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Truly, a magic kingdom

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This is where the magic began -- just a couple of miles from the Magic Kingdom -- and yet sometimes it seems as if the Red Sox never played the Angels en route to the world championship last autumn.

It's always Yankees and Cardinals, wall to wall. All those Red Sox books and videos hammer home the themes of the Sox losing Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, 19-8, then ripping off eight consecutive postseason wins against the Pinstripes and Redbirds. The Sox danced on the ghosts of 86 years at Yankee Stadium. Then they poured champagne on the infield at Busch.

It's all good and it's all true, but none of the wonderfulness would have happened if the Sox hadn't taken care of business right here in the OC. It was here that Johnny Damon first mentioned ''idiots" (a regrettable moment, no?) and it was here that Curt Schilling reinjured his famous right ankle. It was here that Schill and Pedro beat the Halos back-to-back in the Division Series, setting the stage for David Ortiz's first historic walkoff moment in Game 3 at Fenway.

And there's a strong chance the Sox might be back here in the first or second round of the playoffs come October. The Franconamen and the Sons of Scioscia are leading their respective divisions and wouldn't the Angels love to play Boston again and maybe put up more of a fight this time?

''In the back of your head, you know you want to get back there," said leadoff hitter Chone Figgins, who had a particularly dreadful playoffs against the Red Sox.

''We just want to get our foot in the door," added first baseman, Darin Erstad. ''We played hard against them last year, but when it comes to the playoffs, it's a matter of who gets hot. They were playing well in all phases of the game and we got beat, plain and simple."

Minutes after the sweep was complete, while Big Papi was still getting pounded on the head by his teammates, Erstad told the media, ''These boys are winning the World Series, by the way . . . I don't see anybody beating them."

Reminded of his prediction, Erstad chuckled and said, ''Well, I wasn't looking too good after they lost, 19-8, and went down, 3-0, [to the Yankees]. But when we played them, you could tell they were focused and on the field you could feel the energy."

Jarrod Washburn, the southpaw who surrendered the Ortiz walkoff shot on his one and only pitch of Game 3, said, ''They were like us in 2002. I threw Ortiz a hanging slider. I still haven't seen the replay. We flew right home after that game and I went deer hunting in Wisconsin and never saw it. But I know that when I faced Ortiz this year, I threw him a slider down and away for a ball on the first pitch and I thought to myself, 'That's what I had in mind.' "

Meanwhile, back to the present, all is not perfect in the perfect ballpark with the perfect weather. No. 5 hitter Garret Anderson has a mysterious lower back injury and the Angels don't know when he'll return. Third baseman Dallas McPherson might be done for the year because of a hip injury, and Vladimir Guerrero, perhaps the game's best player, isn't getting many pitches to hit (he was intentionally walked in the first and fifth innings last night). Veteran outfielder Steve Finley (.218) looks like he's going to calcify in mid-game, Scioscia's vaunted bullpen has blown 17 saves, nine in the last 20 games.

Onetime wunderkind Francisco Rodriguez has blown five saves and is hearing boos in his home ballpark. This is no small development in a stadium perennially plagued by abject apathy. Perhaps pouting, Rodriguez pulled a Pedro yesterday and skipped the annual team photo in center field.

When asked how the photo shoot went, Scioscia said, ''Everyone was smiling. Some guys were just smiling in other places."

Asked if Rodriguez would be fined, the manager said, ''We took care of it. It's an internal matter."

Scioscia spent the rest of his pregame press session talking about the injuries to Anderson and McPherson. When a reporter from Boston tried to get him to reflect on the Sox' last visit to the Big A, the Angel manager said, ''I already forgot about that."

No way. Scioscia is a baseball lifer and lifers never forget anything.

''Early last season when we played them they were struggling a little," he recalled. ''Later, there was just a totally different feel to the team. And in the playoffs, they played better than any team we had seen. We saw the potential."

Now they are playing the Sox three more times this weekend, and there will be another matchup at Fenway in September. Plenty of potential there. Potential playoff preview.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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