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Angels notebook

The past is a lost cause

Lackey, Hunter dismiss history

Game 1 Angels starter John Lackey is not really interested in discussing the last three postseason meetings with the Sox. Game 1 Angels starter John Lackey is not really interested in discussing the last three postseason meetings with the Sox. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press
)
By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / October 7, 2009

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ANAHEIM, Calif. - John Lackey, the Angels’ Game 1 starter, had barely settled into a seat behind the podium before a question annoyed him. How can the Angels, a reporter asked, overcome the hex the Red Sox have on his team?

“Their hex, huh?’’ Lackey said. “I don’t know how to answer that.’’

The Sox have knocked out the Angels in the ALDS the past two seasons and in three of the last five years, providing an uncomfortable backdrop for Anaheim in this series. Yesterday, the main story line surrounding the Angels persisted despite their rejection of it. The Angels insist that recent history has no bearing on this year’s series.

“I don’t think there is anything really to go back and analyze as to what’s happened the last couple of times we played them,’’ manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s a whole new set of variables, whole new set of matchups.’’

The Angels believe they lost the three series for different but clear reasons. In 2004, the Sox were simply the better team. In 2007, the Angels were too beat up to put up much of a fight. Last year, they made errors at inopportune times.

“We didn’t quite play up to our capabilities,’’ Lackey said. “I thought we had the team that could have gotten it done last year, for sure.’’

Instead, the Angels are 1-9 against the Red Sox in the playoffs since 2004. Last year’s series created a queasy notion that some players shriveled on the enhanced stage.

“I don’t think it’s because of Boston, man,’’ said Torii Hunter, asked why the Angels made mistakes in last year’s ALDS. “I just think it’s because of the hype. Last year, a couple guys got caught up in the hype of playoffs, of Red Sox and Angels, the past.

“Guys are a year older. They’re a lot more mature than in the past, and I think they’re going to go out there and do some great things.’’

Late this season, after the Sox beat the Angels in the first two games of a series at Fenway Park, Hunter called out his team for playing differently against the Sox. The words carried a lot of weight given Hunter’s stature in the clubhouse. This is what Hunter said:

“It’s not more important. You just play the game like you’ve been playing the whole season. Play every team the same way. This team is not more important than the Tampa Bay Rays or the Seattle Mariners. Same team. You play the game to win, no matter. You have fun. You do what you do. You don’t change nothing because it’s the Red Sox or the Yankees. Play the game. If you play nervous, you’re going to make mistakes.’’

Asked if he thought he had solved the team’s problems against the Sox, Hunter had a slight case of amnesia.

“I didn’t say anything about Boston,’’ Hunter said. “You just got to go out there and play the game. It’s the same game. You can’t get caught up in the hype, nothing like that. Just play the game. Play the game the right way. That’s all I was asking.’’

Finally, Hunter decided the 2008 ALDS needn’t be discussed anymore.

“Last year is last year,’’ he said. “I’m not talking about last year. You can talk about it all you want. You can write about it all you want. I don’t give a damn about last year.’’

Bulger questionable
Because of pain in his right shoulder, reliever Jason Bulger is a question mark for Game 1. Bulger dealt with discomfort in the front of his shoulder over the weekend, but in his mind, he’ll play. “I’m very convinced,’’ Bulger said. “I don’t have a doubt in my mind.’’ If Bulger is unavailable, usual starter Ervin Santana, who was put in the bullpen after an injury-plagued season, could see a role aside from emergency long man . . . Howie Kendrick will start at second base tomorrow over Maicer Izturis, Scioscia said. Izturis will start Friday . . . Since winning the 2002 World Series, the Angels are 2-9 at home in the postseason . . . While Terry Francona has not named a Game 4 starter, Scioscia committed to Joe Saunders as the Angels starter.

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com

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