It would be hard to understate how good the Cal Lutheran defense was in Saturday's 24-14 win at Occidental.
The numbers don't necessarily do the effort justice, and they aren't bad: CLU allowed just 216 yards (including 4 rushing), forced three turnovers, held Occidental to 5 of 15 on third-down conversions and 0 of 2 on fourth down, and had four sacks (that's a correction from the figure of three in Sunday's paper).
"We waited a year for that after last year," said Jordan Barta, who was in on nine tackles, with two sacks and a forced fumble, thinking back to CLU's 27-24 loss in 2008 on a last-second field goal.
Beyond the numbers, there was the early tone the Kingsmen set, sacking quarterback Scott Saunders three times in Occidental's first four possessions.
"That was the most important thing," said Barta. "We had to come out and play our defense -- and that's always our defense, smash-mouth. We had to not have that lull, like last week, and do what we do."
The only crack in the first-half performance was the late drive leading to Occidental's lone touchdown, a 12-yard pass from Saunders to Chris Washington with 47 seconds left. Before that 79-yard drive, Occidental had just 55 yards on its first five possessions.
But there were no such cracks in the second half. Occidental's only other touchdown was on special teams -- an 87-yard punt return by Jordan Washington. Three times in the second half, the defense forced Occidental into three-and-out possessions (and had an interception on the first play of another possession). Until they picked up 53 yards on their last-ditch drive to end the game, Occidental had not picked up more than 21 yards on six second-half possessions.
"Everyone gave it their all," said Barta. "That's the game we need to revolve around for the rest of the season, that kind of effort."
Quarterback Jericho Toilolo was more than happy to give the defense its due.
"I can't say enough about the guys on that side of the ball," he said. "We go against them three, four days in a week, so we're used to them like that. Watching them out there is exciting. They're so fast, so strong. They play as one unit out there.
"Our defense definitely won that game for us tonight."
No defensive series was arguably bigger than early in the second half, with the game tied at 7. After CLU committed its only turnover -- a Toilolo pass intercepted by Cory Seuss -- Occidental began at the Kingsmen 38. But after a 3-yard gain on a Saunders pass to Jason Haller, and a 5-yard Saunders run, the Kingsmen held Haller to no gain on third and two, and had a pass attempt well defended on fourth down, regaining the ball on downs.
The Kingsmen responded with a 70-yard nine-play drive to regain the lead -- for good, as it turned out -- on Brian Stuart's second touchdown of the night, a 4-yard run.
The Stuart saga (continued): Stuart, the senior transfer running back from Van Nuys and College of the Canyons, had another huge night, with 28 caries for 164 yards. He gave CLU a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a 44-yard run, on the first play after a punt.
"Our line was on another level today," Stuart said, "and they created a hole for me that, for a minute, I kind of stopped because it was so big. So I ran through it, and all I had was green in front of me."
That was the case, in part, because the back turned what was supposed to be an inside run to the outside.
"I hit the hole," he said. "It was designed for me to hit it straight forward. I hit it, and nobody was there, so I just made it a track meet, get to the corner and gone."
It was Stuart's first taste of the CLU-Occidental series, but he understood that it was something special coming in.
"This whole week, that's all I've been hearing: 'We've got to get them, because of that loss last year,' " Stuart said. "So a lot of players kind of had a chip on their shoulders going into this week. Practice was on a different level, and we came in here ready."
With his 164 yards on Saturday, Stuart now has 854 yards, putting him ninth on CLU's single-season rushing list, and giving him a very real chance at becoming just the fourth 1,000-yard rusher in Kingsmen history. The last CLU back to do it was Fredrik Nanhed, who had a school-record 1,380 yards in 1995. The others are Terrence Thomas (1,236 yards in 1994) and Hank Bauer (1,024 yards in 1975).
Stuart is in position to move rapidly up the single-season list. He needs just 34 yards to pass Bauer (865 yards in 1974) and Cassidy O'Sullivan (887 in 1992) for seventh place, and if he were to rush for his per-game average of 122 yards in next week's game at La Verne, he'd climb to fifth, a spot currently held by Dorian Stitt (969 yards in 2000).
Stuart has now had three straight games over 100 yards -- matching a feat last performed by Jose Rojas in October 2006 -- and four such games overall. In each of them, he has rushed for at least 140 yards.
Flaws: While it was a winning effort for the Kingsmen, it was not without its issues. Most notably, the Kingsmen repeatedly made things difficult for themselves with penalties -- 13 in all for 105 yards, compared to Occidental's six for 43 yards.
Coach Ben McEnroe wasn't about to worry about that on Saturday night.
"The scoreboard's all that counts in this one, and we'll take it."
October 2009 Archives
It would be hard to understate how good the Cal Lutheran defense was in Saturday's 24-14 win at Occidental.
A 74-yard touchdown pass from Jericho Toilolo to Eric Rogers -- on the first play from scrimmage after Occidental had scored on an 87-yard punt return -- proved to be decisive as Cal Lutheran beat the defending conference champions 24-14 on Saturday to take over sole possession of first place in the SCIAC and gain the inside track on the conference's NCAA playoff berth.
Brian Stuart ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and CLU's defense was dominant, as the Kingsmen improved to 6-1, 4-0 in the SCIAC.
More to come.
Since it won't be in the paper until Monday, I thought I'd post it here:
Cal Lutheran 24, Occidental 14
Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Cal Lutheran 0 7 7 10--24
Occidental 0 7 0 7--14
CLU -- Stuart 44 run (Damron kick), 7:11.
OC -- C. Washington 12 pass from Saunders (Martin kick), 0:47.
CLU -- Stuart 4 run (Damron kick), 4:58.
CLU -- FG Damron 38, 10:34.
OC -- J. Washington 87 punt return (Martin kick), 7:26.
CLU -- Rogers 74 pass from Toilolo (Damron kick), 7:06.
First downs 16 13
Rushes-yards 38-199 21-4
Passing yards 154 212
Comp-Att-Int 11-23-1 23-39-1
Sacked-yards lost 1-6 4-23
Punts-avg. 7-38.4 8-39.9
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 13-105 6-43
RUSHING -- Cal Lutheran: Stuart 28-164, Toilolo 6-38, Rodrigues 1-0, team 3-(--3). Occidental: Haller 11-13, Saunders 10-(--9).
PASSING -- Cal Lutheran: Toilolo 11-23-1-154. Occidental: Saunders 23-39-2-212.
RECEIVING -- Cal Lutheran: Rogers 3-91, Hammond 3-22, O'Brien 2-18, Lara 1-12, Speckhard 1-6, D. Martinez 1-5. Occidental: C. Washington 7-38, Lehman 6-55, Inabnit 4-66, J. Washington 3-58, Deussen 1-5, Haller 1-3, Saunders 1-(--13).
MISSED FIELD GOALS -- None
TEAM RECORDS -- Cal Lutheran 6-1, 4-0; Occidental 5-2, 3-1.
Defenses dominated the first half of the showdown for first place in the SCIAC before each team broke through late. CLU struck first on a 44-yard run by Brian Stuart with 7:11 left in the half, with Occidental answering with a 12-yard pass from Scott Saunders to Chris Washington with 47 seconds left in the half.
Stuart has 14 carries for 119 of CLU's 158 total yards; Occidental has 134 yards, with Saunders going 12 for 20 for 130 yards.
CLU has been plagued by penalties -- eight for 62 yards, compared to four for 30 yards for Occidental.
Tuesday's game -- Lakers 99, Clippers 92 -- from the Clippers' perspective:
Coach Mike Dunleavy: "We didn't do a good job tonight. I thought we were careless with the basketball. When we took care of the ball we did well and we kept ourselves in the game. There was a differential with the turnovers and the offensive boards." The Clippers committed 20 turnovers, leading to 24 Lakers points; the Lakers committed 16 turnovers, leading to 13 Clippers points. Offensive rebounds did favor the Lakers, but just 17-15, and the Clippers actually had a 23-18 edge in second-chance points.
"They are a long team and strong at their positions ... We didn't do a good job of going to their bodies and creating space for us to rebounds the ball. Had we taken care of one of those areas, we could have given ourselves a chance to win this one."
Baron Davis: "Last year we got blown out but I think this year it's a different team. We really felt we could've won this game. If you take away a lot of mistakes that we made at the end of the first quarter and all the turnovers we had tonight, it would've been a different ballgame."
Chris Kaman: "We did a good job of coming back strong when their second team fell back. Then a few mistakes happened, and you're down 10, and that's not a good place to be when you're playing the Lakers. In ths econd half we palyed better and didn't turn the ball over as much. But the Lakers capitalized on big plays and then we couldn't catch up."
Kaman, on losing Blake Griffin, out for six weeks with a stress fracture of his left kneecap: "You know, I don't really care aobut all that stuff you hear. You're dealt the cards and you play them. There's nothing you can do about it. Blake's a good player -- he plays hard, he's got great potential and I thought he had a great preseason. But all we can do is look forward and try to get some wins."
