Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew didn't exactly save the day last night. The two injured Red Sox who were virtually gametime decisions as far as postseason play was concerned went a combined 0-for-8 in Game 1 of the ALDS at Anaheim.
But with health comes peace of mind, which allowed the rest of the lineup to do its job and extend Boston's postseason winning streak over Angels to 10 straight, trumping the Halos' eight-game regular season winning streak over the Sox.
Peace of mind took many forms for world champions who entered the series as underdogs:
* John Lester was money for seven innings, allowing just one unearneds run while striking out seven and shutting up the doubters of his ability to pitch like a number one or two guy on the road (ah, I believe he already owns a World Series win...in Colorado). Justin Masterson took care of the eighth (with a little help from a Vlad Guerrero baserunning blooper), and Jonathan Papelbon was, well, the Pap we know and love. Goes to show the potent heart of the Angels' lineup isn't as fearsome when you keep Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar (0-for-9 combined) off the bases.
* Manny Ramirez threw it down in Chicago, and Jason Bay answered in Anaheim with the two-run homer in the sixth that put Boston ahead. Hopefully, those in the Boston media who are still griping about Manny's play with the Dodgers stopped long enough to notice Bay has come up with some big hits down the stretch. Playoffs are a fresh experience that seems to agree with Bay.
* The Jacoby Ellsbury of October '07 is back...and that spells trouble for the Angels. A 3-for-5 night with two stolen bases, a double, an RBI single in the ninth...so he won't win Rookie of the Year. He's just being clutch when needed instead.
Taking a peep at the National League:
* Cole Hamels grew up in a hurry, from struggling in last year's playoffs to dominating a strong Milwaukee lineup for eight innings. One cause for slight worry, though...the strain of perfection is being to show on Brad Lidge. He still hasn't blown a save all year, but he needed 30-plus pitches on four of his last five regular season saves, and he threw 35 in the ninth yesterday. If I'm in the Brewer dugout and Lidge has to protect a one-run lead in the ninth tonight, I like my chances.
* Daisuke Matsuzaka performed the high-walk, high-pitch count tightrope act in Boston all year, and usually got away with it. Ryan Dempster did not get away with it last night. He got ahead of Manny 0-2 and couldn't finish him on his way to loading the bases in the fifth. After six walks, he got ahead of James Loney 0-2 with two out and couldn't finish him. Instead, Loney went deep, and Wrigley Field looks like a Fenway Park playoff crowd pre-October 2004.