Plan 'B' of playoffs awaits Angels
Los Angeles to open ALDS at Fenway Park on Wednesday
OAKLAND -- It was completely out of their hands, but the Angels would like to think it played right into their plans.Hours after Kelvim Escobar showed that he was back in form with a superior effort against the A's in Saturday's 3-2 victory at McAfee Coliseum, the Angels learned that they would be playing in the longer of the two American League Division Series against the Red Sox. It was Boston's decision to make after claiming home-field advantage throughout the postseason, and the Red Sox chose AL Division Series B. The Angels will open their first-round series against the Sox on Wednesday at Fenway Park and have an off-day on Thursday and Game 2 on Friday. What it means from the Angels' perspective is that John Lackey, their Game 1 starter, can come back and pitch Game 4 on regular rest, with Escobar primed for a Game 5 start, if necessary. The Red Sox-Angels series will be played over an eight-day span, as compared to the seven days that the Yankees-Indians would have to play their series if it goes to the five-game limit. Less than an hour after the Red Sox downed the Twins, 6-4, on Saturday, the Royals completed a 4-3 win over the Indians. Going into Sunday's final day of the regular season, the Red Sox are 96-65 and the Indians are 95-66. The best Cleveland can do is tie Boston, but the Red Sox captured the season series, 5-2, giving them the edge in the tiebreaker. The Red Sox judged the eight-day schedule favorable, because they now have the option of going with a three-man rotation. Game 1 starter Josh Beckett and likely Game 2 starter Curt Schilling can come back and pitch Games 4 and 5 on the standard four days of rest. Daisuke Matsuzaka is the likely candidate to start Game 3 for the Red Sox. The Angels can respond with Lackey, Escobar and Jered Weaver, with Lackey and Escobar coming back for Games 4 and 5, respectively. Projected Game 4 starter Joe Saunders becomes a left-handed weapon out of the bullpen, along with Darren Oliver, improving the Angels' balance in the 'pen. This is the first time Major League Baseball has given the team with the best record in the AL a chance to pick which schedule they wanted to play. The National League team with the best record will have that opportunity next year.
American League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||6:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||3 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||9:30 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||6:30 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||6:30 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||6 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
The Red Sox and Angels will resume their series with Game 3 in Anaheim on Sunday, Oct. 7, and Game 4, if necessary, the following day.A winner-take-all Game 5 would be on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park. The Angels were 4-6 against the Red Sox this season. Looking at the glass as half-full, manager Mike Scioscia likes to point out that the Halos were in a diminished condition in April, when they were swept in three games. Chone Figgins was inactive, recovering from two broken fingertips on his right hand, and Vladimir Guerrero was lost when a 96-mph fastball from Beckett damaged his right hand, costing him two games. "We won four of the last seven games against Boston," Scioscia said, "and we held our own in a four-game series at Fenway [in August]. We feel comfortable playing there." The Angels, who clinched the AL West title on Sept. 23 at home, have spent the past week resting regulars and getting their starting rotation squared away. Escobar's strong showing on Saturday against the A's -- six innings, one run -- was an encouraging development on the heels of Lackey's dominant effort (seven innings, no runs) on Friday night. Weaver, Sunday's starter in the season finale, hopes to keep the momentum rolling with a quality effort. "I've always enjoyed pitching in big games, going back to college [at Long Beach State] -- and I know John and Kelvim also like the big-game environment," Weaver said. "We're confident going into the postseason. We feel good about our team."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.