Purgatory Online

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tonight, the Angels begin their toughest stretch of games remaining: three in Boston, three in Chicago, three in Seattle (and don't think that letdown won't be a factor for those last three). Here, in these nine games, lies Oakland's real hope of capturing the A.L. West; they themselves will host Seattle for two more games, then go on the road to Texas and Cleveland. Though the Angels and A's do play four more games in Oakland, that series is unlikely to change the standings by more than a couple of games - and the Angels already lead by two in the loss column.

So the ability to hold serve here amounts to the ability to jump firmly into the driver's seat in this race. Once the Angels leave Chicago, the A's will be the only team above .500 left on their schedule, while the A's will have to play Cleveland, Minnesota, Boston, and, of course, the Angels.

Their makeup game against the White Sox notwithstanding, tonight's game also represents the start of a fairly brutal stretch for the Bostons - three with the Angels, a road trip to New York and Toronto, and back home against Oakland - that will probably make or break their chances to win the East. So there will be more than one team getting their gamest of game faces on for this series.

To be honest, this year's edition of the Red Sox scares me less than last year's. In 2004, Boston was the one team I feared. This year, that team is Cleveland. Even so, the Angels are vulnerable to Boston's ability to score runs in bunches, since their own offense remains locked in a funk.

In any event, we've passed the final turn and are entering the home stretch. From here on out, these are the games you hope for when the season starts - meaningful games in September.

Angels - Lackey (3.45 ERA, 172.1 IP, 174 K, 60 BB; 3 or fewer ER in 8 of his last 9 starts)
Red Sox - Wakefield (4.41 ERA, 180.2 IP, 116 K, 61 BB; won 6 of his last 7 but somewhat rocky in his last 3)

A's - Kennedy (6.02 ERA, 121 IP, 72 K, 56 BB; just 'cause you pitched in Colorado doesn't mean you're not a pumpkin)
Mariners - Piniero - (5.59 ERA, 158.2 IP, 87 K, 48 BB; quality starts in 5 of his last 6)