ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -Manny Ramirez celebrated his fourth-inning blast over the fake rock pile in left-center by extending both arms as if putting a hex on the Los Angeles Angels.
He needn't have bothered. These Angels were jinxed enough already.
Baseball historians might some day look back and be impressed by the fact the Red Sox swept the Angels in three games, holding them to four runs, to advance to the American League finals for the first time since the magical season of 2004.
Postseason dominance always counts extra when it comes to rating teams, and the Red Sox had control of this series from the first inning of the first game at Fenway Park.
But this wasn't really a fair fight to begin with.
The mighty Red Sox had David Ortiz, a resurgent Ramirez, and a well rested and playoff tested 40-year-old who pitched like someone half his age. That was all they needed to make this a brief trip to the West Coast and give them plenty of time to rest at home until they meet either the Indians or Yankees in the American League championship series.
And the Angels? Well, they had a cleanup hitter wearing a football lineman's number, a left fielder who couldn't see out of his right eye, and a center fielder and first baseman who never left their seats in the dugout. The only big bat in the lineup belonged to Vladimir Guererro, who himself was not only in questionable health but questionable form as his postseason slump reached A-Rod proportions.
Things were so bad the Angels' trainer was nursing an injury and the pitching coach was coming off an overnight stay in the hospital. Even the rally monkey looked a little sickly.
In true baseball form, though, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was going to let someone else make the obvious excuse.
``They're not going to let us call them in a month or so when everybody is healthy and say, 'Hey, let's play this series again,''' Scioscia said. ``They beat us. It wasn't because of our health. Those guys went out there and beat us, and that's the bottom line.''
The health of the Angels, of course, wasn't the fault of the Red Sox, who could only play the team that was put out there in front of them. And they did so efficiently enough and with strong pitching, though the sight of No. 77 Reggie Willits in the cleanup spot in the final game didn't exactly make Curt Schilling tremble on the mound.
Willits wasn't supposed to be batting fourth, just as a banged-up Chone Figgins wasn't supposed to be playing center, and Kendry Morales wasn't supposed to be on first.
But Garret Anderson left the game in the second inning with pink eye and, in a bit of unfortunate timing, Willits found himself up at the plate in the third inning in a scoreless game with the bases loaded and two outs.
He popped out to the catcher, and then Ortiz and Ramirez came up the next inning to hit back-to-back home runs that took much of the fun out of a breezy Southern California afternoon for all but a few thousand very vocal members of the Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox piled it on in with seven runs in the eighth inning of a 9-1 game that was every bit as lopsided as the final score indicated.
``Everything went our way pretty good,'' Ortiz said. ``If we keep playing this way we're going to have some big games in the next few series.''
The Red Sox are getting used to this kind of thing by now, and barely celebrated on the field after getting the final out. But they let loose in a champagne-soaked locker room where the only person who was off-limits was team owner John Henry himself.
Ortiz didn't make a mistake on the pitch Weaver offered him in the fourth inning, but almost made a big one when he held a half-filled bottle of champagne above Henry.
``You haven't got wet. What's happening?'' Ortiz asked the owner before wisely backing off without soaking the boss.
Outside the locker room, Kevin Youkilis was chatting with fans and trying to stay dry himself. The lure of a baseball cliche proved too powerful, though, when asked if the Red Sox were playing their best ball of the season at just the right time.
``That time is now,'' Youkilis said, ``and we're stepping up to the plate.''
The trip to the plate gets progressively difficult beginning Friday, but the Red Sox will have home-field advantage the rest of their postseason. And, three years removed from the World Series win that wiped away the sorrows of generations, they're no longer lovable underdogs but a confident and talented team with no noticeable holes.
That may not be enough to guarantee them another championship. But it was more to enough to make people notice against a sickly group of Angels.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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