Red Sox can't explain domination of Angels

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ANAHEIM, Calif. --- It's still not a good idea to ask Kevin Youkilis and the Red Sox about jinxes, even when it seems Boston is holding one heck of a hex over the Los Angeles Angels.

"We don't believe in curses," Youkilis said. "We never believed there was a curse in Boston. I don't believe there's a hex (on the Angels). It's just two teams going at it."

Yet even Boston's slugging first baseman realizes it's tough to find an adequate explanation for Boston's playoff domination of the Angels, which began nearly a quarter-century ago with one of the worst collapses in postseason history.

When the clubs open their third consecutive first-round series tonight, AL West champion Los Angeles will take another crack at wild card-winning Boston, the once-bedeviled franchise that has ended three of the Angels' past five seasons.

And it hasn't even been close. The Angels have lost 12 of their past 13 postseason games against the Red Sox, including 9 of 10 over the past three series. Los Angeles hasn't even led Boston for eight total innings of those past 10 games, and the Angels' only win was a 12-inning nail-biter last season, snapping an 11-game losing streak in the matchup.

"Last year was last year," snapped a smiling Torii Hunter, the Angels' leader and most gregarious player. "I don't want to talk about last year. You can if you want, but I don't give a damn about last year."

Player turnover and year-to-year injuries make most comparisons silly, yet as recently as three weeks ago, Hunter chastised his teammates for playing nervously against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Los Angeles won the season series 5-4, but six of those games were played in the season's first six weeks.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia takes pleasure in debunking baseball conspiracy theories, and he doesn't believe there's anything special about the stark statistics his club has compiled against Boston.

"I don't think there is anything, really, to go back and analyze," said Scioscia, the first manager to take a team to the playoffs six times in his first 10 seasons. "It's a whole new set of variables, a whole new set of matchups. We know what the challenge is."

The clubs first met in the 1986 AL championship series -- "before a lot of our guys were born," Scioscia says. After the Angels got within one strike of a series-clinching victory in Game 5, Dave Henderson hit his long-remembered go-ahead homer in the ninth inning as Boston erased the Angels' three-run lead.

In 2004, the Sox sent the Angels packing in a first-round sweep on the way to their World Series title. John Lackey didn't pitch in that series, but the Angels' starter tonight doesn't believe anything took root in his club that year.

"It's a definite challenge, but it's a new year," Lackey said. "I'm one of the few guys that have been here for all of them. It was different pretty much every year."

Boston is responsible for a large chunk of Los Angeles' postseason woes, but not everything. The Angels have lost six consecutive home postseason games -- all to teams named after hosiery, including three losses to the White Sox in the 2005 ALCS -- and nine of 11 since winning the 2002 World Series.


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