ANAHEIM, Calif. – With Jered Weaver picking up right where John Lackey left off for the Los Angeles Angels, not even Josh Beckett could keep the Boston Red Sox from the brink of playoff elimination.
Weaver yielded two hits while dominating Boston into the eighth inning, and Maicer Izturis drove home the tie-breaking run in Los Angeles’ 4-1 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night, extending the Angels’ lead to 2-0 in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Game 3 is Sunday at Fenway Park, with Boston’s Clay Buchholz facing Angels newcomer Scott Kazmir.
Erick Aybar followed Izturis’ RBI single with a two-run triple during the Angels’ two-out rally in the seventh to break up a pitching duel between Weaver and Beckett, Boston’s most reliable playoff performer.
Aybar’s hit chased Beckett, who yielded five hits and four runs in 62/3 innings during his first playoff loss in a Red Sox uniform. It was his first defeat in nine postseason starts since Game 3 of the 2003 World Series with Florida.
The Red Sox eliminated the Angels in three of the past five postseasons, but they’ve mustered one run and eight hits in the series’ first two games.
After Lackey and Darren Oliver combined to blank the Red Sox, 5-0, in the series opener, Weaver was better than Beckett, the 2003 World Series MVP with Florida, in his second postseason start.
Although the Red Sox scored their only run of the series in the fourth on Victor Martinez’s RBI single, Weaver limited wild-card Boston to four baserunners before his teammates came through at the plate and out of the bullpen.
Boston got the tying run to the plate in the ninth with Kevin Youkilis doubled off Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bay drew a two-out walk from Brian Fuentes. Although Red Sox fans might have conjured visions of Dave Henderson’s memorable ninth-inning homer for the Red Sox in Anaheim at Game 5 of the 1986 AL Championship Series, Fuentes retired Mike Lowell on a fly to center for the save.
Boston’s sixth playoff run in seven seasons is in serious trouble against the Angels, who had lost 12 of their previous 13 playoff games against the Red Sox before taking the first two at Angel Stadium, where they had lost six consecutive playoff games.
Vladimir Guerrero drew a walk from Beckett to open the Angels’ seventh. After pinch-runner Howie Kendrick swiped second. Izturis worked the count before driving Beckett’s 94th pitch into center for the go-ahead run.
After Beckett hit Mike Napoli with a pitch, Aybar rapped a triple to center, scoring both runners.
Izturis, the second baseman who batted .300 in his breakout regular season, missed last fall’s playoffs with a thumb injury, and he sat out Game 1 in favor of Kendrick. He spent the year playing stellar infield defense alongside Aybar, the young shortstop who posted career highs in most hitting categories this year.
Weaver just completed his best pro season, going 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA as the Angels’ most dependable starter. Despite a late-season three-game losing streak, he has been largely outstanding since mid-August, pushing the Angels to their fifth AL West title in six years.
Beckett, a star during Boston’s 2007 title run, missed his penultimate scheduled start of the regular season with back spasms. He has never started two games in a division series, but Boston is likely to send him out again if the series goes to a decisive Game 5..