The Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim won 100 games this year, securing home field advantage for the entire playoffs as the AL won the 2008 MLB All Star Game. They had a closer (Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez) who set the MLB record for saves this season at 62. They had a deep lineup full of speedy players that could play excellent defense, manufacture runs and with the addition of Mark Texeira they had a lot more pop in their lineup.
The Angels faced the Red Sox nine times this season, winning all but once. These games were not close, by the way. When that team hosted the Boston Red Sox they just knew that this was their year to finally surpass them. Just as the Red Sox had surpassed the Yankees, the Angels were poised to ascend to the AL throne. Just one problem, the Red Sox are still the defending World Series Champions and it's a short series. The regular season goes right out the window once the postseason gets underway. It's a different animal altogether.
The Red Sox stunned the Angels twice at home, ultimately stretching their unbeaten streak against them to 11 games spanning 22 years before the Angels finally beat the Red Sox in Fenway Park in extra innings. The next game, the Red Sox won the series on a walk off single from rookie Jed Lowrie and new Red Sox OF Jason Bay slid into home plate hands first to beat the throw and earn the Boston Red Sox their fourth ALCS berth in the past six seasons (usually at the expense of the Angels). The regular season means nothing, just ask the Chicago Cubs *cue up sitcom failure music*
The Red Sox will now face their fiercest rivals (did I really just type that?), the Tampa Bay Rays (is this an alternate universe or some shit?). The Rays took the AL East over the Red Sox by 2 games this season by besting Boston in the season series 10-8 and winning six of those contests by one run. The problem is that all of those wins mean nothing now. Are the Rays intimidated by the Sox? Absolutely not. Why should they be? They took the division and played them 18 times so far. They've beaten them eight out of the nine times they played at the Trop as well. Problem is that means nothing in October. Like Morpheus said in "The Matrix" "Do you really think that matters in HERE?"
The team that can withstand the glaring lights of the stage known as the ALCS and be mentally tough enough to make the necessary plays night after night to pull out wins when it counts the most will earn the right to play for the World Series Championship in 2008. As good a pitching, fielding and hitting team the Rays are. As deep and effective as their bullpen has been so far it all means nothing. It's about what you do now when it really counts. After this series is done, that's when people will make their final judgements on this team.
Mike Lowell will not be available for this series but that might be for the best. Josh Beckett is not the same Josh Beckett he was last year. Hideki Okajima is not the same pitcher he was last season. The thing is, neither are Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester. They're much better than they were last season. Johnathan Papelbon is a shut down closer and everyone else has to come up clutch. Dustin Pedroia isn't going to go 1-17 with just 1 RBI again. Be afraid, Rays fans. Be very afraid. This what the Tampa Bay Rays have wanted all season. Like the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it".
Fri, Oct 10 @ TB D. Matsuzaka vs. J. Shields 8:37 pm EST
Sat, Oct 11 @ TB J. Beckett vs. S. Kazmir 8:07 pm EST
Mon, Oct 13 @ BOS J. Lester vs. M. Garza 4:37 pm EST
Tue, Oct 14 @ BOS T. Wakefield vs. A. Sonnanstine 8:07 pm EST
Thu, Oct 16 @ TB 8:07 pm EST (if necessary)
Sat, Oct 18 @ BOS 4:37 pm EST (if necessary)
Sun, Oct 19 @ TB 8:07 pm EST (if necessary)