Get ready for Angels in the (Fenway Park) outfield.
Barring a complete collapse by the Indians, the Red Sox should be playing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League Division Series next week. And, barring a complete collapse by the Red Sox, the series should begin at Fenway Park with the Sox having home-field advantage.
Anaheim (in the interests of brevity, we'll stick to calling them Anaheim from here on in rather than Los Angeles, California, Orange County, or Disneyland) has the night off before opening up a three-game series in Oakland against the A's tomorrow night. They were pounded by 16-2 by the Rangers yesterday, swept by Texas in a three-game set, and are dealing with mounting injuries.
With 92 wins and three games to play, the Angels would have to sweep the A's while the Indians went 0-4 down the stretch to finish ahead of Cleveland in the overall American League standings (the Indians hold the tie-breaker over Anaheim.) Doing this would be the only way the Angels could play New York in the first-round.
Otherwise, it'll be the Sox and Angels next week, whether or not the Sox finish with the best overall record in the league.
In order to lose home-field advantage in the ALDS, Boston would need to lose its final four games of the season (all against Minnesota) while the Angels went 3-0 this weekend.
The Sox won six of 10 games against the Angels this season, a series that would've been much tighter if not for Boston's three-game sweep at Fenway in April (it was a four-game series, but one game was rained out.) In that series, the Angels seemed thoroughly disinterested, struggling through a 1-8 stretch. They came to Boston after being swept by Cleveland in Milwaukee (waiting until the last minute to find out where those games would be played as Jacobs Field was stuck under a week-long snowstorm.) Seemed as though Vladimir Guerrero and the boys couldn't get back to sunny California fast enough.
Take away that stretch of baseball, and the Angels are 91-59, a .607 winning percentage.
In fact, they haven't had a stretch of bad baseball like that until the past week. They have suddenly lost five of six and are limping badly towards the finish line. Gary Matthews suffered another knee injury in yesterday's debacle. Guerrero has been playing DH with a triceps history and was hit by a pitch in Texas. Kelvim Escobar, a 17-game winner, was pushed back in the rotation to rest a sore shoulder.
This will be the second time Boston and Anaheim meet in the ALDS in the past four years. In 2004, David Ortiz hit a walk-off homer in the 11th inning of Game 3 at Fenway, eliminating the Halos and setting off a baseball celebration that culminated some three weeks later with Boston's first World Series championship since 1918.
It hasn't been nearly that long a drought for the Sox this time around. That hasn't lessened the hunger Red Sox Nation has for a championship. The next step towards that goal could come as early as tonight, when the Sox could celebrate their first Division title since 1995.
Then, it'll be onto the series with the Angels. Get ready for Josh Beckett and John Lackey in Game One.