By now, it's a given
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Long ball, small ball, hard ball, soft ball, Wiffle ball, monster ball, disco ball, cotillion ball. If it's the Red Sox and Angels in October, the Red Sox will win.
Fenway, Big A, Jamaica Way, Blue Jay Way, Sittin'-on-the-dock-of-the-bay Way. If it's the Red Sox and Angels in October, the Red Sox will win.
The Angels lost to their Boston Daddies at home again last night. This time it was Red Sox 7, Halos 5, in what was easily the best game of the postseason anywhere yet this year. J.D. Drew won it for the Sox with a ninth-inning, two-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez while most of New England slept (the game ended at 1:28 a.m. EDT).
The best-of-five series moves to Fenway tomorrow, and the Sox should be drenched in champagne well before midnight. There might even be a closer with a cardboard box on his head step-dancing on the Fenway lawn. Make sure the bases are bolted down.
Regarding Red Sox vs. Angels, we have moved well past the arena of standard athletic competition. We have wandered into Rod Serling's space "between the pit of a man's fear and the summit of his knowledge."
When the Red Sox play the Angels in October, the Sox take a choke hold on the series. The Angels just take the choke. Eleven in a row. Eleven.
"What happened in '04 or 1986 does not matter to us," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "We set out to win today's game and we did it."
Game 2 felt like it was over before Angels starter Ervin Santana got the third out of the first inning. Jason Bay, the Anti-Manny, crushed a three-run homer to cap a four-run Boston first and sucked the air from the house of air kisses. The Angels (11 runners left on base) staged multiple rallies over nine innings. But nothing matters when the Red Sox and Angels play in October. We just know that the Sox will win. Every time.
The Red Sox have scored 11 runs in two games, 10 coming from extra-base hits. The Angels have 20 hits in the series, and 19 of them are singles. They've stranded 20 runners in two games. Poor Howie Kendrick (four punchouts last night) has stranded 12 all by himself in just two games.
The Angels loaded the bases with none out in the fifth. Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the ropes, staggering through a 36-pitch inning. But Los Angeles came away with only one run. The Angels juiced the sacks again in the seventh and scored only once. Juan Rivera, Kendrick, and Erick Aybar all struck out with the bases loaded.
They even think the umps are against them. Just before Drew's killer homer off K-Rod in the ninth, Rodriguez appeared to pick off Coco Crisp with a throw to second. Crisp was ruled safe, then Drew struck.
It's not about the Rally Monkey when the Angels play the Red Sox in the playoffs. It's about the two-ton monkey on their backs.
And now they have to face Josh Beckett, the Bob Gibson of the 21st century.
Uncle Bud Selig can't be too happy looking at four 2-0 series after three days of tournament play. Both League Championship Series appear set. It's going to be the Phillies against destiny's Dodgers in the Senior Circuit and the Tampa Rays against the Red Sox in the American League.
The Phillies and Rays figured to be in good shape at this juncture. Both played the first two games at home against teams with strapped pitching staffs, teams that staggered just to get into the playoffs. Some might say the Cubs' collapse was predictable, but nothing is as certain as the Angels taking the apple against the Red Sox.
I have to admit, the Halos tricked me again. I fell for Mike Scioscia's 100-win team. I signed on to the theory that this year was going to be different. The Angels added Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter and came into the playoffs much healthier than last year. They beat the Sox eight out of nine during the regular season. They were finally ready to beat the Red Sox in the playoffs.
What was I thinking? Neglected to check the calendar, I guess. I forgot that it's October. Picking the Angels over the Sox in October is like picking the Republicans over the Democrats in Massachusetts in November. Not going to happen, Sparky.
"We have a challenge," said Scioscia. "This game ain't over until somebody wins three . . . we go to Boston and win a game, the pressure's back on them."
If you missed this one live, find a way to see it on replay. It was an Instant Classic. It was also textbook Red Sox-Angels, with the Sox making all the plays and the Angels wallowing in frustration.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.