You didn't get to see it because TNT was away on commercial break, but it turns out the Lakers' ring ceremony wasn't just confined to pregame.
Between the third and fourth quarters, Tex Winter -- the longtime Phil Jackson assistant and special consultant who's recovering from a May stroke -- was escorted to center court by four Laker Girls and received his championship ring (No. 10, like Jackson) from David Stern, receiving an extended standing ovation from the sellout Staples Center crowd.
"I think everybody's going to be really happy to see him tonight that knows him," Jackson said beforehand, "to have an opportunity to wish him well. It's been a really difficult three, four months, five months, since early May when he was here for the first two games of the playoffs versus Utah. So we're really happy Tex could make it down."
Pau Gasol (strained right hamstring) will not play in tonight's Lakers season opener with the Clippers, having been placed on the inactive list because of his strained right hamstring.
"We hope Friday's possible," said coach Phil Jackson, referring to the Lakers' next game, against Dallas. He added that he didn't think Gasol would need a practice before returning to action.
"He's the kind of player that can fit right in," Jackson said. "The last practice ... he did very well. He was right on beat. He played well. He didn't show any real signs of any inadequacy at all. But he's still fearful about it, so he needs to rest it."
Curses? In the wake of the news that rookie Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, is out for an estimated six weeks with a stress fracture of the kneecap -- adding to a long-running list of Clippers injury woes -- Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy told reporters he doesn't believe in curses.
In this, at least, Dunleavy and Jackson are in agreement.
"I don't believe in that," Jackson said. "I believe you make your own luck, obviously. Things have to be done the correct way, yes, and organizations do win championships -- the Jerry Krause quote comes back -- but I don't think it follows particularly, teams, because of their bad luck."
(Krause was the Bulls GM whose infamous quote that organizations win championships, rather than players, rankled Michael Jordan during the Bulls' dynasty).
Jackson expressed sympathy for Griffin.
"It's disappointing," he said. "We all wish him well and a speedy recovery on that. They've got a veteran roster; they've got backup help. They're not in the situation they were last year where they were depleted. But still, when you've got the first pick ... you want that player to have an opportunity."
It's getting necessary to dig deeper and deeper to put Brian Stuart's accomplishments into perspective.
The senior running back's 165-yard game Saturday at Chapman is the biggest rushing game for the Kingsmen since Nov. 1, 2003 -- 54 games ago -- when Charlie Brown (Moorpark High) had a 27-carry, 193-yard game in a 31-20 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. And his four rushing touchdowns ties the CLU school record, set by Hank Bauer twice in 1974 and equaled by Dorian Stitt (2000) and Tyler Ruiz (2004).
With his 690 net yards this season, Stuart has already -- with three regular-season games remaining -- become the best single-season rusher the Kingsmen have had in at least nine years (which is as far back as season statistics are readily available on line.) Only three runners had surpassed the 600-yard mark in that span: Jose Rojas ran for 665 yards in 2006, and Brown had 622 yards in 2004 and 610 in 2005.
Like all successful runners, Stuart's success clearly comes through a combination of his own ability and that of the line blocking for him.
"Our o-line pushed them out all game," said quarterback Jericho Toilolo. "... They gave B-Stu some huge holes to run through all day. And he does not waste his opportunities. When he gets in the open field like that, one guy is not going to bring him down. And you saw that all day. He broke a lot of tackles on guys that got us extra yards."
Coach Ben McEnroe was certainly happy with the line play -- "We've got a pretty physical group up front," he said -- but felt Toilolo's contributions to the success of the running game should not be overlooked.
"The nice thing about Jericho is that he understands defenses well enough that he knows numbers and when to check us into the right plays," McEnroe said. "I was really proud of those guys up front, but I was really proud of Jericho, too.
"A great example was on our last (rushing) touchdown. We had a quarterback sneak called so he could score, and he checked out of it because there was a better play for somebody else to run. And that says a lot about that kid as a leader."
It is not unusual for Toilolo to make those checks and change plays at the line of scrimmage; McEnroe estimated he did it more than half time time Saturday.
"There are certain things we give him that if he sees those things, he knows what to get into. ... Clay (Richardson, the offensive coordinator) does a great job of giving him options. And Jericho really seems to understand the game well enough to put us in the right stuff."
For anyone who came here looking for a bit more on Saturday's CLU-Chapman football game, my apologies -- major computer problems struck after the game, and I've only now been able to access the blog ... and since it's just before 2 a.m., I'm not quite up to tackling any more writing at the moment.
One note: It appears running back Brian Stuart's rushing total has been corrected to 165 yards from the 171 yards originally provided by Chapman statisticians. Also, his four rushing touchdowns tied a CLU record set on several occasions.
More later. I'd suggest checking back at midday or early afternoon. Sorry for the delay.
Jered Weaver didn't exactly expect to be pitching in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, but he wasn't totally caught off guard by it, either.
In just the second relief appearance of his career -- both in the postseason -- Weaver needed just 11 pitchers to retire Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter in the eighth inning of the Angels' 7-6 win over the Yankees on Thursday.
"Going in, it was just kind of a just-in-case thing," said Weaver. "And they told me after they started scoring some runs in the seventh, and gave me plenty of time to get loose. It was like a 45-minute inning, so it was definitely enough time to get loose.
"They told me I was up, and the nerves started to kick in, first of all, but once you get out there, it's just trying to locate, and trying to throw everything for strikes. And everything felt good coming out."
Manager Mike Scioscia was asked if there'd been consideration to leaving Weaver in for the ninth inning.
"Yeah, I think we talked about it," Scioscia said. "If it was a one-run game, especially with some of the matchups coming up with Johnny Damon and Tex (Mark Teixeira), we would go with (Brian) Fuentes. If we scored a couple more we were going to let Weav go until we got to the left-handed slot after Alex (Rodriguez).
The ninth: That ninth inning saw Scioscia order a two-out, none-on intentional walk by Fuentes to Alex Rodriguez -- the second such walk in the series.
"In that situation," said Scioscia, "you just want to keep Alex in the park."
While the move has worked out both times, it was a close call this time. Fuentes walked Hideki Matsui and hit Robinson Cano before finally retiring Nick Swisher -- on a full-count pop-up -- to end the game.
"Oviously, it got a little bit too congested at the end," said Scioscia, "but, you know, we just felt it was better to take our chances with some of the guys following him."
Lackey's reaction: Catcher Jeff Mathis was asked for some insight on what John Lackey said to Mike Scioscia as Lackey was replaced in the seventh inning -- a move that didn't work out too well, since the Yankees immediately scored six runs.
"I'm not going to repeat it," said Mathis, "but you know, it's just who he is. Any time he's getting taken out of the game, he doesn't want to come out. That's just him. That's how he is. And, you know, he's a bulldog."
Just to alert the one or two of you who might actually be checking, there won't be any pregame entry from this evening's Game 5 of the ALCS between the Yankees and Angels, because I'm working on a story from this morning's CIF-Southern Section meeting (on the releaguing that places St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian into the Marmonte League for football only). Watch tomorrow's Star for details on that (a bit more should already be on the Star website). I will try to have some postgame coverage here, though.
Less rest was no problem for CC Sabathia.
For the second time in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees pitcher dominated the Angels, this time with eight innings of five-hit, one-run ball as the Yankees beat the Angels 10-1 to move within a win of the World Series. And he did it on just three day's rest.
"To be able to shut this club down like he did, again, is no easy feat," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "... For him not to throw a ton of pitches in eight innings" -- 101, 69 for strikes -- "he gave us what we needed."
Sabathia made it look easy, and made it sound that way, too.
"I didn't feel any different at all," he said. "I felt really good. You know, this late in the season, you're feeling healthy ... it's pretty much all the same."
And, as Girardi noted, his economy of pitches was nothing new, either.
"One of the reasons he's been so able to amass so many innings is he doesn't throw a lot of pitches in seven or eight innings," said the manager. "He gives you that almost every time out."
In the regular season, Sabathia was 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA against the Angels, but that pitcher wasn't the same one the Angels are seeing now.
"He's obviously figured some things out in a big way," said manager Mike Scioscia. "That changeup he was throwing the last couple times we saw him wasn't nearly as consistent as it is now.
"I thought that was probably the biggest thing we had trouble adjusting to tonight. He threw it on off counts and had great command of it.
"Game 1 and this game, CC is the story."
No margin for error: The Angels are now a game away from elimination, but Scioscia downplayed their predicament.
"We got beat pretty badly tonight," he said. "It was one loss. That's it. You come out there and gain some momentum.
"I don't think we've had a lead early in the ballgame yet this series. If we can start to play that type of ball, this can change in a hurry.
"Our guys are confident. There is nobody in that clubhouse that is down. We know what's in front of us. We knew where we have to get to, and there's a terrific challenge for us. And our guys ... they're going to be ready to go mentally, for sure."
