Both teams hoping to avoid speed trap
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Los Angeles Angels were successful on 15 of 17 stolen base attempts against the Red Sox this season, a statistic often referenced as the teams prepare to meet in the Division Series.
But the Angels have a similar feeling of unease when it comes to Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who led the major leagues with 70 steals.
“It’s a big concern,’’ Los Angeles catcher Mike Napoli said yesterday. “You’ve got to keep him off the base paths. He can go at any time. You tell your pitchers that he can’t steal first; you have to keep him off first base.’’
Six Angels stole at least 10 bases. The only other running threats in the Sox lineup are Dustin Pedroia (20 steals) and Jason Bay (13), although Joey Gathright could find himself on the roster as a pinch runner (80 career steals, 73.4 success rate).
Ellsbury is fast enough to make up for any disparity.
“He’s a great base stealer. You have to try and keep him close,’’ Napoli said. “He’s pretty good. It looks like he studies pitchers and their time [to the plate]. He does the right things to steal a base. We have some guys here who can do that and it looks like he follows the same program.
“Plain and simple, we’ve got to keep him off the bases.’’
Terry Francona made it clear he plans to turn Ellsbury loose.
“Jacoby’s as aggressive as probably any guy in the league,’’ the Red Sox manager said. “If we have guys that are slow, we don’t steal. If we have guys like Jacoby, we try to be aggressive. We just try to play to our players’ strengths. If we had eight guys like Jacoby, we would run more.’’
Ellsbury was 3 for 6 on steal attempts against the Angels this season.
The Angels split catching duties between Napoli and Jeff Mathis this season. Mathis, who will start tonight, threw out 18 of 70 runners. Napoli threw out 21 of 95.
Maicer Izturis could get the start at second base against Josh Beckett tomorrow. Rivera and Morales will swap places in the order.
“I was texting those guys congratulations,’’ he said. “They have the momentum now; they’ve been playing well.’’
No fan of the outdated Metrodome, Hunter was nonetheless impressed with the fervor of the sellout crowd of 54,088 during Minnesota’s dramatic 6-5 victory.
“That was cool, 54,000 people in the Metrodome. That was impressive. Plus they had 60 or 70,000 for the Vikings on Monday,’’ Hunter said. “That was quite a weekend in Minneapolis.’’
“I’ve had a taste of it,’’ said the 26-year-old righthander. “But I’m still learning.’’
Weaver’s older brother, Jeff, has 10 games of playoff experience with the Yankees, Cardinals, and Dodgers. He was 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA in five postseason starts for the 2006 World Series champion Cardinals.
“He’s a pretty reliable source to go to for this type of situation. He has been there and had some ups and downs,’’ Jered said. “But there was a great run with St. Louis and we’ve talked a lot about that.’’
Jeff Weaver was 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA pitching mainly in relief for the Dodgers this season. Weaver entered in the fourth last night and got out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Ryan Ludwick on a comebacker.