|Eighth inning: To the ‘pen! To a tie!||10.06.08 at 8:13 pm ET|
Manager Terry Francona opted to lift Jon Lester after 109 pitches and seven innings of shutout ball. Lester in two playoff starts: 14 innings, 10 hits, 0.00 ERA. In fact, dating to the ALCS against Cleveland, he has now made four straight postseason appearances without allowing an earned run. His streak is up to 22.2 innings.
Hideki Okajima is doing as he does on zero days of rest, getting back-to-back grounders to start the eighth before he permitted a two-out walk to Big Tex. The Angels offense is doing squat, with Sox pitchers recording 10 straight outs between Chone Figgins’ fifth inning single and the Teixeira walk, but because of Lackey’s excellent night, the Angels are still positioned to tie the game with a single Vlad Guerrero swing of the bat.
That reality prompted Sox manager Terry Francona to summon Justin (death on righties) Masterson to face Guerrero. The rookie poured gas, getting a called strike on a 96 mph four-seamer and a foul ball on a 95 mph two-seamer to jump ahead 1-2. But Masterson then lost the zone with four straight pitches, walking Guerrero (who flipped the leg between his legs — style points, to be sure, for a man with 0 RBIs this playoffs).
With runners on first and second, Torii Hunter stepped to the dish. Masterson jumped ahead 0-2, but crossed signals with Jason Varitek and fired a ball over his catcher’s glove. Varitek was clearly anticipating a slider, rather than the 97 mph four-seamer that could have decapitated the ump.
The cross-up proved huge. With runners on second and third, Torii Hunter fought off a 2-2 sinker (the sixth pitch of his at-bat) to right field for a two-run single, the second run scoring the plate in the form of the sluggish Guerrero.
Though the Angels have committed four errors this series to one by the Red Sox, Los A. of A. has done a better job of taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. The Angels have scored two unearned runs this series (the second coming in the eighth due to Varitek’s passed ball), while the Sox have yet to score an unearned run.
The Angels decided to bring in reliever Scot Shields for the bottom of the eighth. Like the Sox, the Angels had to exhaust their ‘pen in the 12-inning Game 3 contest, perhaps no one more than Shields, who threw a season-high 2.1 innings.
Shields was not so good when pitching back-to-back days this year, recording a 5.50 ERA. But the postseason is defined by those who do extraordinary things under sometimes extraordinary circumstances, and so it seemed unsurprising that he was back on the bump for the second straight night.
Random aside: Shields was the best player taken in the 38th round of the 1997 draft. Another little known fact: rather than getting a signing bonus, Shields actually had to give up a “t” in his first name. Somewhere, there’s a scout with a first name of Scottt. Where else can you get that kind of hard-hitting analysis?
At any rate, Shields was great for a second straight night, getting Dustin Pedroia to line softly to second and striking out both David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis. That’s three straight All-Stars who looked overmatched by the right-hander.
Angels 2, Red Sox 2
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