Hunter's appeal: Angel outfielder Torii Hunter figured in one of the many controversial (read: erroneous) umpiring decisions in Game 4, and perhaps helped convince Tim McClelland into his decision to call out Nick Swisher for leaving third base too soon on a sacrifice fly. Replays indicated he didn't, but Hunter was emphatically yelling to his teammates to appeal to third as soon as he caught the ball and threw it in.
"I kind of saw him move out of my peripheral vision," Hunter said. "That's a big word -- but out of my peripheral vision, I saw a move, and when I got the ball in my hand, he was gone. Something wasn't right, right there.
"I don't know, he might have been on time, but I saw something move and pointed right away."
Hunter than gave an exaggerated wink, and his listeners started laughing.
"No, I did, I saw it," he said. "You have to quote me on saying I saw it. ... You can't use the wink. I have something in my eye."
Then he laughed, too.
Mark Teixeira gained his reputation, and his big Yankees contract, primarily for his big bat, but the first baseman has shown in these playoffs that his glove is no small factor, either. In Monday's 10th inning, when the Angels failed to score after having runners at the corners with no outs, and the bases loaded with one out, it was Teixeira who made all three defensive plays to allow New York to escape the jam.
"He's more than just a guy in the batter's box," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had Teixeira in his lineup down the stretch a year ago. "... When he's struggling at the plate, he's one of the players in this league that's not going to take a pitch off defensively. He's going to be in every game because it's two separate parts of what he brings.
"I can't tell you how impressed we were just seeing him up close in the couple months we had him last year, just how hard he works on his defense, how much pride he takes in it, and the difference maker his is in a position where it's probably a little tougher to be a difference maker than if you play shortstop, centerfield, catch, second base."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi hasn't been surprised to see Teixeira's defensive prowess, either.
"He's done this all season long for us," Girardi said. "... He had a play earlier in the season where he dove to his right, threw from his knees to throw to home plate and save a run and save the game for us.
"He's a complete player, whether it's defensive, base running, offensive. Thinking, talking about his game, he's a complete player. And his defense has saved us a number of times this year."
Scrutiny: Girardi's use of his bullpen in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Angels was predictably the topic of much second-guessing Tuesday, given that -- as a reporter noted -- the Yankee manager is "under a microscope built by NASA." And so Girardi was asked a number of questions about his use of Alfredo Aceves, who gave up the game-winning double by Jeff Mathis.
"Yeah, you are under a microscope," said Girardi. "But if you manage a game not to be second-guessed, then I don't think you're managing the game correctly. Bringing in Ace, if it doesn't work, I know I'm going to be second-guessed, but I believe it was the right move. We talked about it in the dugout, and I believed it was the right move. It didn't work."
And, he said, he didn't view the move as a mistake even a day later, "because of the preparation.
"I did not have the feeling it was a mistake because of the preparation that we did before the game and our reasoning for using Ace. And the only reason I don't necessarily tell you exactly why I did it is because then you give away a game plan and what you're trying to do to certain hitters.
"I did think about it. You always think about it. But I still feel that it was the move we would have made, and it just didn't work out."
The same guy: One of the reasons Scioscia has become so popular as Angels manager -- beyond the winning part, of course -- is his personality, specifically his sense of humor, which remains firmly in place during the postseason.
During his pregame press conference Tuesday, Scioscia was asked about the intrusive nature of modern media coverage. After saying the presence of cameras didn't alter anything he did, he added, "I will tell you the camera does tend to put a little more weight on you. I know the camera angles can put on 10 pounds. My wife said ... you must have five cameras on you." (When he only received a halfhearted laugh, he added, "You guys don't get that one?")
Earlier in the session, Scioscia was interrupted twice by a reporter's ringing cell phone. There are managers and coaches who would get irritated by this, but Scioscia just joked that the writer was going to have to buy everyone lunch. When he found out the writer was from his hometown of Philadelphia, Scioscia added, "All right, we're doing cheesesteaks then." As the crowd laughed, he added, "You think I'm kidding, but I'm not."
A few postgame notes from Game 3 of the American League Championship Series:
Stat of the night: Before Monday, the Yankees were 3-0 when leading by three or more runs in an ALCS game.
Free pass: Among many interesting strategic moves was Angels manager Mike Scioscia's decision to intentionally walk Alex Rodriguez with two outs and no one on in the ninth inning, with the game tied at 4-4. Conventional baseball wisdom is to never walk the potential go-ahead run, and Scioscia said Barry Bonds was the only person he could recall giving similar treatment.
"You know, the ball was carrying pretty good," said Scioscia, explaining Monday's move. (The six home runs tied an ALCS record.) "Alex can go down and backspin some pitches like nobody's business, and we just wanted to take our chances -- we figured (Jerry) Hairston's was going to hit and go from there."
Scioscia was asked if Fuentes -- who had given up a game-tying home run to Rodriguez in Game 2 -- resisted the decision to walk the Yankee third baseman.
"I think he would have loved the challenge," said Scioscia, "but I think that he was fine with where we were and getting after the next two."
The manager was also asked if he could envision a similar walk decision if the game had been in New York, in which case Rodriguez would have represented the winning, rather than the go-ahead, run.
"I don't know exactly what situation would come up, so I can't give you a definitive answer," said Scioscia, "but absolutely -- two outs if we were in Yankee Stadium and we were in the same situation, we would have walked him."
Getting warm? John Lackey was briefly up in the Angels bullpen in the 11th inning, but Scioscia said there was no imminent plan to bring the Game 1 starter into the game.
"He was just getting a little work in," said Scioscia. "That's it. We were going to let Ervin Santana go as far as he could. ... Ervin threw the ball very well and ... kept those guys off the boards so we could score."
Santana, the losing pitcher in Game 2, pitched one inning to win Game 3, striking out one in a 1-2-3 top of the 11th.
"If it was the 15th inning," Scioscia continued, "you might have seen John, to answer your question."
Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will start Game 4 of the American League C Championship Series on three days' rest, which was once common but is now treated as headline news.
"You've got deeper pitchers there," Sabathia said during a pregame press conference Monday. "You've got guys that can go out there and help their team. So it's kind of tough to bring guys back on three day's rest. ... I don't think it's that big a deal going on three days' rest. Everybody made such a big deal of it last year."
In regular-season games on three days' rest, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA and one complete game. His only postseason start on short rest was in 2008, when he went 3 2/3 innings and took the loss for Milwaukee in Game 2 of a first-round series with Philadelphia.
Manager Joe Girardi doesn't foresee having Sabathia on a shorter leash because of his shorter rest.
"We'll just watch carefully like we would any other start," said Girardi, "and make sure that location is there and physically he feels fine and doesn't have any real long innings. As far as the pitch count, I would have no problem letting him go 110, 115 if that's what it took."
Sabathia said the only thing that changed in his between-game routine was that he eliminated his bullpen session. "I just came in (Sunday) and played catch. But I felt fine. Arm feels good.
"This late in the season, you know, you tend to cut down on bullpens anyways. So it doesn't really make a difference."
The other starter: Scott Kazmir will be the Angels' Game 4 starter, either looking to keep the Angels alive or even the series, depending on the Game 3 outcome.
"I'm going to have to be very good facing Sabathia because he's not going to give up much," Kazmir said. "You have to match him every inning. You know, that's what I'm looking forward to do."
There shouldn't be any real mystery involved in Kazmir facing the Yankees. He's faced them 15 times in the regular season, going 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA. Only Boston (23 games in the regular season, plus two in the postseason) has seen him more.
"I think there's not going to be any disadvantages or advantages to anyone," Kazmir said. "You know, they've seen me. I've seen them. It's kind of a game of adjustments. So I think that we're both sitting in the same boat."
More Vlad: Manager Mike Scioscia was asked if there'd been any thought of moving Vladimir Guerrero down in the batting order, given a relatively quiet postseason.
"If there were ways to reshuffle a deck that was going to make you more productive, certainly it's something we would look at," said Scioscia. "Right now I think there's a lot of focus on Vlad. But we've got a lot of guys we need to get into their game on the offensive side. ...
"So if there were some pieces to really reshuffle some guys that were really killing the ball, some guys that we said, 'Hey, we need to get these guys in more of an RBI situation,' of course we would consider it. That's not the case right now. ...
"Right now, we have a lot of guys that need to get into their game, and reshuffling things is not going to have a positive impact at this stage right now."
Here's something Angels fans probably won't enjoy reading in the wake of Alex Rodriguez' 11th-inning homer in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series: In his career, A-Rd is a .335 hitter at Angel Stadium, with 37 homers and 82 RBIs in 89 games.
"I wouldn't really look at the ballpark here in Anaheim as being a hitter's park," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, during the Yankees' Sunday conference call. "He has played a lot of games out here in the west. He's had unbelievable success, and he's matched up probably well against the pitching staff the Angels have had over the years. But that's always changing."
