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10/01/09 11:10 PM EST
Questions turn to Sox after Angels fall
ALDS takes focus after Rangers' rout spoils home finale
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Halos righty John Lackey faced 10 batters during Thursday's game against the Rangers, and at least that many questions after regarding the Red Sox and their recent postseason stranglehold on the Angels in anticipation of a third consecutive American League Division Series showdown next week. "We're tired of answering the questions, and you're probably tired of asking them," said Lackey, the Angels' likely choice to open the series. "Until we win it, it's probably going to be there." The Rangers struck early against Lackey in the Angels' home finale and went on to register an 11-3 victory on Thursday in front of 38,552 at Angel Stadium. After Lackey yielded a two-run homer to Chris Davis in the second inning, the Angels came back in the third against Kevin Millwood to take the lead with three runs, establishing a franchise record for runs in a season with 869. Terry Evans delivered the record-breaking run after leading off with a single and scoring on a wild pitch before Kendry Morales unloaded a two-run homer to left-center, No. 34 of the year for the slugging first baseman. Morales has 107 RBIs. Lackey said he threw about 20 pitches in his pregame bullpen session, having been informed by manager Mike Scioscia he'd probably go no more than two innings. "I felt good," Lackey said. "I worked on some things in the bullpen. I knew I wasn't going to be out there for long." Lackey wasn't happy with the time it took Davis to complete his home run trot, not learning the first baseman was favoring a hamstring ailment until his next at-bat when Davis told catcher Jeff Mathis. The Angels, losing the season series (11-8) to the Rangers for the first time in five years, will go into the postseason with a rotation of Lackey, Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders, with Ervin Santana joining the bullpen. Scioscia is waiting to see how Lackey comes out of his weekend bullpen session before announcing the order of his starters, but it's apparent how the Red Sox will line up. Boston figures to open with Jon Lester, who pitched superbly on Thursday, followed by Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Angels starters have a combined 2.62 ERA in 31 games since the Aug. 28 arrival of Kazmir, who, with Saunders, gives Scioscia two lefties who have experienced success at Fenway Park. That's where Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) will be played after the first two are held at Angel Stadium. "You've got to like our four starters, sure," Lackey said. "They've got pretty good guys, too." After Morales' homer in the third against Millwood (13-10) in the home finale, the Rangers tied it with a fifth inning run on Ian Kinsler's RBI double against Rich Thompson. Texas broke it open with a six-run sixth against Trevor Bell, the rookie right-hander narrowly escaping injury in the fifth when Davis lined out to short. As he looked toward the path of the ball, Bell was struck by part of Davis' broken bat. He avoided the scare and stayed in the game. "I was following the ball, and it just hit me," Bell said, having dropped to 1-2 with the loss. "I had no idea the bat had even broken. It took me a second to figure it out." Bell said the left shoulder was swollen, adding, "I'm lucky the [sharp] end didn't go in the shoulder." The Angels, who wrap up the season with three weekend games in Oakland, finished their home slate 49-32. They are 45-33 on the road. "Physically, we're healthy," Lackey said. "That's a big key. The year before last, we were pretty banged up. The guys feel pretty good. We've got to get the boys back in there this weekend and get ready."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.