MLB Playoffs: Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Michael Harrington

The Los Angeles Angels have been the best team in baseball all season long. They’re the most balanced, they play hard, and are very aggressive on the bases. They will take their Major League-best 100 wins into the American League Division Series against the defending World Series Champion, the Boston Red Sox.

Offensively, Boston is going to falter for the same reason that the Dodgers are going to thrive this October: Manny Ramirez.

While the Red Sox still have a potent lineup, they aren’t nearly as scary without Manny in the middle of it. David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis still produce tons of runs, but it’s possible to pitch around a hitter or two in a short series, especially with J.D. Drew being a question mark. They’ve averaged under four runs a game in the last two weeks. That isn’t Boston-like.

Although the Angels offense ranks in the bottom half of the American League, they beefed it up when they added Mark Teixeira to play along with the likes of Garrett Anderson and Torri Hunter. Oh yeah, and some guy named Vlad.

If the Red Sox don’t score five runs a game, they don’t have a chance. The Angels win more one and two-run games than any other team.

The reason for that success? They have K-Rod closing out games. And the Rally Monkey, too.

But as always, pitching will determine who wins a five-game series, and these two clubs have no shortage of it. John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders will start the first three games for the Angels, and all have ERA’s of 3.75 or under.

The hurlers from Boston have been just as good. Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s ERA’s are under 3.20, and if not for Cleveland’s Cliff Lee’s amazing season, Dice-K would be the American League Cy Young award-winner.

However, the X-Factor is Josh Beckett. The Boston ace was scratched from the series opener and pushed back to start Game 3 due to injury. He’s the guy the Red Sox wanted to pitch twice in the series, because he’s playoff-proven. His performance in the crucial third game is going to decide the fate of Boston.

In the end, I’ll take the team that had their division all but locked up and still went out and added one of the hottest commodities on the trade market in Teixeira. Talk about a will to win.

Prediction: Angels in four.