Or not. This year, Rodriguez is batting .333 with five homers and nine RBIs in seven games against the Angels, .364 (with all the homers and RBIs) in six games in Anaheim.
Rodriguez has not had a great reputation as a postseason performer, but as Girardi noted, that's somewhat off the mark; the infielder is batting .294 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in 43 games -- "maybe not the home runs or RBIs he's had before," the manager said, "but he's had some good postseasons."
It is likely his last four postseason series, Yankee losses when he batted .200 -- 15 for 75 -- with three homers and six RBIs that shaped that image.
"When you think of Alex Rodriguez ... you think of one of the greatest players who has ever put on the uniform," said outfielder Johnny Damon. "His only downfall in his career so far has been he hasn't won a championship. He has had success in the postseason before but, you know, the past couple have not been so great for him. ...
"I think Alex is at that comfort zone that he feels like he's a big part of our team, and that's great. I hope he continues to keep swinging the bat like he's done so far."
With his homer on Saturday, Rodriguez is batting .368 this postseason with three homers and eight RBIs.
"He had a great end of the regular season," said Derek Jeter. "He seems like he's carried it into the postseason. That's the thing. In the playoffs these series are short, and you hope you're swinging the bat well and playing your best when you get into these series. He seems like he's playing as good now as he has all year."
Rodriguez certainly isn't overthinking why he's doing so well.
"I'm just in a good place," he said after Saturday's game. "I'm seeing the ball and hitting it. I mean, that's about it."
Lessons: Andy Pettitte, who will start Game 3, said there the pitching performances of C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the first two games had two key things in common.
"I think any time you're watching a game and see a starting pitcher have success, there are a couple of things that factor in," said Pettitte. "First of all, they're getting ahead. They're throwing strikes, getting strike one, and when you're able to get strike one, you're usually able to be successful.
"Those few times that they did have runners in scoring position or whatever, they were able to make big pitches and get out of innings and, you know, limit damage."
Unlike Angels starter Jered Weaver, who said he didn't mind extra rest between starts, Pettitte said it is "no doubt" a concern when he has too many off days. He's had seven days off since his last start, a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Oct. 11.
"I'd just as soon pitch on three days' rest than seven or eight if you're healthy and you're feeling good. ... But I think now the older I'm getting, it's a little bit of adjustments that I'll have to make. I've just been doing a lot more work in between. I threw three bullpens since my last start. I'm hoping that's going to keep me feeling sharp."
Pettitte, 15-9 in the postseason, was 0-1 with three no-decisions in his four playoff starts prior to the win in Minnesota.
Overlooked: In looking back at Game 2, Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to make sure the performance of starter Joe Saunders (seven innings, six hits, two earned runs) wasn't loss in the discussion of Brian Fuentes' blown save or Maicer Izturis' decisive error.
"You know, Joe pitched a terrific game," Scioscia said. "... He pitched terrific baseball for us. And when he had that ball down, he got outs. When he got it up, they hit it a little bit, but he certainly gave us an opportunity to get into position to win that game."
Angels starters have been uniformly good in the playoffs, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA. Of the eight teams to make the postseason, only the Yankees (3-0, 1.62) have been better.
Brian Stuart has been good, very good, for the Cal Lutheran football team.
When he had a momentary lapse in Saturday's 21-14 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, he made the most of it.
Stuart fumbled on consecutive touches in the second half. Early in the third quarter, he lost the ball on a first-and-10 at midfield, with CMS recovering at CLU's 47 and taking advantage with a seven-play drive for its first touchdown, an 8-yard option keeper by quarterback Scott Yingling, to tie the game at 7.
Then Stuart fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and it appeared at first that Claremont had covered that ball, as well. But CLU retained possession -- apparently by wrestling the ball away from a Claremont player in the pile in front of the CLU bench -- and that set the stage for a momentum-shifting performance by Stuart. With CLU running a two-back set, he carried on 10 of the 12 plays in the ensuing drive, picking up 67 of the 78 yards in the drive that ended (after a 5-yard Stuart run) with CLU back in front at 14-7.
"We challenged him, we challenged the o-line, and we challenged Jericho (Toilolo) to put us in the right plays," said CLU coach Ben McEnroe, "and everybody did what they needed to do. It was a real confidence builder and a great way to keep us in the football game."
Said Toilolo, the CLU quarterback, "We told the o-line we were going to put it on their backs to push their defense around ... and told B-Stu -- he's one of the best players in the conference -- that ... we haven't lost any faith you; just run the ball down the field. And he definitely did that."
Stuart said it was "just one of those days, but we just dug deep and started going for it. ... We knew as a team we could do it."
Stuart finished with 141 yards, bettering by one yard his total in CLU's season opener at Willamette. It was the best game for a CLU running back since Louis Montano ran for 160 yards against Occidental on Oct. 27, 2007, and makes the 5-foot-8 senior the first CLU running back to have multiple 100-yard games in a season since Jose Ruiz had consecutive games of 103, 116 and 115 yards in October of 2006.
Defensive work: When CLU was struggling badly on offense in the first half of Saturday's game, the defense didn't just keep the Kingsmen in the game, but put them in front 7-0, thanks to Brett Lewis' 81-yard interception return.
"We knew they were going to come out fighting," said Lewis. "That's what we talked about week -- our overall goal is to win SCIAC, and we knew this wasn't going to be easy."
CLU's defense gave up 145 yards in the first half, 215 and two TDs in the second, and seemed to be on the field the vast majority of the game, although Claremont ended up with just a 31:50-28:10 advantage in time of possession.
"All week, we just worked on that triple option," said Lewis. "We knew they were going to be really physical, and I think we handled our assignments very well."
Lewis (four tackles, three unassisted) was prominent because injuries had knocked out both starting outside linebackers, Derek Wilson (who did not dress) and Victor Edwards (who dressed but did not play).
"We had a guy who is an All-American who couldn't play (Edwards), and a guy who's having a great season and is an emotional leader for us in Derek, and with those two guys out, we had to make some adjustments.
"I've told people before that Brett is a starter. He's No. 2 on our depth chart at his position, but he's a starter-caliber player. And that's what great teams have -- depth at key positions. Brett did a great job for us ... when his time came, he was ready to roll."
Stuart, who has spoken before of the defense's ability to inspire the offense, was generous in his praise for the defensive effort.
"I give all thanks to our defense," he said. "They're fast, they run to the ball, they're smart. ... That's a tricky offense, but the skill of our defense stuck it out and picked up on it."
Claremont, which came in leading the SCIAC in rushing, finished with 260 yards on the ground, finishing with a 359-300 advantage in total yardage.
"In the end, " said McEnroe, "I think we had a real solid effort on the defensive side of the ball. I don't care how many yards they rushed for or what they did. What mattered is the scoreboard, and our kids made plays and coaches made calls when the game was on the line on both sides of the ball."
Quick strike, again: CLU went 80 yards in four plays to score the winning touchdown -- a 45-yard pass from Toilolo to Christian Edwards -- marking the third straight week the hurry-up offense has produced a TD.
"We practice that under very stressful circumstances," said McEnroe, referring to a weekly session in which the first-team offense runs its hurry-up package against the first-team defense. "I think we simulate game situations as well as any team I've ever been around or ever seen at any level. When we get to that period every Thursday, we learn a lot about ourselves and how to run that drill. Even the improvisation you see is practiced, and guys understand where they need to be if things break down. ... It just comes down to good practice in that situation."
It was an improvised play, with Toilolo scrambling and Edwards turning a pass route to the end zone that produced the winning TD.
If you're wondering why CLU didn't try the hurry-up to jump-start itself when it was struggling, it did at one point in the first half.
"And we went three and out," said McEnroe. "It was just not meant to be. We were getting outplayed. The Claremont kids and the coaches, they were working us there for a while. We did it just to see if we could resuscitate our offense a little bit, and it didn't work.
"But it's a credit to our kids and coaching staff that when we needed a drive with the game on the line ... we were able to do it."
Assume the position: On the whole, Claremont was saddled with poor field position, while CLU failed to take advantage of an edge in that category. Claremont had two drives begin in CLU territory (one leading to the Yingling touchdown), but its average starting position was its own 26, including starts at its 12, 7 and 8, as well as three at the 20. Punter Josh Oosterhof, who put three of his five kicks inside the 20 while averaging 35.4 yards per kick, helped pin down the Stags.
CLU, meanwhile, had an average starting position of its own 41, including drives beginning at the Claremont 33, 43, 37 and 16. The Kingsmen scored no points on those four possessions.
"I guess we had a little trouble with their blitzes," said receiver Christian Edwards, trying to explain CLU's difficulties. "But we brought it together in the second half, like we knew we would."
Leaders: Claremont finished with 357 yards to CLU's 300. Yingling rushed for 44 yards and passed for 99 (completing 7 of 14), including the 18-yard throw to Mike Hirokawa for the other Stags TD. D.J. Lillard led Claremont rushers with 24 carries for 123 yards.
