BOBBY ABREU & TORII HUNTER
SWEPT AWAY BY A "RALLY MONKEY" ...
ALDS, GAME #1
John Lackey outduels Jon Lester
By the end of a long, angry night for the Red Sox, the enduring image
was one of frustration. They had lost the first game of the American
League Division Series against the Angels, lost it on a fastball that
sailed beyond the fence in left-center. Home runs happen, even
against Jon Lester, even in Game 1 of the postseason against a team
the Sox had handled over and over again.
though was where their ire was raised. Their blood pressure, too, though both
had cooled by the time the game ended. But not before the manager and the first
baseman let first base umpire C.B. Bucknor in on their feelings. But after last
night's 5-0 loss was over, the Sox were left with the fact that their ace had
been outpitched, their bats had done little, and they had opened the doors to a
much-improved Angels club that was called out by its center fielder in recent
weeks about its tendency to play tight in close games.
It was that
center fielder, one Torii Hunter, who battered Lester with the three-run,
game-winning home run in the fifth inning, while Angels starter John Lackey was
giving up nothing to the Red Sox, who have struggled this season against
top-flight pitching. So while it was the same two franchises meeting again in
the postseason, most everything was different.
shaped up in the beginning as a duel, with Lester and Lackey in lockstep, but it
ended with only one of them waving his cap to an adoring crowd of 45,070. That,
of course, was Lackey. And Lester wasn't quite good enough, as the fifth came
around and his pitch count mounted. He allowed a double to Erick Aybar to begin
the inning, which was followed by a sacrifice bunt by Chone Figgins. After he
walked Bobby Abreu for the third time, Lester let go of a pitch to Hunter that
was blasted out toward the rocks in left-center, putting the Angels up by three.
was busy getting aggravated over some questionable calls by home plate umpire
Joe West. But it was Bucknor who made the most egregious error in the fourth,
missing a clear tag by Kevin Youkilis on Howie Kendrick at first after a stellar
pickup by Alex Gonzalez. Replays confirmed that Bucknor got the call wrong as
Youkilis got his glove on Kendrick. Lester managed to get out of the inning, but
it cost him six additional pitches, and left him at 66 through four.
the last time the Sox had a beef with Bucknor, who missed another call to open
the sixth. Youkilis came down on the bag after snaring a high Mike Lowell throw
before Kendrick - yes, him again, reached the base. Bucknor called safe again,
and Youkilis was so upset that he slammed his glove into the dirt. Francona
rushed out to yell at Bucknor, his ire in full view. The Sox did get out of the
inning without the Angels scoring again, thanks to a diving catch Jacoby
Ellsbury made in center.
pitched through tense circumstances, getting Vladimir Guerrero swinging to end a
bases-loaded threat in the third, then getting Jeff Mathis swinging for the
fourth out of that fourth inning (after the Kendrick play). He finally broke in
the fifth. And with Lackey pitching about as well as he can, the Sox went down
in a Game 1 for the first time since they were swept out of the 2005 ALDS by the
White Sox. No one in the clubhouse was panicking, their anger having simmered
down. They were calm, if unhappy with their performance.
Halos in October had become a New England tradition, like picking apples at one
of those yuppie-magnet orchards along Route 2. Three times in the last five
years, the Sox eliminated the Angels with ease in the first round. Nine wins in
10 games. Dominance not seen since Muhammad Ali pummeled Chuck Wepner in
Cleveland in 1975. In 94 innings of ALDS play against the Sox, the Angels led
for a grand total of 7 1/2 innings.
Angels stopped the madness. For one game, at least.