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Chess Match: Beckett amazes Angels

Chess Match: Beckett amazes Angels

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett was the king on this chessboard, leaving little room for other moves. His dominant performance rendered the Angels into pawns in Game 1 of the Division Series. Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia had no chance to strategize, and Boston counterpart Terry Francona didn't have to.

Beckett goes the route
The situation:
Beckett keeps the Angels in his back pocket through eight innings, three-hitting them with no walks and eight strikeouts. That puts him within reach of a second consecutive postseason shutout -- four years apart.


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The decision: Beckett remains on the mound to start the ninth -- to the sellout crowd's satisfaction, judging by the ovation.

The outcome: Beckett wraps up the shutout -- around a two-out single by Vladimir Guerrero. And it only costs him seven additional pitches added to his eight-inning total of 101. So leaving him to finish should have no bearing if he is needed to pitch Game 4, Monday in Anaheim on regular four days' rest.

The analysis: "With body language, and [pitching coach John Farrell's] communication, we feel [we know when our pitchers] have something left. I thought it was pretty obvious he was fine." -- Francona

Angels run out of only threat
The situation:
Chone Figgins leads off the top of the first with a single off second baseman Dustin Pedroia's glove and takes second on Orlando Cabrera's hit-and-run grounder to short.


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The decision: With Guerrero set for Josh Beckett's 1-1 pitch, Figgins takes off on an attempt to steal third base.

The outcome: Third baseman Mike Lowell is running to cover the bag for a possible play on Figgins -- putting him in a perfect position to field Guerrero's hard smash on the ground, about three feet wide of the third-base foul line. Had the Angels cooled their heels and let Guerrero work, Figgins would have scored from second on a likely hit down the line, for an early lead. As it is, they don't get another runner into scoring position all night.

The analysis: "I'm just stealing a base -- both of them. You hit a ground ball just in the right spot, there's just nothing you can do about it." -- Figgins

Boston speedsters are bottom-feeders
The situation:
With all of his projected starters healthy for one of the few times all year, Francona is faced with multiple batting-order options and combinations.


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The decision: Francona goes the unconventional route, stashing his two speedsters -- Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo -- at the bottom of the lineup. But that also allows him to place his top on-base percentage guys -- Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- in the top two spots.

The outcome: The only one to make an impact was Youkilis, who was accustomed to batting in the two-hole. He accounted for Boston's first run with his first-inning homer, and sparked the Red Sox's other scoring inning with a hustle double.

The analysis: "That takes some of the speed away from the top of the lineup. But those other two guys have been getting on base a lot. And the more they get on, the more opportunities Papi [David Ortiz] has to get guys in. Did we win that other game? See, that's a good lineup." -- Crisp

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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