With CLU's offense struggling, Stuart had the best final line (31 carries, 141 yards). Jericho Toilolo completed 8 of 25 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice; receiving leader Chris Hammond had three catches for 63 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Matt Allen led CLU by having a hand in 13 tackles, six unassisted. Sawyer Merrill had eight (six unassisted) as did Jordan Barta (five unassisted). Claremont was led by cornerback Dane Rymer (seven tackles, four unassisted).
Entering the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers had talked about the quality of Philadelphia's starting lineup, how all eight of the Phillies' starters were tough hitters.
If they didn't know that before, they certainly do now,
Three-run homers by the No. 6 hitter, Raul Ibanez (.272, 34 homers, 94 RBIs in the regular season) and the No. 8, catcher Carlos Ruiz (.255, 9, 43) were the decisive blows in the Phillies' 8-6 win in Game 1 of the NLCS, helping Philadelphia win although outhit 14-8 by the Dodgers.
Ruiz's homer erased a 1-0 Dodgers lead began the five-run rally that chased starter Clayton Kershaw.
"The last two months, he's been hitting good," said manager Charlie Manuel. "Basically tonight, he got a hit in the count, and that's what hitting is. He got up in the count 3-1, and he zoned a fastball up and middle in, and he crushed it. ... When you get pitches that you're looking for, then you're supposed to hit them."
Said Ibanez, "He's had some great at-bats and a really good approach at the plate. He looks great at the plate, and he's swinging the bat great."
Ruiz came in as a career .378 hitter against the Dodgers, 14 for 37 with a homer and seven RBIs.
"He's hit lefties and righties," said Dodger manager Joe Torre. "He's that guy that seems to be that pain in the neck, or some other part of your body. But he certainly battles us, and he's had good success against us.
"I think there's always probably one guy on each team that gives certain teams hell to pay. And when it's the eighth-place hitter, it frustrates you. But it's certainly something he's done more than once."
While Ibanez is clearly the more accomplished hitter, his homer was at least as surprising, given that it came against George Sherrill, who has been extremely reliable since his July acquisition from Baltimore.
"I think that was a shock for everybody," said Torre, "especially the walks" -- Sherrill walked Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth before the homer -- "which really hasn't been something he has done a lot of."
"Tonight, of course, Raul got a big hit," said the Phillies manager, "but that's the first time I've ever seen (Sherrill) not have his command."
The Ibanez homer came on the first pitch after the walks, going against the conventional wisdom of taking a pitch when a pitcher is struggling with his control.
"You're definitely not trying to do too much," said Ibanez. "He's tough. He's a tough pitcher. He's tough on lefthanders. You're trying to do less, and a lot of times in this game less is more. So you're really just trying to stroke -- get a decent pitch from him and stroke a line drive somewhere."
Other thoughts: A few other postgame comments:
-- Torre, asked if it was frustrating to lose despite 14 hits and six runs: "We kept bouncing back. You fall behind four runs to this group, and we did it two different times, and fought our way back into it. The frustrating part is how many walks we issued" -- seven, four of which were cashed in for runs -- "because there's really no defense for that."
-- Manuel, on Brad Lidge, who struggled in the regular season but earned the save, meaning he's converted on his last 10 save opportunities in the postseason: "Lidge was the guy," said Manuel. "... I liked the way it was set up with the righthanded hitters leading off the inning.
"If we pin down one closer, it's always been Lidge. But at the same time ... when he started struggling a bit, we had to do some maneuvering and give him a break, give him some time off and everything."
-- Ibanez, on the idea Game 1 was a typical Phillies win: "Guys are pulling for each other. Guys are sticking together and trying to string quality at-bats together. You can feel the excitement when it builds up in the dugout. ...
"I saw it for six months of the regular season. I saw it even in spring training, some of the excitement in the dugout ... when I got there. It was great to be a part of. It's an entire group of guys pulling in the same direction. It's incredible."
Vicente Padilla -- or perhaps his interpreter -- was the picture of diplomacy on Thursday.
Talking about his start scheduled for Friday's Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, Padilla (speaking through an interpreter) offered a rather mild assessment of his release by the Texas Rangers -- a move drawing surprisingly vocal praise from Texas players -- and his gratitude for his opportunity with the Dodgers.
"When they released me, I wasn't really surprised," said Padilla, 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA in Texas. "They had to do whatever they had to do. You just have to go on, and you just can't really dwell on the fact they released you."
As a Dodger, Padilla was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight regular-season games after his Aug. 27 debut, and followed that up by winning Game 3 of the first-round series with St. Louis." When I found out that the Dodgers had an interest in me, I was very happy," said Padilla. "I was very happy to have this opportunity to play on this great team."
And why has he been so successful in L.A.?
"I think in point of fact, it's the fact that my teammates welcomed me, and they took me as one of their family members."
Manager Joe Torre noted Padilla had pitched well against the Dodgers in an interleague game this year (five shutout innings in a 6-0 Texas win).
"We knew he had good stuff," said Torre. "... So we certainly were hoping that he would give us a boost. But would I have dreamed at the time that we got him that he was going to pitch Game 2 of the championship series? No, I certainly didn't envision that."
A vote for Pedro: After playing things fairly close to the vest, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed Pedro Martinez to start Game 2. It will be the first start for Martinez (5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine games) since going four innings in a Sept. 30 start against Houston, and just his second outing in the last 27 days. He did pitch in a simulated game a few days ago.
"I'm going to have to take that for now," said Martinez, "because there wasn't any time to do anything else. I guess I'm going to have to rely on whatever I was able to, and I just had two innings of (batting practice) to (Eric) Bruntlett and (Greg) Dobbs."
Manuel is confident Martinez will be ready.
"We feel like the other day when we was watching him in a simulated game, he was throwing the ball very good," said Manuel. "As a matter of fact, he was throwing hard, and his command was good, and he's had enough rest and his experience and everything. I feel like he's always pretty sharp with his command and control."
For Joe Torre, whose Yankees matched up against Martinez often in the pitcher's seven seasons in Boston, it will be like old times. Sort of.
"We've seen him a ton of times," said Torre, "and it won't be any different this time. You don't try to beat Pedro. You just try to outlast him. You need your pitcher to match what he does, because he's such a great competitor, knows how to pitch, and has a variety of stuff.
"But it's going to be strange, that's for sure, to have both of us over here in the National League, where we both started, and go at it again."
That Martinez is back in Dodger Stadium where he started his career as a 20-year-old in 1992 -- he was 10-6 as a Dodger before being traded to Montreal in a much-lamented deal for Delino DeShields -- has some significance to the pitcher.
"It's going to be special, especially brining back memories about my start here," said Martinez. "I was born in this place, and I hope this is not the last one that I pitch here. But if it is, it would be a great joy to actually do it in the place I started."
Said Manuel, "This is a good ballpark for him. He likes a moment, and actually I liked him in this game better than I did in the third or fourth game" of the Colorado series.
*--Revised to include Joe Torre comments
LOS ANGELES - Joe Torre's decision to tailor his bullpen to reflect Philadelphia's left-handed hitters will leave Jeff Weaver on the outside looking in for the National League Championship Series.
Lefthander Scott Elbert (2-0, 5.03 ERA in 19 2-3 innings during the regular season) will replace Weaver (1-0 this postseason; 6-4, 3.65 in 79 regular-season innings) for the NLCS. It's one of two roster changes for the series; in the other, Hiroki Kuroda returns after missing the first round with a bulging disk in his neck, bumping Jon Garland.
"We just thought, even though we have two lefthanders in the bullpen, they're not necessarily matchup guys," said Torre. "Even though we have the two, we felt we wanted the option of having another for somewhere in the game, if we have that situation arises where we aren't going to use the other two guys."
Weaver was reported to be suffering from flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, but Torre said that did not figure into the decision.
"I let him know yesterday, and had to call him at home," Torre said. "I can tell you he was sad, but I'm not sure if he was sad or just felt bad. ...
"It's tough, because you spend the season with 12 to 13 pitchers, and now you're using four starters, so somebody's going to have to come off, even pitchers that help you. The righthanders the Cardinals had in the first round made him necessary in my mind, and he helped us win Game 1. ... I felt we needed the lefthanded option, even though we hopefully don't use him, because that means our starters are doing well.
"He seemed to understand, even though he would much rather be on (the roster)."
It takes a lot of people for Cal Lutheran to win a football game these days. And as far as the Kingsmen are concerned, that's a good thing.
In Saturday's 48-14 win at Pomona Pitzer, CLU had 10 players with receptions, eight with at least one rushing attempt, and six players who scored touchdowns -- three receivers and three runners.
"We probably have nine to 11 kids that could start (at receiver) during the course of the season," said quarterback Jericho Toilolo. "Like we said the first week, we had a lot of guys and a lot of transfers come in and step up right away and make plays for us.
"That helps a lot. When we've got guys tired or injured, we're not hurting when we send guys in or out.
