A rematch made in heaven

ANAHEIM, Calif. --- One of the biggest bats in the lineup is gone, the designated hitter had his worst season in years and injuries have made two starters questionable.


Sound familiar?

Only this season it's the Boston Red Sox, who suddenly look a lot like last year's Los Angeles Angels heading into the teams' first-round playoff series. Game 1 is tonight, with former Augusta GreenJacket Jon Lester on the mound for Boston against John Lackey.

Hobbled by injuries to outfielders Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and pitcher Bartolo Colon, the Angels got swept out of the 2007 AL Division Series by the Red Sox, who hustled through Anaheim on their way to a World Series championship.

"We're a deeper club right now and hopefully we're going to see it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday. "Last year against Boston we were a skeleton club and we didn't play well."

This time around, the Red Sox are beat up. Manny Ramirez is gone, traded to the Dodgers; David Ortiz's numbers are way down; and injuries to hitters Mike Lowell (left hip) and J.D. Drew (back) and Game 3 starter Josh Beckett are concerns.

The Red Sox would obviously like to forget their 1-8 record against the Angels this season, including a sweep at Fenway Park in July when Lackey took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.

It's been just the opposite in the postseason, where Boston has dominated the Angels with a 9-0 record dating to the 1986 AL Championship Series, tying the longest postseason winning streak against one team.

"Some of these guys weren't even born," Scioscia said. "I don't think we're going back that far."

The Angels head into the opener looking like the team to beat. They wrapped up the AL West title -- their fourth in five years -- 21/2 weeks before the season ended and finished with a franchise-best 100-62 record that was tops in the majors.

Lackey (12-5) also pitched Game 1 last year at Boston, losing 4-0 to Beckett.

"We're going to have to do the same thing that we failed to do last year," Lackey said.

Boston manager Terry Francona wasn't ready to say whether Lowell, last year's World Series MVP, and Drew would be in the starting lineup for Game 1. He planned to decide after seeing how both of them came out of the team's workout Tuesday.

"J.D. looked really good," Francona said, adding that Lowell's hip wasn't adversely affected by his movements. "It was real encouraging."

Beckett's strained right oblique muscle pushed him back to Game 3 instead of the opener. The right-hander did some throwing Tuesday and will play long toss today, with a final decision expected Thursday.

"The ball came out of his hand real well," Francona said. "We think he's going to pitch."

Both teams have different looks since last playing each other at the July trade deadline, when rumors about Ramirez's future stirred up Boston's clubhouse.

"Manny wasn't hurtful in our clubhouse as much as it was a situation that needed to come to an end," catcher Jason Varitek said.

Jason Bay arrived from Pittsburgh in Ramirez's place, improving Boston's defense in left.The Angels pumped up their power, surrounding Guerrero with the big bats of first baseman Mark Teixeira (.358 since being acquired from Atlanta) and outfielder Torii Hunter (.278), who signed in the off-season.

"He makes a big difference," Lester said about Teixeira. "He's a big power bat in the lineup and they already had a good lineup. I don't think you pitch any differently. You still have to be aggressive no matter who is up at the plate."

Teixeira's presence helped send Guerrero's average soaring 61 points to .303, while the team's average jumped nearly 20 points.

Teixeira is in the postseason for the first time in his career after years of putting up huge numbers in Texas and Atlanta and going nowhere.

"When you finish a season and you go to the playoffs, you could care less what the back of your baseball card says," he said. "I get to keep playing and hopefully in 31/2 weeks I'm still playing and get a trophy with these guys."



Player from Indians’ last title team to attend Game 6

The Cleveland Indians will have a personal piece of their past at Game 6.

Eddie Robinson, the last living member from Cleveland's 1948 World... Read more

Chicago Cubs force Game 6

CHICAGO — They've waited 108 years for a championship. So with this World Series on the verge of slipping away, the Chicago Cubs could not wait... Read more