Lackey, Hunter Deliver Huge Game 1 Victory For Angels Over Red Sox


It’s just one win, but it felt like a series clincher.

For the first time in club history, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recorded a shutout in the postseason, blanking the Boston Red Sox 5-0 in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

What began as a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel between John Lackey and John Lester became a firm display of mental fortitude as the Angels dispelled any notion of playoff hexes when facing big bad Boston.

This victory was as complete as any team could hope for, with stellar pitching, top-notch defense, and timely offense from the Angels’ big bats.

Despite being 0-5 against the Red Sox in the postseason, Lackey performed masterfully, tossing 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and surrendering just four hits while striking out four and walking one.

But it was his situational pitching that held the Sox in check.

Lackey bared down against tough batters like Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez, and Jason Bay, and every time Boston threatened to start a rally, he executed his pitches and delivered the right types of outs.

When Bay smacked a lead-off single into left, Big John forced Mike Lowell to ground into a double play.

When he fell behind Youkilis on a 3-0 count with men on base, Lackey battled back and got him to shoot a one-hopper to Chone Figgins, who alertly stepped on third for the final out of the inning, just one of several remarkable defensive plays by Figgy.

On the offensive side, the Angels began as they always do against the Red Sox in the playoffs—nervously swinging at bad pitches and failing to work deep into counts or drive in runs.

That is, except for Bobby Abreu, who was the only Angel to step to the plate without the shakes.

While his teammates spent the early part of the game lunging at chin-high heaters and cut fastballs in the dirt, the Angels’ left fielder went about his business, calmly looking over every pitch and patiently taking a walk in each of his four plate-appearances.

Abreu may not have driven in any runs, but he was on base all night for big run-producers like Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero.

That paid dividends when Hunter launched a Lester offering half way up the rock pile in center field.

The Angels took a sudden and ultimately commanding lead on Hunter’s mammoth three-run shot in the fifth inning and never looked back, adding two more runs in the seventh after Lester departed.

Lester, a hard-throwing lefty, pitched well overall but struggled to find the strike zone with his fastball early on, and the Angels found a way to capitalize on his mistakes.

He turned over a 3-0 deficit to Boston’s vaunted bullpen, which failed to keep the game close.

Red Sox relievers loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh inning and, after inducing Juan Rivera into a pitiful double play, surrendered a two-run single to Kendry Morales.

The Angels’ bullpen, meanwhile, was mercifully absent from the game for the most part. With a five-run lead, manager Mike Scioscia only had to use veteran lefty Darren Oliver, who got the final five outs.

Where some managers might have brought in their closer to seal that all-important first victory in a best-of-five series, Sosh wisely left Angel closer Brian Fuentes on the bullpen bench, far away from the mound and any chance of blowing yet another lead.

Oliver got the job done, retiring all five batters he faced and securing Lackey’s historic shutout.

Itt’s important to keep some perspective here though: this is only one win, and the last time anyone checked it still takes three to advance past the first round.

The Angels have a long way to go before they’ve fully exorcised those postseason demons when facing Boston, but Game 1 was certainly a step in the right direction.

They showed absolutely no fear on the mound, holding the dangerous Red Sox batters to just four singles.

More importantly, however, the Angels were finally able to put men on base—and drive them in.

Halo hitters went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a practically unheard of feat in the postseason, and even rarer against their Boston rivals.

Succeeding where they’ve failed so many times before and getting this first victory was sweeter than honey dipped in sugar.

But again, it’s just one game.

Angels starter Jered Weaver has a tall task in front him in Game 2. The Red Sox hitters will be looking for redemption after their embarrassing performance in this game, and besides, you just can’t hold that team down for long.

The Red Sox will score their runs, it’s just a matter of the Angels batters keeping pace.

This series is far from over, but everything we accomplish at this point is gravy. The Angels overcame incredible obstacles just to get here, and I plan on enjoying every moment like a rafter on the meandering river at Raging Waters.