Said coach Ben McEnroe, "We've got some pretty good skill players. And the thing about it is other than (running backs Brian) Stuart and (Antoine) Adams, they're all a bunch of young guys.
"We've got some good depth, we've got some guys that can play. It's hard to get everybody a touch, but fortunately, today we were able to do that."
Adjusting: CLU's first offensive series saw Toilolo changing a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage, and had the Kingsmen on the verge of a three-and-out opening when the quarterback converted a third-and-eight pass to tight end Patrick Thibeault for 11 yards. The Kingsmen went on to drive 65 yards before Jackson Damron kicked a 36-yard field goal.
"It wasn't a look we weren't expecting," said McEnroe. "They were committed to taking away some things we did pretty well against Whittier (a 45-14 win a week earlier). ... For example, the depth of the linebackers. They were really flying up to take away the run when we were in our I (formation) personnel groupings, and then when we spread it out, they were more committed to pass defense. So some of the big things we hit early on were Jericho checking from a run to a pass or a pass to a run."
Explained Toilolo, "They brought a little more pressure than we thought we were going to bring, so we were just trying to help us -- help our o-line with easier blocking. They blitzed a little more than we expected them to. After we got that situated the first couple series, and talked with the coaches and o-line on the sideline, we were fine."
Part of that was also a change of personnel, he noted.
"We decided to go with two-back (formation), and Darryl Carter came in and did a good job at fullback. And Brian Stuart -- that kid makes plays. They bring one extra guy that we don't have to pick up, and he makes that guy miss. When you have a guy like that back there, it makes a lot easier to give him the ball and let him do his thing."
Stuart had 90 yards in the first half and finished with 99.
Numbers: CLU has scored more than 40 points in its last three games, a feat it has accomplished just one other time in its 17 seasons as a Division III program. In 2007, the Kingsmen won successive games 45-24 at La Verne, 44-7 against Whittier and 47-12 over Claremont-Mudd Scripps.
With three rushing touchdowns Saturday, the Kingsmen now have nine TDs on the ground -- two shy of their total for the entire 2008 season.
Saturday's win was CLU's fifth straight against Pomona-Pitzer. The Kingsmen lead the all-time series 13-7, 8-3 in SCIAC play.
If you'd asked the Angels to draw up a blueprint for their ideal opener to their playoff series with Boston, it probably would have looked just about like this.
With a dominant performance by John Lackey, the crucial hit by Torii Hunter -- and no small reminder of the importance of Bobby Abreu -- the Angels poked a 5-0 hole in the Red Sox to take a series lead against Boston for the first time since 1986.
Of course, that didn't ultimately turn out too well, so the Angels were trying not to get too excited.
"It's nice, for sure," said Lackey, who won his first postseason game since Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. "But we're definitely not towards any goal, for sure. We're at one game, and we've got to get to three before anything really matters."
That said, there was plenty about Lackey's night -- 7 1/3 innings of shutout, four-hit ball, with four strikeouts and one walk -- to energize the Angels.
"I'm very excited about hit start today," said Hunter. "He went out there and set the tone early. Man, we were so pumped up from then on."
Lackey sensed it could be a good night early on.
"Even in the bullpen I knew my arm was feeling good. ... The extra rest that I had, and the kind of short start I ended the season with" -- he worked just two innings in his final regular-season start, a week earlier -- "really helped me out tonight. I really felt like my arm was pretty live ... I had a pretty good fastball."
Manager Mike Scioscia said, "John made pitches, and that's a long way to pitch against that lineup, to get us 22 outs like that. That's a tremendous effort."
It was, in fact, the longest outing for an Angels starter in any of their four division series meetings with Boston. The previous best was Lackey's seven-inning performance last year.
"Lot of life on his fastball," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "Looked like he was moving both ways. Threw enough breaking balls we had to respect that, and he was able to locate his fastball again with two different directions. He was good. He was real good."
Good as Lackey was, it might not have mattered if not for the three-run homer by Hunter in the fifth, which provided another first for the Angels -- their first lead of more than one run in 11 division-series games with Boston.
Erick Aybar had opened the fifth with a double, moving to third on a bunt by Chone Figgins as Scioscia played for the first run of the game.
"Early runs are going to be important in this series," he said. "They definitely have a bullpen that can shut a team down. I think where the game was, to get up 1-0 was going to be important at that point. So we wanted to try to get in a position to get on top there ... and the inning got bigger once Torii got up, so that was nice."
Before Hunter batted, though, Abreu worked a walk -- one of his four on the night to give the Angels two baserunners with one out.
"For our whole season," said Scioscia, "Bobby set a tone that I think has been more than ... his numbers show. He's brought some great numbers to us, the on-base percentage, hitting, runners in scoring position, the amount of runs he's scored, the amount he's driven in, the way he's run the bases. He's brought a lot. ...
"The four walks not only would have led to the pitch count where Jon Lester had to work hard to get to that part of the game" -- Lester threw 100 pitches in six innings -- "but also (set) the table."
Said Francona, "Bobby's at-bat was huge. We were actually playing back (to) sacrifice a run, try and stay out of a big inning. Bobby won't give in."
Which allowed Hunter to feast on a Lester fastball, depositing it over the fence in left-center.
"He's one of the toughest lefties in the game," said Hunter. "He had a lot going. The guy was throwing 96, 95-mile-an-hour fastball, a cutter on your back leg as a righthander. He was pretty tough, man.
"I guess I was lucky or blessed that he threw a fastball down the middle, and I was able to capitalize on that mistake."
Hunter had walked in his previous at-bat, fouling off three pitches in working his way back from an 0-2 count, which Francona felt set the stage for what happened in the fifth.
"Hunter's at-bat before that was so good that it makes him more dangerous," said the Boston manager. "And he gets a fastball. (It) wanders back and over the plate and catches enough of a middle, and he crushes it."
That made it 3-0, and the way Lackey was dealing, that was enough. The Angels added two more runs in the seventh, and when Lackey turned the game over to Darren Oliver in the eighth, the Angels and their fans had a sense that this night was not going to be like most of the Boston games that had preceded it. The ovation for Lackey was long, loud and well deserved. The pitcher noticed.
"Our fans, they sometimes get dogged on for not being loud enough," said Lackey. "But they brought it tonight, and that ovation I got coming off the mound meant a lot to me. We definitely appreciated them tonight."
Angel fans would not hesitate to tell you the feeling was mutual.
A few postgame comments from the Dodgers' 3-2 comeback win Thursday afternoon:
-- On Clayton Kershaw's performance (6 2/3 innings, two runs) that kept the Dodgers in position to come back: "This is what you save all those innings for during the season. Again, he was very economical going into the seventh inning. He pitched great. ... I was very comfortable watching Kershaw pitch today. I thought he responded to the challenge very, very well."
-- What he thought when Matt Holliday dropped the fly ball that would have ended the game: "It's a break. The first thing I did was go to James (Loney) and ... made sure he was running. I would have been very surprised if he wasn't. Being on second base puts an enormous amount of pressure on (Cards reliever Ryan) Franklin at this point, because it takes just a single to score a run."
-- On Albert Pujols, walked intentionally for the third time in two games and 1 for 6 in the series: "As I have said many times, Albert is in a class by himself. I think Albert is such a threat that you are willing to put the winning run on base. You're willing to give them an opportunity to hit a three-run homer instead of a two-run homer.
"I just want to make somebody else beat me, basically."
Tony La Russa:
-- On the effort by Adam Wainwright, who went eight innings and allowed three hits and one run, but ended with no decision: "The quality of that is so good it's almost impossible to describe under the circumstances. We kept making enough contact we thought we could get some runs. We couldn't get anything to fall." (The Cards were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, and are 3 for 22 in the series.)
"He had very little to work with. ... He made quality pitch after quality pitch. The lineup saw him several times. He kept making adjustments. Outstanding."
-- On the way his team lost: "I think it's about as tough as loss as you can have, except we still have an opportunity to play Saturday. Thinking about the Tigers and Jim (Leyland), and you lose a game like that and you're done. But we have another opportunity.
"So it was a tough loss, very tough loss. ...
"Right now, we're feeling disappointed, like I said. But we're not discouraged. There's a big difference in the two. We can win a game, so we have to wait until Saturday.
"But right now, I think it's important to get upset about the game that got away. We did a lot to win that one and didn't win it. Turn the page too quickly (and it) means you don't care."
Dodger second baseman Ronnie Belliard:
-- On facing Wainwright: "You know, he's tough to pick up the breaking balls. And risers. He's not a soft thrower, gets up to 95, 93. He's got a good sinker, good cutter. I know that. I played behind him. ...
"And when it's like that, when that shadow is in between or the sun is back in center field -- but I think our break just came in the bottom of the ninth, that line drive to left field" (dropped by Holliday).
-- On facing Carpenter and Wainwright and winning both games: "I think I told the guys yesterday, hey, we have got to make him pitch. Gotta get in our bullpen. We all know the bullpen. Their bullpen is good, because they're here because they're good. ...
