Angels hanging loose after defeat

Posted Oct. 02, 2008, at 8:41 p.m.

By Beth Harris

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Justin Speier dashed through the Los Angeles Angels’ clubhouse Thursday, wearing a wetsuit and toting a boogie board, with his flippers slapping against the carpet.

“Coach, is there practice today?” he yelled to manager Mike Scioscia, who couldn’t help but smile and wave his arm dismissively in the pitcher’s direction.

The rest of the Angels laughed out loud, with Speier’s monkeying around clearly having the desired effect of loosening up a team coming off its record-tying 10th consecutive playoff loss to the Boston Red Sox.

“He probably did just come from the beach, knowing Justin,” Scioscia said, pausing a beat before tossing out his own one-liner. “I expressed to him the next pair of flippers he wears will be cement flippers.”

With their AL division series taking a break Thursday, the Angels had plenty of time to contemplate — or forget — their 4-1 loss in Wednesday’s opener against the same team that swept them in their last two playoff series.

“A lot of guys have to have amnesia and let that go,” said Torii Hunter, who urged his teammates to “get the dog in you.”

In Hunter’s vernacular that means “be a little more aggressive and not be too timid.”

For anyone who still didn’t get the point, Hunter compared the series to a football game.

“We’ve been hit and guys are ready to go,” he said. “We have to be more patient and make the right decisions.”

Especially Friday night against Boston ace Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3), who was 9-0 on the road in the regular season. The right-hander with the unusual delivery is known for stretching the strike zone with his pitches.

“He has to throw you a strike, and being patient and letting him work a little bit is going to be huge for us,” infielder Howie Kendrick said. “Sometimes you have to talk to yourself. I have to be patient and try to make him give me something over the plate that I can handle.”

Matsuzaka lost 7-5 on July 28 in his only appearance against Los Angeles this season, leaving the Angels more familiar with him on tape than in person.

“If you don’t know a guy, you got to swing at strikes,” Mark Teixeira said.

The Angels counter with Ervin Santana (16-7), who didn’t face the Red Sox in the regular season, when Los Angeles won eight of nine matchups. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA in four career starts against them.

“He’s throwing the ball well and he’s confident,” said catcher Mike Napoli, who will be replaced by Jeff Mathis on Friday since Santana had a 14-4 record and 2.88 ERA when they teamed during the regular season.

The Angels have built a reputation for manufacturing runs with their scrappy base-running, but reckless abandon on the basepaths cost them in Game 1.

Trailing 2-1 in the eighth, Hunter blooped a single over first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Vladimir Guerrero took off trying to advance from first to third.

With his back to the infield, Youkilis in one hurried motion grabbed the ball, got up and threw a dart to Mike Lowell, well ahead of Guerrero, who had ignored the stop sign from third-base coach Dino Ebel.

“My philosophy is to get rid of the ball as soon as possible,” Youkilis said. “It probably would have been easier if I’d caught the ball in the first place and gotten us out of the inning earlier.”

Youkilis said he didn’t hear teammates, including second baseman Dustin Pedroia, yelling at him to throw to third.

“The throw was perfect, a huge play for us,” Pedroia said. “All his momentum was on his back foot. He’s got a great arm, a very athletic play.”

The Angels managed nine hits but none for extra bases in Game 1, when they had no production from the bottom half of their lineup.

“We got some guys on base, we got a lot of hits, but we couldn’t get the big hit,” said Teixeira, who was 2-for-4 along with Guerrero and Garret Anderson.

If the Red Sox can win Friday, they’ll go home knowing ace Josh Beckett remains on schedule to start Game 3 Sunday.

Beckett, originally set to start Game 1, injured a muscle in his side last Friday during a bullpen session. He threw a side session Thursday.

“He ended up with 67 pitches, which is a pretty aggressive side, but I think we probably needed to do that,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll monitor him as we go, but the medical people were out there and I think we were very pleased with the way things went.”

Francona said Beckett’s fastball had “some finish to it.”

“He needs to know going into a start that he has what is available, what he needs to win, so today was a very productive day,” the manager said.

Lowell, last year’s World Series MVP, and J.D. Drew both expect to start again for Boston on Friday. Lowell (left hip) and Drew (back) have played sparingly because of their injuries, and it showed Wednesday when they both went 0-for-4.

“If you win one on the road, you kind of shift home advantage to your side,” Lowell said. “We want to increase the intensity because that team has shown they can beat us.”

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