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09/28/08 3:55 PM ET
Stats mean nothing without good ball
Angels trump Red Sox on paper, but playoffs change equation
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Judging just by the head-to-head numbers this season, it seems the Angels have an advantage over the Red Sox in the Division Series beginning Wednesday at Angel Stadium. After all, the Angels won eight straight against the Red Sox -- after losing their first meeting -- and outscored Boston, 61-33, in nine matchups this season. The Angels' pitching staff had a 3.60 ERA over nine games, with the Red Sox posting a 6.23 ERA over those games. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia is ready to throw those numbers out the window, as he knows they don't have much relevance for the upcoming postseason series if the Angels don't play well. "I think the way we played against the Red Sox this year is a byproduct of playing better and more consistent baseball, and that's what we hope to carry forward," Scioscia said. "But it's not going to mean much if we don't play good baseball on Wednesday. That 8-1 isn't going to mean anything unless we bring our game onto the field." Scioscia did say it's comforting that his team has a deep lineup, with the addition of sluggers such as Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira. And it helps that the team is the healthiest it has been in a while, as Erick Aybar, Chone Figgins, Juan Rivera and Howie Kendrick have all recovered from late-season injuries in time for the postseason. "There's no doubt right now that we're deep," Scioscia said. "I think this year we have the deepest lineup we've had here. Our expectations are to go out there and play much better than the last couple of times we had the opportunity to play in the playoffs." The Angels haven't exactly fared well against the Red Sox in the past, as Boston knocked them out of the playoffs in 2004 and '07. Worse, Los Angeles has a nine-game losing streak against Boston in the postseason dating back to '86. But much like the Angels last season, the Red Sox are battling through injuries to players such as J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell. Scioscia, though, isn't ready to compare the Red Sox's injury woes to the ones the Angels suffered last season, when players like Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr. all suffered various injuries -- with Matthews missing the postseason. "I don't know if it's a fair analogy to say they are where we were last year," Scioscia said. "They've retooled by adding guys like [Mark] Kotsay and [Jason] Bay, and the emergence of a running game." The Angels' pitching staff will have to prepare for a Boston team that has stolen 119 bases, which ranks third in the American League entering Sunday. But Angels starters have a little more to worry about after John Lackey and Ervin Santana, the projected top two starters in the rotation, allowed a combined 18 runs against the Rangers in their starts Friday and Saturday. Scioscia, though, is confident those starts won't translate into the postseason. "I think their stuff was good," Scioscia said. "Obviously, the results [were not] what we hoped to see, but Texas has the type of offense that's not forgiving if you miss spots. I think that if their velocity was down and if they were struggling on executing pitches, we'd be more concerned. But they're healthy and fine, and will pitch well."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.