"I think today (Wainwright) was something else, you know."
-- On his reaction to the Dodgers comeback: "I think this is one of the greatest times for me ever in baseball."
ANAHEIM -- Well, that was easy.
I'm now in the press box in Anaheim -- walked in and sat down just in time to stand up for the seventh-inning stretch -- after 90 minutes of pure driving torture. Traffic control kept me from getting out of Dodger Stadium in the direction I'd hoped (I ended up in Chinatown, which was definitely not on the agenda), there was a five-car accident at the 5/10/60 interchange, a traffic-choked mess even in the best of times, and then when I reached the ballpark here, the entry gates were all closed (I had to talk my way in) and it took five minutes to find a parking space.
Other than that, things went perfectly.
Anyway, now that I'm here -- oh, by the way, the Angels lead 3-0 and have the bases loaded -- I'll catch my breath and post a few more postgame notes from the Dodgers-Cardinals stunner, and have postgame Angels-Red Sox coverage.
Pregame notes from Game 2:
Staying with Belliard: Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he'd stick with the Game 1 lineup for Game 2, meaning Ronnie Belliard again starts at second base. That disappoints Orlando Hudson, the starting second baseman for most of the year, but, said Torre, "He's a team guy.
"Orlando and I had a conversation when we were in San Francisco (late in the regular season)," Torre continued. "... At that point, I told him I didn't know what I was going to do on a day-to-day basis."
Torre says he continues to tell Hudson and "anybody that wants to listen" about the importance of the second baseman's early-season performance. "And I probably played him too much, especially coming off the surgery he had. We didn't even know if he was going to be ready for spring training, but he was ready and played every single day.
"But at this point, he's fighting it a little bit. He still contends he's 100 percent healthy, but we played him a lot, and I think the effects of that are showing up a little bit.
"Belliard, right now, he's probably giving us a more productive bat at this time, and that's why I've chosen to go with Ronnie. That doesn't mean when we get to St. Louis, I won't change my mind."
Wolf's words: Torre was asked how starter Randy Wolf had reacted to his Game 1 struggles.
"His spirits are fine," said Torre. "He was out there last night for the rest of the game. ... When I went by his locker after the game to shake his hand, he said, 'I'll be better next time.' I said, 'I know you will.'
"It was one of those days, and it doesn't necessarily tell me anything. Because he's always excitable, so I can't say if he's overly nervous or anything. He's got that kind of personality.
"He just wasn't locating. The indicator to me was the lefthanders' success. If you look at his numbers, the lefthanders really had a tough time against him (in the regular season). So that sort of raised the yellow flag for me."
Lineup change: As he'd suggested before Game 1, when he started Skip Schumaker at second base, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa switched to Julio Lugo to lead off and play second in Game 2.
"I just think that Julio has been a good early spark plug against left-hand starters for us," said La Russa, "and we've got a left-hand starter today, went the other way yesterday, so I think he's capable of doing some stuff."
This was written in advance of Game 1 just in case the game was in extra innings at deadline -- although it was almost needed just because the game was so incredibly slow. Since it wasn't needed in the paper, here's an online-only bonus column:
LOS ANGELES -- On paper, it looks like Clayton Kershaw has been handed the role of sacrificial lamb, matched as he is in Game 2 of the Dodgers' first-round playoff series against Adam Wainwright, who was merely 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA in the regular season.
If Kershaw (8-8, 2.79) is rattled, unnerved or otherwise displeased with this prospect, you'd be hard pressed to tell. In fact, in his conversations on the two days before the start, you'd be hard pressed to tell Kershaw's Thursday involved anything more challenging than, say, signing on to read e-mail.
Calm? Kershaw was so laid back it seemed as if it would be challenging to detect his pulse, let alone any kind of elevated heart rate.
"I'll probably be nervous for sure," Kershaw said Wednesday, sounding anything but. "I'm nervous every time I pitch.
"I think it's how you handle the nerves, how you channel it, how you can use it to your advantage. ... Get the adrenalin going, maybe throw harder or have better break on your breaking balls. Just depends how you use it, I guess."
This is probably a good time to remind you that Kershaw is all of 21 years old. You know it when you see him, but not when you listen to him. Or, for that matter, when you watch him pitch.
Remember, it was Kershaw who finally allowed the Dodgers to clinch the Western Division title, pitching six impeccable innings (no runs, three hits, 10 strikeouts, three hits) on Saturday when the Dodgers scored five runs in the seventh to beat Colorado.
Joe Torre, who of course remembers that, had to think for a moment to find a comparable 21-year-old in terms of demeanor and savvy.
"Not me, I know that," said Torre.
The closest match he could come up with wasn't a pitcher, but a shortstop. You may have heard of him: Derek Jeter.
"I'm thinking of another pitcher who he would remind me of," said Torre, "and there probably is somebody, but nobody I think that I've managed. I guess if there was, I wouldn't have been fired three or four times, right?"
Certainly, Kershaw's work in the division-clincher was the kind of work that saves managers, or at least makes their jobs easier.
"We've tried to protect the kid the last year or so from any outside pressure or game pressures, and watch his pitch count," said Torre, "and then you hand him the ball Saturday and he wins a game that we couldn't win for a week. He didn't win it, but he pitched well enough to win it."
But in an up-and-down season -- Kershaw is, after all, 8-8 -- it's been the way Kershaw handled the lows that impressed Torre as much as any of the highs.
"He's had some ugly games," said Torre, "and to watch him come back from those games and pitch well in his next outing ... he could have fallen off the planet at that point in time, trying to overdo this and overdo that.
"I think (today) you're still going to see some overdo, because he's got extraordinary stuff. So he may go out there and overthrow it or whatever. But I don't think that's because he's 21. I just think that's because he's competitive."
Certainly, Kershaw isn't interested in putting any extra emphasis on his youth, even if he is the youngest pitcher on the team's postseason roster (by almost four years) and the youngest player on either team (next would be 23-year-old St. Louis outfielder Colby Rasmus).
"Any time you're given the responsibility to start in the postseason," said Kershaw, "there's obviously some added expectations there. I don't think that has anything to do with age. I think if you're given the responsibility of starting Game 2 of a post-season series, there's going to be some expectations for you to pitch well."
No one probably expects that more than Kershaw. And if most people don't expect him to pitch well enough to outduel Wainwright, well, he's not going to get too animated about it.
During Tuesday's workout day, Kershaw was asked point-blank why he thought the starting pitching wouldn't be the mismatch anticipated by most observers. While it was a reasonable enough question, the way it was asked would have raised the hackles of a lot of people.
"I probably can't think that they're better pitchers than me, you know. That's not how you go into a start. ... It's just the way you've got to go after it -- pitch your game. That's really all you can do."
We'll find out today how that goes. However it turns out, it's hard not to be impressed by the attitude Kershaw carries into the spotlight.
A little pregame housecleaning:
The roster: The Dodgers went with a roster including 11 pitchers -- five with no prior postseason experience -- for the series with the Cardinals.
In addition to the announced starters -- Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Vicente Padilla and Chad Billingsley -- the pitching staff includes righthanders Ronald Belisario, Jonathan Broxton, Jon Garland, Ramon Troncoso and Jeff Weaver, and lefties Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill. Wolf, Padilla, Belisario, Sherrill and Troncoso have no prior playoff experience.
The 14 position players included no real surprises: infielders Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, Juan Castro, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, James Loney, Mark Loretta and Jim Thome; outfielders Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez, and catchers Brad Ausmus and Russell Martin.
Cards roster: St. Louis went with 12 pitchers on their 25-man roster, with reliever Mitchell Boggs earning the final spot.
"Going to 12 pitches made us not have to make a decision on Boggs versus one of the young guys," said manager Tony La Russa. "... He came in there in several situations against good hitters, and was very tough to center. Got strikeouts ... kept his composure, delivery together. ...
"I just think he was exciting when he pitched."
Cards lineup: In the two spots in the St. Louis lineup where La Russa had real decisions to make about starters, he went with Skip Schumaker, leading off as his starter at second base (over Julio Lugo) and Colby Rasmus batting eighth in center field (rather than Rick Ankiel).
"I think Colby earned the start," La Russa said. "It was close. If you have a good team, you have a choice to make.
"At second, I've been going with Lugo a lot against lefthanders," he continued. "I would expect him tomorrow at second base, but we'll see how today goes. I felt like Schu is a good matchup for Wolf, and Julio has struggled against Wolf. In fact, quite a few of our guys have."
Part of the decision in center may have been that Ankiel has been productive as a pinch-hitter, going 6 for 22 (.273) with two homers.
"I hate to penalize him just because he's a great pinch hitter, or a really good pinch hitter," said La Russa. "But it's a factor."
More from Tuesday's workouts for the Dodgers and Angels:
Playing his Cards: Dodger pitcher Jeff Weaver is in the playoffs for the fifth time, the last time being 2006 when he was with St. Louis, and won the fifth and final game of the World Series.
