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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Diceman Cometh
Now that the Red Sox are 5.5 games in front of the Rangers in the wild card (six in the loss column) and 6.5 behind the Yankees (only five in the loss column), we can finally exhale and assume that yes, Boston will be in the playoffs again.
It's pretty much guaranteed that if you do in fact make it, they'll play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, for the millionth consecutive year.
And yes the Angels (86-58) have been one of baseball's hottest teams since the All-Star break but do you really fear that team?
The teams opened up an intriguing three-game set last night at Fenway and Boston won 4-1 behind Daisuke Matsuzaka's triumphant return to the big club.
Dice-K had been on a minor league odyssey since he was last seen at Fenway (June 19), out of shape and completely ineffective. With Clay Buchholz locking up the third spot in the rotation, all we need is a few signs from Dice-K that he can bring something positive to this season.
Obviously, he had a no-hitter into the fifth inning last night and in total, threw six shutout innings. Matsuzaka (2-5) allowed three hits, walked three and struck out five in one of the most promising things to happen to the Red Sox all season.
The Angels own the Yankees and most other teams in baseball but for whatever reason, when they come to Fenway (and especially when they meet in October) they turn into Grade A frauds. The Sox have beaten them in 12 of their last 13 playoff games (spanning '04, '07 and '08).
The Sox even beat Anaheim at their own game last night: small ball. Dustin Pedroia bunted to move over Alex Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury (at first and second respectively). Angels pitcher John Lackey botched the throw on Pedroia's bunt and Gonzalez came around to score, giving Boston a 1-0 lead in the sixth.
David Ortiz singled home Ellsbury later in the inning for a 2-0 lead.
Boston added two more in the eighth as Jason Bay singled home J.D. Drew and Ortiz ripped a solo homer.
Erick Aybar had an RBI double in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon but that was pretty much irrelevant.
Paul Byrd opposes Joe Saunders tonight in game 2.