Weaver's gem puts Angels in control
Righty holds down Sox as Halos a step away from ALCS
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have Red Sox Nation one unhappy ending away from winter hibernation.Outdueling Josh Beckett in a 4-1 triumph on Friday night, Jered Weaver pitched brilliantly in his second career postseason start, and the Angels manufactured a three-run seventh inning to move one win away from the American League Championship Series -- and leave the Red Sox on the precipice.
"We certainly are aware of the challenge ahead of us, even after tonight's game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There is one thing that gives you command of the series, and that's when you win the third game in a five-game series."Trailing two games to none, Boston returns home needing two Fenway Park wins to bring the AL Division Series back to Southern California. To force a Game 4 on Monday night, the Red Sox have to take Game 3 on Sunday, with Angels southpaw Scott Kazmir engaging right-hander Clay Buchholz. Only four teams have come back from 0-2 deficits to claim a Division Series. Boston has done it twice, in 1999 against Cleveland and in 2003 against Oakland. "Hopefully," Weaver said, "winning these two will carry us into Boston with some positive feedback." Beckett, who dominated the Angels in the 2007 ALDS, departed after yielding a two-out, go-ahead single by Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar's two-run triple in the seventh. Weaver, meanwhile, coughed up only two hits in 7 1/3 innings, both coming when Boston seized the lead in the fourth. "Fastball command was huge," Weaver said. "My slider was sharper than it has been lately, but the big thing was putting my fastball in good spots." Beckett's command deserted him when he started the seventh with a five-pitch walk to Vladimir Guerrero, whose opposite-field single had led to the tying run in the fourth.
Howard Kendrick ran for Guerrero and stole second. With two outs, Izturis -- a .327 career hitter with runners in scoring position -- lined a single through the middle to score Kendrick."Early in the game, I was too excited," Izturis said. "In that at-bat, I relaxed, kept my hands back and concentrated on hitting it through the middle. That's what happened, and it was the biggest hit I've ever had." After Izturis stole second, Mike Napoli caught a two-strike curveball in his back, taking first. On a 2-1 count, Aybar crushed a drive to center field that Jacoby Ellsbury couldn't reach. Aybar raced into third with a two-run triple, and Beckett turned the game over to Billy Wagner. The Angels had all the offense they would need with Darren Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes finishing up for Weaver. "We've had a tough time these two games swinging the bat," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That's an understatement." With eight hits in 18 innings, the Red Sox are batting .131 with two extra-base hits. "Our pitching staff has really come together the last 40, 50 games," Weaver said. "I have faith in our bullpen, and those guys came through." The Red Sox struck first, ending a 20-inning postseason drought in the fourth inning. After Weaver had retired the first nine men he faced, Ellsbury led off with a booming triple beyond Torii Hunter's grasp in center field, snapping out of his 0-for-24 postseason slumber. With the infield in, Dustin Pedroia grounded out before Victor Martinez lined an RBI single to center. "Both those hits were on changeups," Weaver said. "It took me a while to get that pitch where I wanted it." The Angels had a quick response -- and it would have been more emphatic if not for the glove of Mike Lowell. Following Bobby Abreu's leadoff single, Hunter hit a screaming liner seemingly headed for the left-field corner and runners at second and third. But Lowell made a sprawling stab, robbing the hitting hero of Game 1. With Abreu running, Guerrero slapped a fastball through the right side, Abreu reaching third. Kendry Morales' sacrifice fly to right tied it at 1. "No, it wasn't a hit-and-run," a beaming Guerrero said. "I just went the other way. I saw Bobby running and made contact with a fastball." Weaver and Beckett resumed their duel, tying up hitters by painting the corners with quality pitches. Weaver struck out Ellsbury and Martinez in the sixth. With two outs in the seventh, Jason Bay coaxed a full-count walk, but Weaver retired Lowell on a fly ball. After striking out J.D. Drew leading off the eighth, his seventh whiff of the night, Weaver gave way to Oliver, having matched John Lackey's 7 1/3 innings in Game 1. "It was a great feeling, coming off the mound and hearing the cheering," Weaver said. "I waved my glove to my parents. It was a special night for the family." Lackey and Weaver are the first Angels starters to go at least seven innings back-to-back in the postseason since Jarrod Washburn and Lackey in Games 3 and 4 of the 2002 ALCS against the Twins. In three postseason appearances, Weaver has yielded three earned runs across 14 1/3 innings for a 1.88 ERA. Weaver joined brother Jeff, the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the National League Division Series for the Dodgers against the Cardinals, as the second brother act to win games in the same postseason. Livan and Orlando Hernandez won postseason games in 2000, Livan for the Giants, "El Duque" for the Yankees. "That's great to know," Weaver said. "The best part is our parents saw both our wins. They were at Jeff's game and this one tonight." The Angels are bidding to eliminate the Red Sox for the first time. Boston ousted the Angels in postseason play in 1986, 2004, '07 and '08. This is the first time since '86 the Angels have led a series against the Sox.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.