09/28/08 8:00 PM ET
ALDS breakdown: Red Sox vs. Angels
Battle of solid bullpens could be key in matchup of AL titans
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Red Sox at bat: Manny Ramirez is gone, J.D. Drew's availability remains a question and Julio Lugo is out. The fundamental principles are the same as ever, though: take the walks when they're there, and hit strikes hard. Boston led the American League in on-base percentage. The front of the Angels' rotation should counter that well, though -- John Lackey and Ervin Santana are high-strikeout, low-walk pitchers who can locate within the strike zone. And, of course, the Angels' deep bullpen neutralizes some of that Boston patience, because even if the Sox get into the Angels' pen early, that's not necessarily good news.
Key late-game matchups:
1. Jose Arredondo vs. David Ortiz: To their credit, the Angels never have followed the obsession for tactical left-handers. Sometimes, though, a specialist is a real help. Big Papi terrorized right-handers again this year, but has struggled against lefties. Yet the Angels are most likely to counter Ortiz with Arredondo, a right-hander who has absolutely obliterated left-handed hitters.
2. Jonathan Papelbon vs. well, every Angel: Vladimir Guerrero has a hit against Papelbon. He's the only one. Current Angels are a combined 1-for-35 -- that's an .029 batting average, in case you're interested -- against the Red Sox closer. For his career, Papelbon has made 11 appearances against the Angels, pitching 17 1/3 innings without permitting a single run.
Secret weapon: A few years ago, Garret Anderson was hardly a secret, but now he's mostly a complementary piece in the Angels' attack. However, he's been torrid lately, and he has excellent marks against several Boston pitchers -- including an 8-for-17 line against Josh Beckett.
Achilles' heel: From the never-thought-you'd-say-this department, beware the Red Sox running game. The Angels have had a terrible time stopping the run this year, especially when Mike Napoli is behind the plate. But Napoli is by far the better hitter, so if the Halos call on Jeff Mathis -- who's only marginally better at stopping thieves -- they give up a ton at bat.
The Angels will win if... Santana and Lackey combine to take over at least two games. Boston has a better offense, and for playoff purposes the bullpens are pretty even. But both of the Angels' two top starters are capable of taking over a game, and they may have to do that.
The Red Sox will win if... they can control the middle innings. For much of the year, the bullpen in front of Papelbon was a problem, but it's come around lately. The rotation is good and the ninth inning is good. If they keep games from getting away in the seventh and eighth, the Sox should be in good shape.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.