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Baseball: AL playoffs

Sox want to end series before Angels wake up

Boston couldn't be more confident heading back to Fenway Park, looking to close out the once-hot Angels.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 8, 2004

BOSTON - Four o'clock can't come soon enough for the Red Sox today.

So far, the postseason has been everything they could have hoped for. They're leading the Angels 2-0 in the best-of-five division series. They're returning to Fenway, where they play extremely well, with a chance to celebrate a postseason series victory in front of their fans for the first time since 1986. They're playing with the type of ability and confidence that could carry them far into October.

And, oh yeah, the hated Yankees are locked in a tough battle with the Twins.

As well as things are going, the Red Sox see no need to pause. As players drifted into the Fenway Park clubhouse Thursday after an all-night flight, it was clear they just wanted to get back on the field, get back to what they were doing, and finish off the Angels as quickly as possible - preferably in Game 3 today.

"We'd really like to do it sooner than later," centerfielder Johnny Damon said. "We cannot give the Angels any breathing room.

"They're a very good ballclub and we definitely don't want them to wake up before this series is over."

Damon knows of what he speaks. He was on the 2001 Oakland team that won the first two division series games at Yankee Stadium, then paused for a day, realized what it had done, and lost the next three. And he was on the 2003 Red Sox team that lost the first two games at Oakland, used the day off to realize what had happened, and went out and won the next three.

"It's very important we don't let the Angels get any confidence," he said.

Based on the way the first two games have gone, it's no surprise the Angels have a confidence problem. The Red Sox pitched better, hit better, fielded better, executed better, and, well, looked better.

"Not too much happened our way we could point to the first couple of games," manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday. "If we do the things that got us into the playoffs and that materializes on the field, we can turn this series around."

Wednesday's 8-3 come-from-behind victory gave the Red Sox two more things to feel good about.

Pedro Martinez raised questions and eyebrows when he lost his last four regular-season outings and, among other odd comments, made the startling "call the Yankees my daddy" comment, but he looked pretty much the Pedro of old against the Angels, scattering six hits over seven innings, hitting 94-96 mph on the radar gun and throwing 116 pitches.

"It's not any surprise for me," Martinez said. "I'm really happy to go back to where I wanted to be and do the things I wanted to do. Thank God I turned it around."

As aggressive as the Boston hitters have been, there was the possibility they could be stifled by a dominant bullpen such as Anaheim's. But after taking the lead with a seventh-inning run against Anaheim whiz kid Francisco Rodriguez, and tacking on four runs in the ninth against Brendan Donnelly, their confidence is even higher.

"You know they feel good when they get to their bullpen, like we do," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We did some damage, and not only did we get the lead, but we tacked on a little bit, and somewhere down the road, that may help us.

"This bullpen has been somewhat invincible, and we scored some runs (Wednesday night). That's huge."

The Angels, looking more and more like they spent their emotion winning the AL West, don't know what to do except hope something changes.

"We don't need to get hit with a brick in the head to know being down 0-2 and needing to win three in a row against a club like this is a challenge, but we're up for it," Scioscia said. "The only way to slay this dragon is one pitch at a time, one inning at a time and start to build positives."

They have to start somewhere.

[Last modified October 8, 2004, 00:16:12]


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