|Mike Scioscia's team played better vs. the Sox this postseason, but not well enough. (Elsa/Getty Images)|
Angels falter again
They just can't get past Red Sox
ANAHEIM, Calif. - They were baseball's best over the long, hot summer. Then came October, and another big chill.
The Los Angeles Angels seemed to have it all: a powerful lineup strengthened by newcomers Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira, an impressive rotation headed by John Lackey, and a bullpen anchored by record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez.
They won 100 games for the first time in franchise history, with eight of those victories coming in their nine meetings with the Red Sox, and baseball observers praised the Angels as a team that did the little things correctly.
But for the third time in four years, the Angels went cold against the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs, this time often freezing up with men on base. They managed to win just one game against the team that has become their postseason nemesis, and their hopes of bringing the series back to Anaheim for a fifth and deciding game essentially ended with a failed squeeze bunt, of all things.
"We played much better this series than going back to '04 or '07 against them," manager Mike Scioscia said.
Indeed, they were swept by the Red Sox in the first round in both those years. The Angels' 5-4, 12-inning victory in Game 3 this year is their lone win in the last 13 postseason contests against Boston.
"How can this keep happening?" Angels infielder Chone Figgins wondered.
Los Angeles won the AL West in four of the past five years, only to be eliminated three times by the Red Sox in the opening round and by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 ALCS.
Owner Arte Moreno and general manager Tony Reagins face some big decisions: Do they exercise options on Vladimir Guerrero ($15 million), Garret Anderson ($14 million), and Lackey ($9 million). Do they try to re-sign Teixeira, who was brought in for the last two months of the season and is eligible for free agency? Do they attempt to keep Rodriguez, who set a major league record with 62 saves but gave up a game-deciding, two-run homer to J.D. Drew in Game 2?
The Angels may be willing to let Rodriguez go because Jose Arredondo has shown he could take over the closer's role. Rodriguez is likely to command a five-year deal worth at least $75 million on the free agent market.
"This has been my family for 10 years. I would love to stay here for many years. I don't know what's going to happen," Rodriguez said.
Dissecting the Angels' latest postseason flop would seem to boil down to one telling number - 43. That's how many runners they stranded in the four games while scoring only 13 runs.
Then there was the Angels' squeeze that failed in the ninth inning of the concluding game Monday, when Erick Aybar missed his bunt attempt and catcher Jason Varitek tagged out Reggie Willits.
"Erick is one of the best bunters we have," Scioscia said, "and it didn't work out."