With Sox up, Halos need some magic
Los Angeles hopes to turn series around on its home turf
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have been here before, with their backs pressed against the rock pile beyond their ballpark's left-center-field fence. But it's been 28 years since they last faced the predicament.Seeking American League Division Series shelter at Angel Stadium, the Halos hope to turn the home-field advantage of the Majors' best home record (54-27) into a Red Sox discouragement. For the resumption of the ALDS with Sunday's Game 3 (3:07 p.m. ET), the Angels came home in an 0-2 hole for the first time since the 1979 AL Championship Series. Right now, they would settle for a revival of that '79 "Yes We Can" magic, which staggered the Orioles, against the resolute Red Sox, who, with David Ortiz in the driver's seat and Manny Ramirez riding shotgun, are looking for a quick finish to this tournament. Historically 4-4 in elimination games, the Angels, conversely, are looking for a quick turnaround. "It takes one win to get back in this series," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said during a Saturday afternoon media conference at Angel Stadium. "This team can do this. We'll leave everything on the field." "I guess it's tough luck for us," closer Frankie Rodriguez had said shortly after surrendering Ramirez's Game 2 walk-off three-run homer in the wee minutes of Saturday morning. "We get to go home, and hopefully we can force them to come back here." The Red Sox will be returning to Fenway Park for certain. The question is, will the Angels be coming with them following Monday night's Game 4? They may need a barrel of Rally Monkeys to make that happen. But, sometimes, there is a reason their part of Orange County is called The Magic Kingdom. There was some of that magic back in 1979, when the Angels rocked the Orioles in Game 3 by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 4-3 win. Fans who were at the game or even just watched it on television still recall Angel Stadium literally swaying from the "Yes We Can" sign-waving. Oh, not to ruin a good story, but the Orioles did come back in Game 4 to win 8-0 and close out that ALCS. Conversely, the only other time that the Angels were faced with consecutive elimination games in their own park, they took Games 6 and 7 of the 2002 World Series from the Giants. "Well, the Series isn't wrapped up until one team has three wins," Scioscia said. "One thing about our club, when we get in our game, we can turn around quickly." The Red Sox won't dispute that. Hence, they are conscious of keeping their feet on the Angels' throats. "It's nice to be up, sure. Now we've got to come out and win the third one," Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We can't go in there and play relaxed. We've got to do everything to win the game. So we'll come out Sunday and keep playing as hard as we can." Boston starter Curt Schilling is keenly aware of going up against a band of desperate men. "I'm as prepared as I ever have been for a game," Schilling said on Saturday. "I'll be facing a team fighting for its life, and it'll be a huge challenge."
The Game 2 loss had to be demoralizing for Los Angeles, not so much for the outcome but for the unrewarded effort. After having been little more than spectators in the 4-0 loss in the opener on Wednesday, the Angels went toe-to-toe with the Red Sox for nearly four hours, and still, all the fight was taken out of them on one swing.The Angels "created" three runs, handled the mysterious Daisuke Matsuzaka well enough to get the game down to a bullpen battle -- in most instances an advantage for them -- and still came up short. "We did a lot of the things we need to do," Scioscia said. "The one glaring thing was going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but there were definitely positive signs of the type of offense we need." Perhaps worst for the Angels was the loss of the only man in their lineup capable of matching the thunder of an Ortiz or a Ramirez. Vladimir Guerrero left late in Friday's game with a knot in his left shoulder, which had stopped a Manny Delcarmen fastball an inning before. Guerrero's availability for Game 3 remained up in the air on Saturday. X-rays on his left shoulder came back routine, confirming a contusion.
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"It looks like he'll be able to play," Scioscia said. "But we have time. We don't have to make that decision until [Sunday] morning."With or without Guerrero, Scioscia implied some changes in the offing for an Angels lineup that has scored a total of 13 runs in its last seven games, including the end of the regular season. In personnel or batting-order changes, Scioscia will be looking for a combination to unlock their "batter's box" offense. Considering the cross-country travel which followed Friday night's lengthy game, all participants welcomed another break in this ALDS schedule. "It's a big reason why we chose this bracket," said Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon. "[On Saturday], we'll get some rest, then we've got Schill going in Game 3, and we wouldn't want anybody else in that spot." Schilling and Josh Beckett had departed Boston for the West Coast prior to the start of Game 2. Boston's starters for Game 3 and a potential Game 4, thus, got extra rest that 48 other players could only envy. Both teams were beaten by the sun to Orange County, accounting for Saturday's light day. Game 3 starter Jered Weaver was the only Angels player at the park, while about half of the Red Sox turned out for a voluntary workout. "We got in late, but it's the same for both teams," said Boston skipper Terry Francona. "You just do the best you can. You sleep in the winter." Schilling and Beckett also got to miss out on the home-plate party arranged by Ramirez's game-winner. Maybe the two right-handers will get a little private pound Manny time when they see him. "Man, we beat the stuffing out of him," Ortiz said of the celebration. "Wait till you see him. Somebody elbowed him and he's got a black eye." Angels left fielder Garret Anderson has played this entire series with a half-shut eye because of a viral infection. So now the other left fielder also has a little eye condition. Somehow, that doesn't seem like enough to even the sides.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.