How Sweep It Is: Angels Exorcise Demons, Defeat Boston To Advance In The Playoffs


The Angels were beaten. They had to be.

Down 5-2 in the eighth inning and facing two stellar relievers lined up to close the game, they could only look to tomorrow and a Game 4 match-up between Joe Saunders and Jon Lester.

Or at least, that’s what it looked like. But appearances can be deceiving.

Once again, I must defer to the great linguist Yogi Berra who famously declared, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”

Unbelievably, impossibly, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim came back to sweep the Boston Red Sox and advance to the American League Championship Series.

Any talk of demons, curses, or hexes has been laid to rest for good.

What’s more, the Angels did it in a game in which they failed to execute in all the ways that helped them build their commanding two-game lead.

The starting pitching wasn’t there, the hits weren’t coming with men in scoring position, and Halos were left hanging on every base.

At least, through the first seven innings.

But from the eighth inning on, this was the Angels’ game to lose.

Key at-bats by the Angels’ biggest run-producers fueled a dramatic come-back off of Boston’s top relievers, setup man Billy Wagner and All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Bobby Abreu got things going in the eighth when he lined a double off Kevin Youkilis’ glove. Wagner then walked Vladimir Guerrero with one on and one out.

Papelbon eventually came on with runners at second and third and two men gone, looking for a four-out save.

He never found it.

Juan Rivera smacked a single into center field that brought home the runners and put the Angels just one run down.

In the top of the ninth, Kevin Jepsen struggled a bit, giving up a run to give the Sox a two-run lead, but by then it didn’t matter. The Angels’ come-back train was already on track and picking up steam.

Of the 97 wins that L.A. of A. racked up during the regular season, 47 were of the come-from-behind variety. In no contest did it ever seem like they were out of it, never to rally or show any heart, and it was no different here in Game 3.

After quickly getting the first two men out, Papelbon was staring down the barrel of yet another postseason save. The batter, Erick Aybar, was immediately put in a 1-2 hole.

Exactly where he wanted to be.

Papelbon grooved a fastball right over the outer half of the plate and Aybar easily laced back up the middle for a single.

The next batter, Chone Figgins, also found himself with two strikes, but he worked the count masterfully and eventually earned a walk.

For the third straight at-bat, the Angels were down to their last strike when Papelbon put Abreu in another 1-2. And for the third straight time, they came away with a baserunner.

Abreu stayed with Papelbon’s fastball that tailed away toward the outside corner and lined it off the Green Monster, driving in Aybar and keeping the inning alive.

With their lead back to just one run, the Red Sox walked Torii Hunter to load the bases for Vladimir Guerrero, a prolific hitter in his day but someone who was thought to be aging and having a hard time catching up to fastballs.

Big Daddy lined the first pitch he saw into center field, plating the final two runners and putting the Angels on top for good.

A stunned Boston crowd looked on as Brian Fuentes worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to end the Red Sox’ season while the Angels partied their way into the clubhouse and on to the ALCS.

Scott Kazmir, the Angels’ Game 3 starter, was off his game from the very first pitch. His fastballs were all up in the strike zone, and his slider was non-existent for most of the day.

By the third inning, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Victor Martinez had seen all they needed to of Kazmir, producing three runs in the inning and taking the early lead.

Kendry Morales belted a solo home run deep to right field in the fourth inning to get the Angels back within two, but J.D. Drew answered in the bottom of the frame with a two-run shot of his own, giving the Sox an intimidating 5-1 lead.

Clay Buchholz, Boston’s rookie starter, pitched well and got out of several jams before getting rattled in the sixth and loading the bases with nobody out.

The Angels scratched out only one run in that inning when Rivera grounded into yet another bases-loaded double play, his second of the series. By that point, they had squandered several opportunities with men in scoring position, giving the feeling that this just wasn’t their day.

But these guys just never know when to say quit.

They showed more than just heart in Sunday’s come-from-behind elimination victory; the Angels proved once and for all that, for them, the past is the past.

There is no more looking back, no more fearing that what happened before might happen again.

These guys, much like the championship squad of ’02, are tough, resilient, and never ever look like they’re out of any game.

It seems unbelievable that the Angels were able to pull out that win against those pitchers in that ballpark. But then, this team has gone through much rougher times and still come out swinging.

For the first time in the Angels’ playoff history, down goes Boston! Down goes Boston! DOWN GOES BOSTON!