Are the Angels the new 2004 Red Sox? After getting a long history of failing to beat the Red Sox in the playoffs off their backs with a rousing defeat of their nemesis, the Angels will face the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees beat an over matched Twins' team and have won their first post season series since 2005. Meanwhile, on a frigid Colorado night, the Phillies have inched closer to facing the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Let's start with the Angels. This Fan has to admit that the Angels' come from behind victory was stunning and gratifying. Jonathan Papelbon is probably the most disliked reliever in baseball since John Rocker and to see him get beat was a thing of beauty. The Fan also has to admit that the Angels match up better with the Yankees than the current Red Sox do. The Yankees totally dominated the Red Sox toward the end of the season.
The Red Sox will have to do some serious thinking about their 2010 club as several things seemed to go wrong for them this year. The starting rotation turned out to be a mess after being touted so highly early in the year. The bullpen really was not as good as touted either. And their batting was anemic. Both David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis batted .083 in the series and did not provide any kind of help for the team. One has to question whether the Red Sox will continue with Ortiz or if the post season analysis will reveal that the Angels just did a masterful job of pitching to him. The Red Sox staff is one of the smartest in all of baseball and they have their work cut out for them.
The Angels on the other hand look dynamic and resilient. They had the upper hand in all phases of the series and when they had their backs to the wall in the third and final game, they answered and took the brass ring. Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu have been remarkable and Vlad Guerrero got his legs under him for one final big hit. This Fan would call their series with the Yankees as too close to call. Both teams seem evenly matched.
The Yankees got big time play from four of the remaining guys from their last championship. Andy Pettitte was brilliant against the Twins. Jorge Posada got the big home run against Carl Phreakin Pavano to put the Yankees ahead. Jeter, quiet at the bat after a good first two games, made another one of his patented heads up plays in the post season by ranging far to his left to get a grounder and then throwing home to hang pesky Nick Punto out to dry after he ranged too far past third base. Mariano Rivera came in for the last out in the eighth when the game was still 2-1 and shattered the great Joe Mauer's bat like no other reliever in baseball can do to get the final out. After the Yankees picked up two more runs off of Nathan and company, Rivera closed out the game. But there is no way to forget that this was a playoff coming of age party for Alex Rodriguez, whose homer off of Pavano when Pavano seemed untouchable, got the Yankees in the mindset where they could win the game. A-Rod was finally exonerated for post season failures in the past and was clutch often and put the Yankees over the top.
The Rockies probably should have started an experienced Jason Marquis instead of Jason Hammel against the Phillies. This writer feels that he would have given the Rockies a better chance to win the game. Hammel did not stop the Phillies and the Rockies also went to the Jose Contreras well once too often. The Rockies had stolen home field advantage from the Phillies by taking one of the games at Philadelphia, but then handed it right back to them with a loss at home. Utley and Howard came up big for the Phillies and the Phillies seem to be back in control.