After being swept by the Red Sox in the 2004 and '07 American League Division Series, the Angels staved off the indignity this time in Game 3 on Sunday night, outlasting the Red Sox in a memorable 5-4 victory in 12 innings.
The loss also snapped the Red Sox's 11-game postseason winning streak against the Angels.
"I don't think this is a downer," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I think most people would have been surprised if we swept the Angels. We've got a great opportunity to finish the series [Monday]."
In the 12th inning, a bloop RBI single by No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar against Red Sox lefty reliever Javy Lopez snapped a 4-4 tie that had been in place since an RBI double by Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Napoli, who belted two homers earlier in the game, set the stage with a leadoff single to left. Howie Kendrick, playing Angels baseball, sacrificed Napoli to second. Aybar got an 0-2 pitch that he liked from Lopez for what proved to be the game-winner.
"I feel like I made a good pitch," said Lopez. "Aybar battled me. I felt like I got ground balls like I needed to. I tried to make him hit my pitch, and he did."
The Red Sox will take another crack at their fourth AL Championship Series berth in the past six years on Monday night at Fenway when Jon Lester, fresh off his Game 1 victory, takes the ball against John Lackey.
Despite the exhausting affair, which took five hours and 19 minutes, the Red Sox made it a point not to be down.
"We feel great," said Lowell. "We have a guy who's pitching outstanding -- he already pitched one time real well. He tends to pitch even better at home. I don't think this is a downer."
Before Lopez, the Boston bullpen had done a masterful job in place of ace Josh Beckett. Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon (two overpowering innings) all held the Angels off the board.
"We're all still confident in what we can do with our abilities out there," said Papelbon. "Like I said, that's just one of those games tonight where anything can happen. They had the big hit in the big situation. They were able to hold the lead."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia's bullpen came up just as big, right down to Jered Weaver. Normally a starter, Weaver worked the last two innings to earn the hard-fought win.
GAME 4: JUST THE FACTS
|Angels starter: RHP John Lackey|
|2008: 16-7, 3.49 ERA|
|2008 on road: 7-2, 3.23 ERA|
|2008 vs. Red Sox (reg. season): 2-0, 2.81 ERA|
|2008 ALDS Game 1: 0-1, 2.70 ERA|
|Career vs. Red Sox (reg. season): 3-6, 5.54 ERA|
|Career postseason: 2-3, 3.51 ERA (10 games, eight starts)|
|Red Sox starter: LHP Jon Lester|
|2008: 16-6, 3.21 ERA|
|2008 at home: 11-1, 2.49 ERA|
|2008 vs. Angels (reg. season): 0-0, 7.20 ERA|
|2008 ALDS Game 1: 1-0, 0.00 ERA|
|Career vs. Angels (reg. season): 1-1, 7.78 ERA|
|Career postseason: 2-0, 1.10 (four games, two starts)|
|Red Sox lead series, 2-1. The Red Sox's streak of 11 consecutive postseason wins over the Angels came to an end with a 6-5 loss in Game 3.|
|Game 1: Red Sox 4, Angels 1|
|Game 2: Red Sox 7, Angels 5|
|Game 3: Angels 5, Red Sox 4 (12)|
|Did You Know? The only time the Red Sox have lost a postseason series after taking a 2-0 lead in their history was in the 1986 World Series against the Mets.|
The Red Sox put together a fierce battle against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the 10th, loading the bases with two outs. But Jed Lowrie's liner to right -- Rodriguez's 33rd pitch of the inning -- was hit right at Gary Matthews.
Coco Crisp got into scoring position in the 11th after stealing second, but Dustin Pedroia hit a bullet to third, but right at Chone Figgins.
"They've got good stuff," said Pedroia, who is 0-for-13 in the series. "They were hitting their spots and leaving it off the middle of the plate. They scored one more run than we did, [and] that's it. We have to come out tomorrow and play better."
Known for his October dominance, Beckett, pitching for the first time since Sept. 22, turned in what was by far the shakiest of his 10 career postseason starts. The five innings he pitched were the fewest and the nine hits he allowed were the most. Beckett also allowed four runs and four walks, but struck out six. He threw 106 pitches, including 30 in the first inning.
"I just missed and had a lot of 2-1 instead of 1-2 counts," said Beckett, who pitched Game 3 instead of Game 1 because of right oblique issues. "They're definitely a tough lineup. You don't win 100 games without having a decent team."
From Lowell's vantage point, he could tell Beckett didn't have his usual overpowering stuff. But knowing what his longtime teammate has been through health-wise over the past few weeks, he wasn't shocked.
"Not with his time off and the concern about his oblique," said Lowell. "I think it was pretty evident it wasn't vintage Josh. I think he had to overcome some obstacles mentally in just preparing himself for today."
Early on, the Red Sox got three gift runs on one bloop single to shallow center by Jacoby Ellsbury with the bases loaded in the second inning. When neither center fielder Torii Hunter, second baseman Kendrick and shortstop Aybar made a move for the ball, Ellsbury had himself the first three-run single in postseason history.
"We were fortunate enough to get the three runs early in the ballgame, to be totally honest," said Papelbon. "We were able to somehow stay in that game and keep scratching and clawing."
Boston's 3-1 lead disappeared when Napoli belted a two-run blast against Beckett over the Green Monster. In the fifth, Napoli again took Beckett over the wall in left, this time with a solo shot that gave the Angels the lead back at 4-3.
Back and forth it would go again, before the Angels finally prevailed, getting the proverbial October monkey off their back when it comes to the Red Sox.
"Is that the Rally Monkey? Which monkey is that?" quipped Papelbon. "I don't know. It is what it is. We had a winning streak of 11 games, but in the playoffs, you have to take one game at a time. I'm sure they're doing it over there just like we are here. I know I heard Scioscia say, 'One out, one inning at a time.' It sounds cliché, but that's what it is. Every pitch counts in these situations. They got the breaks tonight."
The Red Sox will try hard for those breaks on Monday, not only to punch a ticket to the ALCS, but also to avoid a return trip to Anaheim for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday.
"I think we've been here before," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We've played tight games in the postseason. We'll regroup and be ready [on Monday]."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.