Division Leaders Meet In Boston
by Robert Ferringo - 07/27/2006
The Los Angeles Angels are headed to Boston this weekend to bang heads with the Red Sox in a series between current division leaders. Los Angeles is tied with Oakland in the American League West while Boston is holding a tenuous 1.5-game lead over the Yankees in the East.
But why bother? Let's just make Big Papi and Vlad Guerrero fight to the death in a steel cage match to decide the series. Actually, I think we should settle both league pennants that way. We'll take the best players from each contending team, throw them in The Contender house for a few weeks and have them battle it out in the squared circle for the right to play in the World Series.
We would have to bring Sly Stallone back. Pair him and Uncle Paulie in one corner and then have Sugar Ray and Tommy Gallagher in the other. Honestly, would you rather watch the Yankees pummel the Mariners in some boring mid-week series, or watch Richie Sexson rip Derek Jeter's arms out of his sockets while Paulie tells Rock, "He's gettin' killed out dare!" while Rocky yells to the Yankee captain, "Get outta that corna!!"
Unfortunately, only in my mind is this how pennant races get decided.
Bloody cage matches aside, this should be an interesting series for both the Red Sox and Angels. The non-waiver trade deadline is Monday and both clubs have been active in the market. There should be some action over the weekend, meaning that one or both of these clubs could be fielding different rosters between Friday to Saturday or Saturday to Sunday.
The Angels had been tearing through July, winning 13 of their first 14. They're 17-5 on the month but have cooled down. They are 4-3 on their recent road trip, and this little jaunt to Beantown comes at the end of a 10-day swing. Also, Anaheim has been horrendous against the Sox over the past few years. The Angels are just 2-12 in their last 14 games in Boston and just 4-13 in their last 17 meetings overall.
Here's a look at this weekend's pitching matchups:
Friday, 7:05 p.m. - Kelvim Escobar (6-9) vs. Jon Lester (5-0)
Who the hell is Jon Lester? He's a rookie left-hander that's 5-0 with a 3.04 ERA. Lester has been decidedly better at home (3-0, 2.22) and at night (5-0, 1.75). The Red Sox are also 7-3 in the last 10 that he's started. Also, the southpaw is facing an L.A. lineup that hits just .257 against lefties.
Escobar is a below-average starter that's won just one of his last 10 outings. This is just his third start since July 6, and he's a mere 5-6 lifetime against the Red Sox. Further, he's given up an average of eight hits and four runs in his last four starts.
Saturday, 1:20 p.m. - Jeff Weaver (7-0) vs. Josh Beckett (13-5)
Weaver has been a cute story this year. Well, that's if you consider a younger brother stealing his older brother's job "cute". Weaver is 7-0 with a 1.15 ERA and his presence has helped stabilize the Angels' outstanding rotation.
However, these are the teams that Weaver has beaten: Kansas City (twice), Oakland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Baltimore. That doesn't exactly make Weaver battle-tested. I see him getting hammered by both the Fenway Faithful and the Boston lineup, even though the Sox have scored two or fewer runs in five of their last 11 games.
Sunday, 8:05 p.m. - John Lackey (9-6) vs. Curt Schilling (13-3)
Lackey is 0-4 in his career against the Red Sox and Schilling is 4-0 in his career against the Angels.
Schilling is a rock in the Boston rotation and is unbeaten (8-0) this season at Fenway. He has been incredibly consistent over the past two months. He's gone between six to eight innings, giving up between one and four runs, in each of his last 10 starts.
John Lackey is one of the best pitchers that people wouldn't recognize if he was sitting next to them. Lackey is an innings-eater with an ERA of just 2.89, and is 5-1 in his last six starts. The trouble is that those five wins came against weak-hitting tams like Tampa, Oakland and the Dodgers.
Series Prediction: Boston wins 3-0.
It won't surprise me if Los Angeles steals a game, but I'll be shocked if they win the series. They have been playing well, but they've been beating up on the dregs of the AL. This is the end of a long road trip and they'll look forward to getting home after they absorb a pounding from a Boston team that's won seven of ten.
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