No more monkeying around
Angels need another October rally after falling to Sox
ANAHEIM -- Throughout their recent run of sustained success, marked by four American League West titles in the past five years and a World Series championship in 2002, the ubiquitous Rally Monkey that's inspired so many late comebacks has had the Angels' backs.
After dropping Game 1 of their American League Division Series against the Red Sox on Wednesday, however, the Halos will head into Game 2 on Friday with a much nastier primate on their backs.
In quieting a raucous sellout crowd at Angel Stadium with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday, the Red Sox extended their postseason winning streak against the Angels to 10 games, matching the longest stretch of dominance by one team over another in the playoffs.
Ervin Santana won't just be trying to end the streak Friday opposite fellow right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. Ironically, he'll be trying to end the talk of his team being cursed against a team that as recently as 2003 was considered the most cursed in baseball history.
"I don't know about that," Boston rookie reliever Justin Masterson said when asked whether the Halos are cursed against the Sox.. "I think they're a really good team. Fortunately we were the better team today."
Asked the same question, Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury echoed Masterson.
"I don't know what it is. They're a great ballclub," Ellsbury said. "I think it's going to come down to the wire the rest of the series."
It probably won't if the Angels can't break the streak on Friday. Since Division Series were introduced in 1995, only one team -- the 2001 Yankees, against the A's -- has come back to earn a spot in the League Championship Series after losing its first two playoff games at home.
GAME 2: JUST THE FACTS
|Red Sox starter: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka|
|2008: 18-3, 2.90 ERA|
|2008 on road: 9-0, 2.37 ERA|
|2008 vs. Angels: 0-1, 10.80 ERA|
|Career vs. Angels: 0-1, 10.80 ERA|
|Career postseason: 2-1, 5.03 ERA (four starts)|
|Angels starter: RHP Ervin Santana|
|2008: 16-7, 3.49 ERA|
|2008 at home: 5-5, 4.03 ERA|
|2008 vs. Red Sox: Did not face BOS|
|Career vs. Red Sox: 1-2, 5.73 ERA|
|Career postseason: 1-1, 6.17 ERA (one start, two relief appearances)|
|Red Sox lead series, 1-0. Boston has beaten the Halos 10 consecutive times in the postseason, matching the longest stretch of playoff victories by one team over another.|
|Game 1: Red Sox 4, Angels 1|
|Did You Know? The last time the Angels beat the Red Sox in October was in 1986.|
And beating the Red Sox three times in a row in October would represent an awfully dramatic turn of events. The last time the Angels beat Boston in the playoffs, Duran Duran and Culture Club were big-time and Billy Joel and Bowie were going through something of a sellout-to-pop phase.
It was 1986.
"We don't look at those numbers like that," Ellsbury insisted. "We just come out there and play hard. That's the biggest thing. Leave it all on the field."
Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said the best course of action for his club is to leave Wednesday's loss on the field.
"All we can do it go home, forget about it and come back Friday," Hunter said Wednesday night. "If there's one thing I've learned from playing in the postseason, it's that you gotta have amnesia a little bit."
This is Hunter's first postseason with the Angels, though. He wasn't around for the first nine losses of the streak. Neither was Mark Teixeira. Perhaps that's why Hunter and Teixeira were so willing to dismiss Wednesday's loss as no big deal.
"It's just one game," Teixeira said. "We're not gonna let one game ruin our whole season."
The Angels who have felt the sting of seeing the Red Sox celebrate against them seem to have a less slightly rosy outlook.
"It's not a good thing, obviously," Halos skipper Mike Scioscia said Thursday. "If you want it to go away, it's pretty simple. Win Friday and it goes away."
Or is it that simple? Asked what it was going to take for his team to beat the Red Sox, Kendry Morales gave a one-word answer: "Luck."
When that was passed on to Angels ace John Lackey, who made one bad pitch Wednesday and paid for it in the forms of Jason Bay's two-run homer in the sixth inning and a loss, the big righty looked like he'd just been forced to listen to a 10-hour loop of Culture Club's greatest hits.
"You gotta make your own luck," Lackey all but spat. "We have too much talent in this room for luck [to be the answer]."
The Red Sox know all about the Halos' talent. They lost eight of nine games against the Angels during the regular season.
"They handled us pretty well this year," said Red Sox skipper Terry Francona. "We have too much respect, not just for the Angels but for any club, to think we've got someone's number."
"You have to put the past behind you," added Boston catcher Jason Varitek. "We have to concentrate on what's in front of us."
What's in front of the Angels is essentially a must-win game. Lose, and the creeping thoughts of some kind of curse pick up steam.
"I don't think we really feel that way," Hunter said. "I wouldn't tell you if we did, but I'll tell you the truth -- we don't. ... We plan on winning Friday. I can tell you that."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.