rodriguez (the nickname K-Rod sucks), Justin Speier, Scot Shields, and a resurgent Darren Oliver. But this isn't as good as the Angels bullpen that won them the Series in 2002. This is still a beatable bullpen. Speier is 2-8 with a 5.03 ERA, Shields had 5 blown saves, the Sox have a combined .294 average against Oliver.
Then there's the record holder... Francisco Jose Rodriguez. 62 saves. And 7 blown saves. But 89.9% conversion is very impressive. And the Red Sox have nothing but bad history against him. Kotsay's 1 for 8, Crisp is 2 for 7, Youkilis is 2 for 7, Lowell's 1 for 6, Varitek's 1 for 6, Ellsbury, Cora, Drew, and Casey are a combined 0 for 9 off him. So by the 9th inning, the Red Sox better have a lead or be tied.
I think the Sox will go to ANAHEIM and split, winning Game 1 tonight, losing Game 1 on Friday. Lester will have a strong outing, the Sox will get to Lackey for 3 or 4 runs, and win 4-2.
JD Drew said he was "100 percent" for the ALDS. No official word yet on whether he'll be in the starting lineup or not. Same goes for Lowell, although all the news has been positive the past few days.
If you got kids, set the TiVo, or introduce them to coffee tomorrow morning. Game time: 10:00 PM (probably more like 10:15) on TBS.