Commentary

It just wasn't meant to be for Angels

Originally Published: October 7, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The distinct sound of boxing tape echoed through the Angels' home clubhouse Sunday afternoon, with players packing their belongings for the winter solstice. They hugged one another and said their goodbyes, with very few acting as if they had just been swept out of the playoffs.

These Angels are on their way home after the Red Sox beat them 9-1 for a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series. Boston will go on to play the winner of the Indians-Yankees series, and Los Angeles will be left with questions about why it was defeated so handily when it was one of the premier teams throughout the season.

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"To get to this point with what our organization and our roster dealt with all season is a terrific accomplishment," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose team lost its ninth straight postseason game to Boston, dating to 1986. "It doesn't make us feel better when we wake up tomorrow -- we're not going to feel good about this series.

"I don't think the whole season is a disaster because of what happened in this series, but our expectations were higher than what we achieved."

What they achieved was just a .192 batting average, and a 6.66 team ERA in three games, while scoring in just two of the 27 innings played. Although never a power threat, the Angels achieved most of their offensive success throughout the year by manufacturing runs, and they actually had a better team batting average in the regular season than the Red Sox did. But they ran into a Boston team that gave up just four runs all series -- with a shutout by Josh Beckett in Game 1, a stellar bullpen effort in Game 2 and a postseason warrior for Game 3 in Curt Schilling, who stifled the Angels on their turf.

Perhaps that's why the clubhouse was far less somber than losing clubhouses in the past -- the Angels didn't lose the series in the ninth inning of Game 5. They lost it long before Sunday.

John Lackey, the losing pitcher in Game 1, was one of the only players sitting in his locker after the game pondering the outcome. Most were too busy packing and being social -- some even making jokes -- to think about what had just happened.

"I was just thinking 162 games of work can be over pretty quick," Lackey said. "They're good, man, how many times do you want us to give it to them? I'm definitely disappointed right now; we didn't get to where we wanted to get."

Vladimir Guerrero
AP Photo/Kevork DjansezianVladimir Guerrero was 2-for-10 with no RBIs in the ALDS against the Red Sox.
Much was made of what the Angels didn't have, and that's their No. 4 hitter healthy, with Garret Anderson suffering from conjunctivitis. Anderson had been 2-for-9 with no homers and no RBIs until leaving Game 3 after the first inning. Adding to the injury/MIA list was Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels' center fielder, who hurt his ankle in the last week of the season and was left off the ALDS roster.

It also didn't help that Casey Kotchman, the team's first baseman, didn't start the final game with an undisclosed non-baseball medical condition and that Vladimir Guerrero, by far the biggest offensive weapon, was playing with a sore triceps that had limited him to DH duty for the last few weeks of the regular season. Guerrero finished 0-for-6 with no RBIs while playing right field in the series.

"You can't really make an excuse because we're missing some key players," said Jered Weaver, who limited the Red Sox to two runs in five innings in his first postseason start. "Obviously not having really any protection behind Vladdy today kind of put a little damper on the offensive situation, but at the same time, it's not just an offensive game.

"You can't put the blame on one thing."

As the ninth inning wound down and it was clear this would be a rout, the fans started filing out of Angel Stadium, the place where their team had the best record and batting average in the majors this season. As they retreated to their cars, the echoing of Red Sox chants filled their ears.

This year wasn't the Angels', and it had been pretty clear since the two teams first met Wednesday night in Boston that that likely would be the case.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

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