ALDS Notebook: Will Rest Help Or Hinder?

BOSTON—An off-day in between the first two games provides the AL Division Series yet another storyline. Who will benefit from the extra rest—the Red Sox, who were bursting with momentum after a crisp 4-0 win Wednesday, or the Angels, who were limited to four hits by the brilliant Josh Beckett and got all of two runners into scoring position?

"I'm going to be honest with you," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday night, "this is a weird set-up. And the fact this series is a five-game series stretches out so long—we'll see, you know, if it affects any team.

"We want to get out there, obviously, and I think our guys are disappointed at the offensive effort. I know they are."

Terry Francona, speaking at an off-day press conference Thursday, said he didn't think the hiccupping schedule would affect the flow or quality of the series. "I just think every game, especially this time of year, kind of has its own personality, own flavor," Francona said. "Now again [tonight] it will be a whole new game and it will take on a whole personality or life of its own."

Thanks to the quirk in the schedule, every other series may have completed two games before the Sox and Angels even begin Game Two tonight at 8:37 p.m. The Rockies-Phillies and Diamondbacks-Cubs series are already two games old and the Indians and Yankees—who were the last two teams to begin play Thursday—play their Game Two this afternoon at 5:07 p.m.


QUICK IMPACT FOR ELLSBURY: Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury was tested right away in his playoff debut when Chone Figgins hit a sinking liner to left to lead off the ninth. Ellsbury, inserted into the game in place of Manny Ramirez for defensive purposes, made a nice sliding catch—and, in the process, further impressed Francona.

"The tools are there that everybody can see, but for a young kid, [he has] the willingness to be ready," Francona said. "That play, I don't want to say it makes or breaks the game. It shows what he is able to do. And maybe [he] makes that play later on in the series with men on base."


ANOTHER FIRST FOR MATSUZAKA: One of the most chronicled rookies in history takes to the big stage tonight, when Daisuke Matsuzaka starts for the Sox against Kelvim Escobar. Matsuzaka set a Sox rookie record with 201 strikeouts, and his 15 wins are the most ever by a first-year Japanese player in America, but his 4.40 ERA indicates just how inconsistent he was at times.

Matsuzaka had a 7.62 ERA in five September starts, but the Sox are hopeful his impressive final regular season outing (two runs on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in a win over the Twins last Friday) is a sign of things to come this month.

"I think Daisuke's considered a rookie by major league standards, and he's definitely had a lot thrown at him for the first time, but he's not a rookie," Francona said. "He's a pretty established professional pitcher. He's just had a lot thrown at him this year…we're thrilled to have him, but we knew that he was going to go through a lot of firsts—culturally, baseball, everything. And he's handled it very well."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Probably not. I'm always in the hospital. They made the trade during the winter meetings…I was probably hooked up to something that was making me feel good. I probably would have approved of anything."—Terry Francona, asked if he remembered his reaction when the Sox acquired Mike Lowell from the Marlins Nov, 24, 2005. Francona was in a hospital undergoing knee replacement surgery.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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