"Obviously, I have a lot of fond memories of playing there and everything," said Weaver, " but it's a new task going up against them and trying to take them out. Regardless of the team you're on, you're still trying to go out there to win, and despite who you're playing, you're trying to do the same.
"It's kind of funny -- there's only a couple of guys still over there that I played with. It's a whole new team, we're on different teams, and go out there and try to do our job."
That win in Game 5 of the 2006 World Series, he said, is definitely helpful as he returns to the postseason.
"Even the previous experience when I was with the Yankees (in 2002 and 2003) ... obviously the results went the other way, but even those experiences helped me for getting back there with the Dodgers the first time, and a little bit more experience then, and you take it into the next postseason.
"I think that's all you can really do. You're pretty fortunate just to get the opportunity, and you've got to learn from each experience. And hopefully if you get back there again it will help you. I think there's no doubt the experience of being in the postseason obviously helps for in the future."
A house divided: With both Weaver brothers in the playoffs -- the first time that's happened -- Jeff said his parents had decided to take sides: his father, Dave, will follow Jeff and the Dodgers, while his mother, Gail, will follow Jered and the Angels. "I think she wants to go to Boston," Jeff said. "She's never been there."
Finding himself: Chad Billingsley was 9-4 in the first half of the season, earning a spot in the All-Star Game. He was 3-7 in the second half, trying mightily to regain that early form.
"I mean, it's a lot easier said than done," Billingsley said. "The last couple of outings I had to finish up the regular season felt a lot more like my first-half stuff."
Looking back, he has an idea when and how his problems started.
"It was about the all-star break," he said. " I was having a hard time throwing to the left-hand side of the plate, away to a right-handed hitter. And I kind of started forcing my mechanics to go that way, and just doing one little thing that led to some other things. You fly open, you start drifting off, drifting other ways. I moved over to the left side of the rubber to allow myself to be more consistent to that side of the plate, and it just lead to other things. Just trying to do too much."
His last two starts -- a six-inning no-decision at Washington in which he gave up three runs, and a loss at San Diego in which he gave up two runs in six innings -- offered some hope, he said: "I mean, it felt great. I'm not quite there, but it was a step in the right direction."
Manager Joe Torre said Tuesday that Billingsley would be his Game 4 starter. Vicente Padilla will start Game 3 in St. Louis, following Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw.
Updates: Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Howie Kendrick would get the start at second base in Game 1 of the series with Boston. "Maicer Izturis is good to go," he said. "He'll get a lot of action in this series, most likely play on Friday. But Howie will play on Thursday."
Reliever Jason Bulger, who left Saturday's game with shoulder stiffness, played catch at Tuesday's workout and "feels much better," Scioscia said. "He'll throw a light bullpen tomorrow. We'll be able to evaluate to see if he's available for Thursday."
In and out: Torre said Ronnie Belliard, rather than Orlando Hudson, would start at second base on Wednesday.
"He doesn't have as wide a range as Hudson does," said Torre. "But I think offensively he's maybe a little fresher right now. We asked O-Dog to do a lot of stuff early in the year. And he played his tail off and continues to do that. But it was just a decision I decide to make, and we'll go day to day right now."
It came in the eighth inning, and might have been the Dodger Stadium press-box announcement of the year: "That is the manager, Brad Ausmus, pinch-running for Jim Thome."
In keeping with a Joe Torre tradition of handing the final-game reins to a veteran player, Ausmus was the acting manager for the Dodgers' 5-3 win over Colorado to wrap up the regular season.
As far as Torre could remember before the game, none of his other player-managers had inserted themselves in the game. "They're having too much fun sitting there and playing with it," he said.
But, with other veterans taking other coaching roles, that eighth-inning substitution meant the manager ran for one of his two hitting coaches.
Ausmus, the backup catcher, did not try to claim he'd simply picked his fastest available runner for the job.
"Second least-fastest guy on the team, next to Thome, I think," he said. "Maybe Loretta. I might be third. But somebody had to pinch-run so I figured I'd get myself out of the way."
Overall, Ausmus said it was an enjoyable experience.
"To me, it was actually a little more difficult because we have 30-some players here, and a handful of them out in the field who you want to let come off the field to get ovations from the fans." (As an example, he let Casey Blake take the field in the fourth before sending out Blake DeWitt as a substitute.)
"So you're trying to mix and match and get people off the field and get people on the field, and not run out of players, and be able to pinch-hit for the pitcher. So it was a little bit more of a chess match, I think, than it would be with a 25-man roster in a regular game."
Beforehand, Ausmus had jokingly made it clear he understood how the manager's role would work, or at least how he hoped the post-game press meeting would go: "I do everything right, put all the guys in a position to succeed and we win 10-0. Then I can take the credit. If we lose, it's the players' fault."
Afterward, Andre Ethier, equally tongue in cheek, offered an opposing view.
"He was horse(bleep)," Ethier said. "The players won that game. If we'd lost, it would have been the manager's fault."
The more realistic view, given the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of baseball, was claimed by Matt Kemp.
"He's 1-0, so he's good so far," said Kemp.
Coach Weaver: Jeff Weaver was also part of the Ausmus coaching staff, taking the role of bullpen coach for the day.
"Last night, he brought me in. Short-term contract," Weaver said, laughing.
"It was good. I think everybody had fun with it, but still took it seriously -- get an idea what it's all about, and have fun with it. And fortunately, it worked out pretty good."
And what did he do in his bullpen coaching debut?
"Just answered the phone," he said. "Made sure guys got up and ready, and let them know who they're going to be facing, and something they might do against them."
Sunday's relaxed atmosphere was clearly a welcome change from the stressful final week that saw the Dodgers lose five straight before finally clinching the NL West.
"We did that intentionally," Weaver joked. "It's nice to get it out of the way and come out and enjoy the last day, and then get back to work."
To appreciate the impact Brian Stuart has had just three games into his Cal Lutheran career, you only need to look back at the final statistics from the 2008 season.
In a 7-2 season, the Kingsmen had just 11 rushing touchdowns. Antoine Adams, Derek Martinez and quarterback Jericho Toilolo led the team with three apiece; Adams, in an injury-shortened season, was the leading rusher with 475 yards.
After Saturday's 45-14 win over Whittier, Stuart -- a transfer from College of the Canyons -- already has six touchdowns, three in each of the last two games, along with 280 rushing yards.
"He's huge for us," said quarterback Jericho Toilolo. "That was a big transfer for us, to come in and make plays the way he does now. Him and our O-line just mesh really well right now, and if we have a running game like that, we'll be able to pass on anybody. They've got to respect our run game right now.
CLU coach Ben McEnroe noted, "Brian adds a pretty special element to our offense. He's got the breakaway (ability), but he also runs well inside and can pound it in there, and has a great knack for scoring when he gets in close."
Newcomers: Stuart and freshman nose guard Rian Younker, who scored the interception-return touchdown that put CLU in front for good, illustrate a point McEnroe has been making from the beginning of training camp, that a number of newcomers to this year's team -- whether freshmen or transfers -- were going to be impact players.
"We tell them, the best players are going to play," said McEnroe. "It doesn't matter how long you've been here, or where you came from."
Younker "is one of the best freshmen I've ever seen here," McEnroe said. "He's an excellent football player, comes from a great high-school program" -- St. Francis High of La Canada -- "so he's been well-coached. He's going to be an All-American here before it's over."
Senior defensive lineman Sawyer Merrill, who tipped the screen pass that was intercepted by Younker for his 7-yard TD, likes what he's seeing from the younger player.
"He's a good player, a good freshman, and he's playing well," said Merrill. "It's good to have him."
Younker, who had three tackles, is one of eight freshmen on the two-deep chart for Saturday's game. Also starting on defense was cornerback Patrick Knox (Thousand Oaks High), who was in on four tackles (three solo) and broke up a pass; on offense, wide receiver Matt O'Brien (Casa Grande High of Petaluma) started and had one catch for 18 yards.
Quick strike: The most impressive moment for the CLU offense came at the end of the second quarter. Starting after a punt at their own 27 with just 44 seconds later, the Kingsmen went 73 yards in just 28 seconds and three Toilolo passes -- a 28-yard throw to Stuart, and completions of 27 and 18 yards to Chris Hammond -- to score for a 28-7 halftime lead.
"That goes to our coaching staff, our coordinators, Scott (Beattie, defense) and Clay (Richardson, offense)," said McEnroe. "Every Thursday we have a live two-minute (drill) compete period where we're getting after each other.
"We learned this week that a certain personnel group was better for us. Our defense handed it to us in practice, and helped us make some adjustments we carried onto the field today -- switched our personnel, switched our blocking scheme, because of the pressure our first defense put on us.
"I told the kids, it comes back to a great couple of weeks of practice for us. And that series was just a great example of what hard practice and competition can do for you."
He has covered the last four Olympics, as well as the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, NCAA Final Four and a wide variety of other events.