ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You know where this is going. Your vision would have to be more blurred than Carlos Pena's not to see. The impending storyline for later this month is as fat as that Francisco Rodriguez changeup J.D. Drew blasted late Friday night to deflate the Los Angeles Angels 7-5.
|Things are lining up well for Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and the Red Sox. (Getty Images)|
"That'd be crazy, wouldn't it?" Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz gushed after greeting K-Rod with a double to start a ninth inning that effectively neutered a baseball-record 62 saves.
Maybe your heart already has broken into four large pieces, same as the number of Cubs errors in Game 2 the other night, at the tattered sight of Lou Piniella's club. Sorry.
Maybe you've been a Tampa Bay fan your entire life (you're 11) and are just certain that after the Rays finish waxing the White Sox, they're going to ambush Boston. Your enthusiasm is impressive, but you'll learn pain and disappointment as you grow.
Is that you I hear chattering in Philadelphia about rendezvousing with the Fall Classic for the first time since 1993? Listen, Milwaukee's pitching is CC Sabathia and the Seven Dwarfs; wait until you see what's around the corner.
If you think baseball gods have treated you wickedly during all those lost years in Veterans Stadium, just wait until Manny and his Mates settle into the Hitter's Wonderland that is Citizens Bank Park in the NLCS.
Dreadlocked sluggers are taking charge in Wrigley Field. Guys practically are being raised from the dead to hit game-winning homers and fill the post-Manny void for Boston.
"I don't know how much I believe in the baseball gods," said Drew, whose lower back has been so whacked -- he had an epidural not long ago -- that his Game 2 appearance was only his fourth start in Boston's past 40 games. "We'll see what happens. There's a lot of baseball between now and then.
"I think everybody thinks that would be pretty cool. They're swinging the bats well over there, and we're playing well over here.
"We'll see if it lines itself up."
Drew, who opted out of his Dodgers contract and declared free agency two winters ago -- making him one hated man in Los Angeles -- also doubled, singled and scored twice as the banged-up Red Sox stunned the Angels.
His ninth-inning homer came with pinch-runner Coco Crisp on second and one out. The Red Sox had taken a 4-0 lead in the first against Angels starter Ervin Santana, highlighted by a three-run homer from Jason Bay.
When Bay, the main piece acquired for Manny on July 31, arrived at Boston's Logan Airport following the controversial trade, he heard an announcement that went something like, "Jason Bay, your bags from Pittsburgh are coming on carousel 13. Welcome to Red Sox Nation."
"I was kind of hiding in a corner with my head down," Bay said. "I thought they said that every time the bags came out. Then a guy came over to me and said, 'Did you like my announcement?'"
"Wouldn't that be something?" said Bay, who, in the first two playoff games of his life has gone 5-for-9 with two homers, five RBI and 12 total bases for a 1.333 slugging percentage and a .556 on-base percentage.
The Angels in the outfield chasing these rockets are having a difficult time telling the difference between Ramirez's launches in last fall's first-round sweep and Bay's missiles now.
Talk about fitting in. Bay hit .293 with nine homers and 37 RBI in 49 games with Boston, and the Red Sox compiled the AL's best record in the second half of the season.
Why, you'd almost think they didn't even miss You-Know-Who.
"I think he just had to get used to answering all the questions about filling Manny's shoes," Drew said of Bay. "That was a little difficult.
"He's a huge part of our team. He's had some big hits in the postseason. He's a good player."
With Drew's back aching, third baseman Mike Lowell dragging around a sore hip (he didn't play in Game 2), ace Josh Beckett battling a strained oblique (he's slated to start Game 3 Sunday in Boston) and with Ramirez on the other coast, lots of folks figured this was the year the Angels were finally going to get around their traditional playoff nemesis.
Especially because the Angels beat Boston in eight of nine regular-season games.
But didn't somebody just recently say "past is prologue," or something like that, in some debate the other night? Boston is again handling the Angels with ease in October.
Mike Scioscia's club is hitting .190 (4-for-21) with runners in scoring position. They've stranded 20 base-runners in this series, including 11 on Friday night.
They have 20 hits so far in this series: 19 singles and one lousy Chone Figgins triple. Well, it wasn't so lousy, actually. It led off the eighth inning and chased reliever Justin Masterson, and two batters later, Mark Teixeira against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, Figgins scored the tying run on a sac fly. From 5-1 to 5-5, and with K-Rod in the game, things were supposed to have been headed the Angels' way.
But they couldn't overcome the wretched situational hitting, the hole dug by an over-throwing Santana early in the game or the absolutely brutal swings of second baseman Howie Kendrick (0-for-9 in the series with five strikeouts, and he looks scared to death).
So, four playoff series, and four teams up two games to none. Bring it on, Tampa Bay. Let's see what you've got, Philadelphia.
But, Manny (and Nomar and D-Lowe) vs. the Red Sox, oh my Lord, you can see it from here. With Curt Schilling on the sidelines blogging the entire time.
Too many weird things are converging. The Red Sox have their groove back. The Dodgers again have leadoff man Rafael Furcal after he missed most of the season following back surgery. The Cubs, the best-fielding team in the NL, commit four errors in one game. K-Rod, with 62 saves, gets beaten on a changeup.
The question that will loom later this month is whether Fenway Park can hold all of the blood lust that will be in the air, or whether the spillover from Red Sox Nation will appear en masse in Dodger Stadium to voice their displeasure to those who worship at the altar of Manny out there.
"That'd be great," Ortiz said, flashing his smile that looks like a million bucks, of the increasing prospect of Red Sox-Dodgers. "But there are a lot of games left, know what I'm saying?"
But the way this is setting up. ...
"That would make for good media pub, but as you well know, in the playoffs, anything can happen," Papelbon said. "Don't count your eggs before they're hatched."
Yeah, tell us about it.
Thing is, anything already is happening.
"Could you imagine that story?" backup Boston first baseman Sean Casey said. "Everyone in the world would love to see that. There would be so many storylines you couldn't count them all if that happens.
"It would be mayhem, absolute mayhem if that happens.
"Hopefully, we're on a crash course."