Youthful Red Sox help to clip Angels’ wings
Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 3:26 pm
BOSTON (AP) — The past postseason stars are gone. A new breed keeps the Red Sox winning. Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, even Mike Lowell — all World Series MVPs — are missing from the group of players Boston will take into the AL championship series. Jon Lester, Jason Bay and Jed Lowrie — all keys to the victory that sent the Red Sox there. “It just shows you the work of this organization to bring young people in,” Josh Beckett said, “and what they did for us.” Lester pitched seven shutout innings and Bay slid home with the winning run on Lowrie’s single in the ninth. That gave Boston a 3-2 win Monday night, helped by a botched squeeze play in the ninth, and clinched the first-round series 3-1 over the Los Angeles Angels, their major-league best 100 wins a bittersweet reminder of what might have been. Now the Red Sox move on to Tampa Bay to open the best-of-seven ALCS on the road Friday night against the Rays, who beat them by two games in the AL East standings. “I can’t imagine that it’ll get more intense than this,” Bay said, “but it will.” In four full seasons with Pittsburgh, he never made the playoffs. Now he’s there, thanks to a three-team trade July 31 that sent Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and brought Bay to play left field. Lowrie was a non-roster invitee to spring training and played 17 games with Boston in April and May before going to the minors. He returned July 12 to take over at shortstop for Julio Lugo, who went on the disabled list the previous day, and played 54 of the last 63 regular season games. Manager Terry Francona watched Lowrie and Lester in the postgame interview room then replaced them at the microphone Monday. “I was just standing by the doorway when they were talking. I was looking and thinking, boy, they’re young,” Francona said. “We’ve brought some kids up and they have done a phenomenal job of competing.” The victory even had two Red Sox owners cavorting like giddy kids. Two hours after the game, 59-year-old John Henry, wearing a sport coat with his white shirt untucked and his unknotted tie draped around his neck, ran around the basepaths even though the bags had been removed. So did 58-year-old Tom Werner, who stopped in foul territory near third base and waved Henry home. They had obtained Schilling before the 2004 season and the right-hander won Game 2 of the 2004 World Series wearing a bloody sock after surgery on his ankle. He missed all of this season with a shoulder problem. Ramirez was the MVP of the 2004 World Series and Lowell took the honor last year, but a hip injury will keep him off the ALCS roster. The Red Sox still have a chance for their third championship in five years with a roster that also includes 2007 rookie of the year Dustin Pedroia and 2008 rookie Jacoby Ellsbury. The Rays, the youngest team in the AL, had never finished better than fourth in the division and posted the worst record in baseball last year. “We just beat a phenomenal team,” Francona said. “We’re going to play another phenomenal team.” The Red Sox won the first two games at Anaheim 4-1 and 7-5 then lost 5-4 in 12 innings Sunday night, ending their 11-game postseason winning streak against the Angels. They went up 2-0 in the fifth against John Lackey on Monday night on an RBI groundout by Ellsbury and a run-scoring double that ended Pedroia’s 0-for-15 slump. Los Angeles tied it in the eighth after the first two batters grounded out. Two walks and a passed ball preceded Torii Hunter’s two-run single. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys and the way they battled,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “not only the whole summer, but to get back into this playoffs and really have a chance to win just about every game.” The Red Sox beat the Angels for the third straight time in the first round. They went on to win the World Series the other times. Los Angeles had an excellent chance to go ahead in the top of the ninth when pinch hitter Kendry Morales doubled and pinch runner Reggie Willits took third on Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice. Then Erick Aybar missed a bunt attempt on a 2-0 count against winning pitcher Manny Delcarmen. Willits stopped retreated, but catcher Jason Varitek tagged him about a step before the third base bag. “He’s unbelievable at the plate, whether he’s bunting or whether he’s hitting,” Willits said of Aybar. “Everybody in the world can second-guess it, but if it worked, people would have said it’s the greatest play in the world.” After tagging Aybar, who singled home the go-ahead run in Game 3, Varitek fell and the ball popped from his glove. Umpire Tim Welke called Willits out and Scioscia argued in vain. The Red Sox didn’t waste their opportunity in the bottom of the ninth. Losing pitcher Scot Shields struck out J.D. Drew before Bay hit a fly ball down the right-field line that Willits dove for before it bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. First baseman Mark Teixeira made a diving catch of Mark Kotsay’s line drive for the second out. Then Lowrie singled to right and Bay beat Willits’ throw. The Red Sox poured out of the dugout and mobbed Bay and Lowrie — two newcomers who did their parts. “I was pretty excited for him,” Pedroia said of Lowrie. “He had good at-bats the whole night. You knew he was going to come through.” And the Angels were going home, having fallen short again. “We played much better this series than going back to ’04 or ’07 against them,” Scioscia said. “It’s naturally disappointing.” Notes:The 43 runners the Angels left on base in the series is six fewer than the record for one division series set by Seattle in 1995. … Bay went 7-for-17 in the series with two homers, five RBI and a run in each of Boston’s wins.