Rested and Ready

Josh Beckett won the clinching game of the World Series on short rest in his first trip to the postseason in 2003. A year earlier, John Lackey did the same thing.

The two staff aces will be fully rested when they meet at Fenway Park on Wednesday as the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels begin their AL division series.

Beckett has been to the playoffs just once in his career, going 2-2 with a 2.11 ERA in six appearances, including five starts, with Florida in 2003. He notched two shutouts in that run, most notably when he limited the New York Yankees to five hits in a 2-0 win on three days' rest in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series to give the Marlins the title.

"There's nothing like pitching in the playoffs and being a part of that, and contributing and trying to help a team win a world championship," Beckett told the Red Sox's official Web site. "It's the ultimate goal."

Lackey will pitch in the third postseason of his career, which includes a phenomenal effort as a rookie in 2002. He went 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in five appearances - three starts - and allowed one run over five innings while pitching on three days' rest in a 4-1 victory over San Francisco in Game 7 of the World Series.

"John knows what you have to do to go out and win quote-unquote big games," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team's official Web site. "You're not always going to have the sun shining on you. There's a certain mind-set, and John has it. He wants to be that guy you can count on."

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Boston -160 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -160 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Both starters, who have never faced each other, turned in excellent seasons that have placed them among the front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award. Beckett went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA while Lackey was 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA for the Angels, whose 94 wins were two shy of Boston's major league-leading total.

The pitchers are also entering with some positive momentum.

Beckett went 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA in five September outings while Lackey posted a 1.23 ERA in winning his final three starts, including seven innings of two-hit ball in Friday's 2-0 win at Oakland.

The Angels, however, have a woeful record when Lackey faces the Red Sox, losing 10 of 11 games. Lackey is 1-6 with a 6.27 ERA in those contests, including 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in two outings this year.

Lackey has struggled when facing Manny Ramirez, who is 10-for-23 (.435) with four homers against him, and David Ortiz, who is 10-for-26 (.385) with two homers.

"They have about as good a 1-2 (punch) as there is in baseball," Scioscia said.

The two Boston sluggers expect to bat third and fourth in the lineup for the first time since Aug. 28. Ramirez missed 24 games with a strained muscle in his left side, and Ortiz has been bothered by a sore right knee that probably will need offseason surgery.

However, both hitters enter the postseason swinging the bat well. Ortiz went 16-for-29 (.556) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his final eight games, while Ramirez returned to action last Tuesday and went 7-for-18 (.389) in his last six contests.

"It seems like everybody's ready to go," Ortiz said. "We've been playing well and that's the shape you want to be in going into the playoffs."

The Angels' top slugger, Vladimir Guerrero, is also ailing after sitting out four of the final six regular-season games due to a sore triceps muscle. The injury may force Guerrero, who is 5-for-23 (.217) in his career against Beckett, to serve as designated hitter.

Boston swept Los Angeles in a division series in 2004, en route to its first World Series title in 86 years. Guerrero had just two hits in 12 at-bats in those three games while leadoff hitter Chone Figgins was just 2-for-14.

Figgins is hitting a major league-best .381 since May 31, but enters the playoffs in an 0-for-22 slump. The slide may have been due to an injured left wrist that sidelined him for two weeks in August, but Figgins claims he's not concerned.

"I don't see no down notes, nope," he said. "Everything still feels good, that's the good part about it."

While the Angels knocked the powerful Yankees out of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, and own a winning record against New York since 2002 (29-25), their play against Boston has been poor in that span. Excluding the 2004 playoffs, the Angels are 21-30 against the Red Sox since 2002, including 10-19 at Fenway Park.

"I think there is a lot being said about how we play in Boston," Scioscia said. "The bottom line is how we play the game."

Game 2 is set for Friday in Boston.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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