Just about every necessary thing the Red Sox did to steal Game 1 against the Angels, they failed to do in Game 2.
* In the fourth inning, the streak of 12 straight innings of keeping Los Angeles leadoff men off base ended, and the Angels got them on regularly the rest of the night.
* Until Jonathan Papelbon arrived, they couldn't retire Mark Teixeira or Vladimir Guerrero. While they didn't kill the Sox with extra-base hits, they were two gimme baserunners.
* Daisuke Matsuzaka couldn't keep his pitch count down. After a promising start, the long counts that helped drag this game out to almost four hours began, and he soared over 100 in the fifth inning, after which he was done.
* They couldn't keep Chone Figgins off the bases at an important time. His leadoff gap shot in the eigth was an automatic triple, and a medium-length fly ball brought him home to tie the game.
Yet somehow, the Red Sox found a way to return to Boston up 2-0 with the chance to clinch the series tomorrow night after stealing Late Night in Anaheim.
'Twasn't karma that extended the Angels' postseason losing streak against Boston to 11 games. 'Twas a couple of long balls, Jason Bay's three-run shot in the first inning that provided a 4-0 lead and J.D. Drew's two-run home in the ninth off world save record holder Francisco Rodriguez that delivered the win. 'Twas Papelbon's six-out shutdown of the Angels' offense - this is why Terry Francona sometimes treats his closer with kid gloves in the regular season. 'Twas the bench performance, with Alex Cora in the spotlight on both sides of the ball after the ailing Mike Lowell was sat down follwing an 0-for-4 performance in Game 1.
The Angels of the regular season, the ones that won eight straight over Boston, would've pulled this game out. They erupted against Dice-K in July and handed him one of his only three losses, but as much as he struggled in the fifth last night, couldn't nail him for the big hit. Those Angels would've tie or taken the lead against shaky rookie Justin Masterson in the seventh. Erwin Santana would've found his groove earlier.
It's a different game this time of year. The Angels were masters of the summer game. The Red Sox are masters of the October game.
Elsewhere, we're riding to sweepsville:
* What a night to be a Warwick, R.I. native. Rocco Baldelli, who went to high school there, drives in an insurance run for the Rays in the eighth, and Dan Wheeler, who grew up there, nails down the two-game lead. Tampa Bay has kept the regular season momentum going, with a big boost from Carl Crawford's return, and should ride its pitching into the ALCS.
* I can smell a Dodger sweep, too. Manny's still being Manny, and the Cubs are kicking the ball around like Little Leaguers. They laid two big fat eggs at Wrigley, and I don't see them turning it around.
* The Brewers deserve all the credit in the world for retrieving a seemingly lost playoff spot in the final days of the regular season, but they emptied the tank in the process. The offense sputtered to a halt in Philly, and C.C. Sabathia finally broke down in the second inning of Game 2 after carrting the Milwaukee pitching staff on his back since arriving from Cleveland. The Brew Crew won't be booking a return flight to Philly.