The most refreshing aspect of the Red Sox-Angels series is that it's happening in the ALDS rather than the ALCS. This means, no matter what, that either the
Devil Rays, the White Sox or the Twins will be playing for the World Series. In a crazy year, this is far more fitting than yet another Boston-Anaheim series going late into the October night. No Yankees, and someone new and unexpected in the ALCS. I will take it. Series Schedule Game 1: Wednesday, October 1, 10 p.m. ET. Boston (Lester) at Anaheim (Lackey). Game 2: Friday, October 3, 9:30 p.m. Boston (Matsuzaka) at Anaheim ( Garland E. Santana). Game 3: Sunday, October 5, Time TBA. Anaheim (Saunders) at Boston (Beckett). Game 4 (if necessary): Monday, October 6,TBA . Anaheim at Boston. Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, October 8, TBA. Boston at Anaheim. SEVEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE ANGELS-RED SOX SERIES 1. The One Team The Angels Didn't Want To Play. Since the Angels won the World Series in 2002 — you might remember, there was a monkey involved — they have gone 2-9 in the postseason. (This is what happens when you no longer put all your faith in Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy.) That includes an 0-6 mark against the Red Sox, who have swept past the Halos (which should be the team's real nickname) en route to their two recent World Series titles. Last year they scored four runs in three games. (CORRECTION: A reader writes: "The Angels aren't 2-9 since 2002. They won the ALDS vs. the Yankees in 2005 before losing to the White Sox in the ALCS.." Oh yeah! Well, uh, my point still stands, kind of.)
2. Worry About Lackey. Lackey has struggled in the second half and is coming off a shellacking against Texas over the weekend. He has two wins over the Red Sox this year, but everyone on the Angels dominated the Red Sox during the regular season. This is smoothed over somewhat by the mysterious injury to Josh Beckett, which seems to have happened out of nowhere. The Red Sox are either being weirdly secretive or don't know any better than any of us do. Already, Beckett's not getting the two starts he would have. But Lackey is, for better or worse.
3. This Series Is Going To Take Forever. The Angels, because they had the best record in the AL, chose this playoff schedule, which gives teams a potential three days off in a five-game playoff series. This means that by the time Game 5 comes around (if there is a Game 5, of course), you will barely remember what happened in Game 1. Oh, and each of these games is running four hours, at least. And the first two are starting deep into the evening, East Coast time. Red Sox fans, you better work your ass off the first few days of this week, because you're not getting anything done Thursday.
4. You'll Hear More About Manny Than You Will About Bay. Jason Bay has hit the crap out of the ball since coming over from Pittsburgh — and he's Canadian — but because this is the postseason, every broadcaster is going to remain obsessed with the alleged "psychic void" left by Manny Ramirez's departure. (And by "departure," I mean, "asshole power move made exclusively for financial gain, a somewhat dubious strategy anyway.") And it will seem strange to see October baseball in Boston without Manny playing. But let's be clear here: The Red Sox are unlikely to miss him, and their fans, even less so. Plus, Bay's Canadian.
5. The Angels Drive Sabermetricians Nuts. Every year the Angels finish ahead of the A's in the American League West, a little part of Rob Neyer dies. The Angels put out a lineup of low-power free swingers, spend money in dubious ways and love the stolen base. Yet, somehow, they keep winning. One gets the feeling that when the Angels finally get too old and bloated, the implosion will happen immediately and last a while ... but that time's not here yet. Plus, everybody loves Mark Teixeira, and you have to admire any team that's 15 games ahead and still trades for the hottest property in baseball. But anything less than a World Series is an Orange County disaster.
6. That Said, The Angels Aren't As Good As You (And They) Think. Yes, he's another sabermetrician, but I can't put it any better than Ron Shandler: "Their batters' inability to consistently work counts is their most glaring weakness, leaving their run production reliant on luck — good or bad — on hits from balls put into play." The Angels won 100 games, but they've never felt like a Mariners in '01 dominant team. They just seemed that way because the rest of their division is so feeble. And as steady as their starters are, they're just the type of staff that the patient Red Sox hitters feed off. If the Angels don't win Game 1, you can imagine the fear creeping in.
7. Those Nostrils. How is it, exactly, that Jonathan Papelbon can be a totally freakshow goofball in every fashion except for when he stands on the mound in October, in HD, looking like the most terrifying person on earth? (It has to be the closeup.) Despite Francisco Rodriguez's save record, Papelbon's a far steadier presence as a closer. The question is whether the Red Sox can get the game to him; they sure would love to have Scot Shields.
PREDICTION Sorry, I'm a sucker for a hot sabermetrician, even with a gimpy Beckett: Red Sox in 4.