Silenced Sox limp home
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Remember that date with destiny? New millennium Red Sox-Yankees III - This Time It Counts? A chance to settle old scores and make more hardball history?
The Yankees are doing their part. Dramatic homers by almost-Red Sox Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira last night put the Bronx Bombers within one game of a return to the American League Championship Series for the first time since they were emasculated by Boston’s Band of Idiots in 2004.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, find themselves on the brink of elimination. The much-mocked Los Angeles Angels, easily erased three times by Boston this century, beat the Sox again last night, this time 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five bakeoff.
The series resumes with Sunday brunch (12:07 p.m.) at Fenway tomorrow and big-eyed Clay Buchholz is the only thing standing between the Olde Towne Team and a long, cold winter.
“There really is no big picture,’’ said Kevin Youkilis, one of the last of the ’04 Boys. “We just have to win a ballgame or we’re going home.’’
Your beloved Red Sox are reeling. Two games, two punches to the face. They can’t hit (one run, eight hits in 18 innings) and both aces were beaten at the Big A. Yeesh. The 2009 Boston baseball blueprint did not call for us to watch the Angels and Yankees in the ALCS.
It is not over yet, of course. Three times in the last decade the Sox have recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff series. They did it against Cleveland on the sheer will of Pedro Martinez in 1999. They did it against the Oakland A’s with Grady Little at the wheel in 2003. And, oh yes, there was that 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS against a well-known rival from New York.
The Sox are counting on Fenway to save them. Boston went 56-25 in Sweet Caroline Games this season.
“We’re going to have to do it at home,’’ said Youkilis. “We’ve got our crowd in front of us and hopefully that will be a big factor.’’
The Sox aren’t going to win any more games unless they hit. Bill Lee once said the Angels could take batting practice in the lobby of the old Grand Hotel and not break a chandelier. This ancient adage now applies to the Red Sox. They are easily shut down by strong pitching. Away from Fenway and the friendly lobs of cousins from Baltimore, Toronto, and Cleveland, the Sox offense disappears. The Franconamen had four hits Thursday and four last night. Youkilis and David Ortiz - Nos. 4 and 5 in the Sox lineup - are an aggregate 1 for 16 with five strikeouts in the series. Shades of Jose Canseco and Mo Vaughn (collective 0 for 27) against the Indians in 1995. Six of the Sox eight hits are singles. Wonder if John Henry has any second thoughts about not signing Teixeira?
The Sox were working on an embarrassing string of 20 consecutive scoreless postseason innings (going back to Game 7 at the Trop last year) when they finally broke through against Jered Weaver in the fourth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury led with a first-pitch triple to center and came home on a sharp, one-out single by Victor Martinez. It is the only run the Sox have scored in 18 innings of playoff baseball.
The Angels answered Boston’s run in the bottom half when Kendry Morales scored Bobby Abreu on a sacrifice fly to right.
The rest of the first seven frames were a nifty duel of tall righthanded starters. Beckett and Weaver. Mano et mano.
Beckett finally cracked in the home half of the seventh.
Vladimir Guerrero led with a walk. Trust me when I tell you it is almost impossible to walk Vladdy. Bad sign for Beckett.
In a bold move that indicated he did not think he could win a battle of bullpens, Mike Scioscia replaced Guerrero with pinch runner Howie Kendrick. Think about this. The manager lifted his cleanup hitter in the seventh inning of a 1-1 tie. Scioscia knew he wasn’t going to get much against the Sox relievers.
It worked. With one out, Kendrick stole second on the first pitch to Juan Rivera. With two out, the immortal Maicer Izturis cracked a single up the middle on a 1-and-1 pitch, plating Kendrick and giving the Angels a 2-1 lead.
It got ugly after that for Beckett and the Sox. Izturis stole second, Beckett hit Mike Napoli with a 2-and-2 pitch, then Erick Aybar scored both with a triple over Ellsbury’s head in center.
“I made a couple of mistakes in a situation where you can’t make mistakes,’’ said Beckett.
These are uncharted waters for Beckett. He was named MVP of the 2003 Fall Classic when he threw a five-hit shutout in the Series clincher in Yankee Stadium. Two years ago - the Red Sox second World Series parade - Beckett went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four postseason starts. Going into last night’s game he was 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 postseason appearances.
But he was beaten by the Angels. Just as Jon Lester was beaten Thursday night. And the Sox look like they’re panicking, indicating that they’d like to go back to Lester on three days’ rest Monday . . . if there is a Monday.
It’s go time for the Angels. Go home time for the Red Sox.
Unless they can save themselves at Fenway.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.