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LAA 7, BOS 6: The End Is Here

That one stings. Jon Papelbon’s ninth inning meltdown ended the playoff journey for Boston, as the Red Sox are swept by the Los Angeles Angels, 7-6.

After leading for the entire game, Vlad Guerrero’s single off Papelbon in the top of the ninth was the culmination of a completely lackluster post-season, the end of a pretty abysmal weekend for Boston sports in general. But… there’s always next year.

10/11: This feels familiar

Do Sox stand a fightin’ chance to emerge victorious?

Game 1 ALDS - Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels

The Red Sox are in such dire straits offensively, I’m pining for the offensive slump the team was in that precipitated the Victor Martinez trade.

Across two games, Boston’s come up with just eight measly hits, only two of them extra-base hits (and not of the four-bagger variety).

Putting aside for the moment whether Terry Francona messed up on such decisions as leaving Josh Beckett in too long, where do the Sox go from here?

Sizing Up the Angels, Part II: The Staff

Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers.

With the last installation surrounding the Anaheim Angels’ hitters, its time to take a look at the other half of the California equation: the pitching staff.

The Angels come into the ALDS with one of the deeper rotations among the contenders, with five quality options manning four slots. Mike Scioscia has opted to go with John Lackey as his Game One starter, followed by Jered Weaver in Game Two, Scott Kazmir in Game Three, then Joe Saunders in Game Four. Fifth starter Ervin Santana has been sent to the bullpen, though there are still circles who believe him to be the better option of he and Saunders.

While the overall quality of the Angels’ rotation is comparable to that of the Red Sox, it is not as top-heavy as their Boston counterparts. Few, if any, rotations boast the one-two punch of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. However, with the seasons that Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have had, St. Louis could have the Sox beat. Still, that’s beside the point.

The Anaheim bullpen is also a quality outfit featuring some underrated arms and intriguing role players. However, when compared to the talent and depth present in the Sox ‘pen, this corps leaves much to be desired. As echoed by fellow FireBrand writer, Evan Brunell, “Bulger (if healthy), Palmer and Oliver are all good, but would all jockey with Manny Delcarmen for the final spot in Boston’s ‘pen,” this bullpen is already behind in the race.

So, who’s winning this Sox/Angels battle?

ALDS Los Angeles Angels vs Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are set to do battle with the Angels later this week to decide who gets to play for the American League pennant. Boston and Los Angeles are certainly familiar with each other, having done battle in the 2004, ’07 and ’08 DCS. In fact, Boston went 9-1 in those games and the Angels’ futility extends all the way bac to 1986 and Donnie Moore.

Do the Angels have a chance to put their Boston voodoo behind them or will the Sawx manhandle L.A. all the way towards what seems to be an inevitable date with the Evil Empire?

Read on to see pitching breakdowns, a look at the offense and defense, musings on hometown advantages, and the official prediction.

5/9: Southpaw Supremacy

Kid Kaz has owned the Red Sox at Fenway Park over the course of his career. Yet despite the 2.88 ERA and 72 strike outs in 68.2 innings pitched, Kazmir is still only a game above .500 against the Sox at Fenway (5-4). Truth be told, this hasn’t been the same Scott Kazmir that we’ve been used to seeing. He’s averaging a career low 7.6 K/9 and his average fastball velocity has dipped below 90 MPH for the first time in his career. Let’s hope Fenway Park doesn’t bring out the best in him. We know it does of his opponent.

4/8: Lefty time

Game two of the regular season is underway, with Jon Lester on the mound. He’s predicted by many to establish himself as one of, if not the, best pitchers in the league this season. Well, it all starts here, Jon, against a fellow left-handed fireballer.

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