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Sox knock off Angels, head to the “Mistake By The Lake”

By Denebola
Published: October 2007
By Andrew KlegmanAs Red Sox relief pitcher Eric Gagne induced the final out in game three of the American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels, the Red Sox made history in the Major League Baseball playoffs. Not only had the Red Sox swept the Angels in three games, but they had also become the third team in the 2007 playoffs to do so.

On the previous day, October 6, both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies swept their series against the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively. The Sox’s victory marked the first time in MLB playoff history that three teams had swept their first round series in the same year.

The Chicago Cubs, coming from last place in the middle of the year to win the National League Central Division, did not stand a chance against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who held the National League’s best record with 90 wins and 72 losses. The Diamondbacks’ hot bats silenced the Cubs, outscoring them 16 to 6 and hitting six home runs to the Cubs’ one.

Likewise, the Phillies, just sliding their way into the playoffs after a breakdown from the New York Mets at the end of the regular season, were no match against the rolling Rockies, who had won 14 of their last 15 games. After defeating the San Diego Padres to clinch the Wild Card slot in the National League, the Rockies cruised by the Phillies, taking advantage of their slumping offense and weak pitching.

In Boston, fans must have been pleased when the Sox they saw playing in the ALDS were reminiscent of the 2004 World Series Champions. Like in 2004, the Red Sox swept the series, and this year they left Angel Stadium holding a 9-0 career playoff record against them.

In game one of the series, at Fenway, the Red Sox set the tone, shutting out the Angels 4-0. Josh Beckett pitched a gem, giving up only four hits and striking out eight in his complete game shutout. With one swing of the bat, Kevin Youkilis picked up his first career postseason hit and home run, and a two-run shot from David Ortiz later in the game was all Beckett needed to secure the win.

The Sox faced some difficulty in game two when the Angels rattled rookie pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was forced to leave after only four innings.

Tied in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox looked to Big Papi for some late game magic, but Ortiz was intentionally walked, leaving the game up to struggling slugger Manny Ramirez with two outs and two men on base.

On the second pitch of his at bat, Manny drilled Francisco Rodriguez’s 1-0 fastball over the green monster into the night sky, securing game two in walk-off fashion by a score of 6 to 3.

After two strong victories, the Red Sox cruised through game three as they clobbered the Angels 9-1. Ortiz and Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs for the first time this year, and the Red Sox’s seven-run eighth inning assured Boston fans that their hometown team would move on to the American League Championship Series.

As the first three series all concluded with sweeps, many eyes turned to the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. Cleveland led their series 2-0, and –they needed one win to sweep the Yankees, potentially setting an incredible record in MLB playoff history with every division series ending in a sweep.

But the Yankees ref used to succumb to the record books, and they defeated the Indians in game three by a score of 8-4, disappointing everyone expecting to witness history.

Entering game four of the series, tensions and expectations skyrocketed. Not only did the Yankees face elimination for the second night in a row, but also manager Joe Torre faced his possible final game in a Yankee uniform.

The Indians struck early with a home run from Grady Sizemore to lead off the game, and after six innings they led 6-2. But the Yankees responded later in the game, with homeruns from Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu.

The score was 6-4 as Yankee catcher Jorge Posada stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the rattled Indian’s closer Joe Borowski, who had just surrendered a solo shot to Abreu two batters before.

With one strike on the count, Posada crushed Borowski’s delivery down the line in right field. Indians fans gasped as they watched what they believed was their four-run lead shrink to only one. But the ball curved just foul of the pole, and what appeared to be a home run to all spectators became strike two for Posada.

Letting out a long sigh of relief, Joe Borowski reared back, and knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs with strike three to Posada. This victory marked the first time that the Indians had reached the American League Championship series since 1998.

Joe Torre turned from the field that night, losing what possibly could be his last game ever managing for the Yankees.

In his twelve seasons managing the Yankees, Torre led the Bronx Bombers to the playoffs every year. Four of Torre’s first five seasons ended in World Series titles, but since their last title in 2000, the Yankees have returned home empty handed every postseason.

Entering the American and National League Championship series, four teams remain. In the National League, the Diamondbacks take on the Rockies, and in the American League the Indians battle the Red Sox. Yet before these series start, it’s only proper to make some questionable predictions.

In the NLCS, the National League’s two best regular season records square off in a best of seven series. Both coming from the National League West, the Diamondbacks and Rockies faced each other multiple times during the year, and the Rockies won the season series 10-7.

Side by side, these teams are incredibly similar. Both teams have a mediocre pitching staff with one strong starter and a very powerful offense. Both teams are composed of veteran leaders productive rookies.

While the Diamondbacks hold home field advantage, the upper edge goes to the rolling Rockies. For the sixth straight year, a wild card team will advance to the World Series. Final result: Rockies win in five games.

In the ALCS, two powerhouses clash. The Sox, taking five out of the seven regular season games against the Tribe, have home field advantage, a gigantic factor in a series between two such evenly matched teams.

Game one, a Cy Young showdo wn between Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia, is a pivotal point in the series. Whichever team can triumph over the other’s ace and win game one will most likely go on to be the American League Champions. No doubt, it will come down to the final game, and on home turf, the Red Sox will take the American League Championship. Final result: Sox win in seven games.

After just squeezing into the World Series, the Red Sox will face a much simpler task with the Rockies. Their superior pitching and equal, if not better, hitting will send the young and inexperienced Rockies crawling home. Final result: Boston Red Sox win the World Series in five games, bringing the trophy back to Beantown for the second time in four years.

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