Sunday, September 27, 2009

A September sweep only means so much

Paul Byrd flashed back a couple of years as he watched the New York Yankees celebrate a three-game sweep of the Red Sox and, more importantly, the American League East title. The Yankees now have beaten the Red Sox in nine of the teams' past 10 meetings, and many already have predicted the sky will fall upon the Red Sox should the two teams meet again in the postseason.

The well-traveled Byrd, though, has seen this before.

His Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim met up with the first-place Chicago White Sox in early September of 2005 -- in Chicago, no less -- and swept three straight.

A dramatic 12th-inning against old friend Dustin Hermanson win kicked off the three-game series, and Bartolo Colon and John Lackey tossed back-to-back impressive outings to polish off the sweep. Colon won his 19th game of the season that weekend en route to a career-high 21 wins and the American League's Cy Young Award.

Byrd didn't pitch in that series. (He'd actually thrown seven shutout innings at Fenway Park the previous Thursday, outdueling Matt Clement in the process.) But he couldn't help but marvel at the way his Angels completely obliterated a team that would finish the season with the best record in the American League.

"We abused the White Sox three weeks before the playoffs started," Byrd said from his locker in the Yankee Stadium visitors' clubhouse. "Every one of their pitchers -- (Mark) Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia -- we beat the tar out of them by like six or seven runs."

(It actually was Orlando Hernandez who pitched the third game of that series, but we'll forgive Byrd the one slip-up.)

"We said to ourselves, 'God, I really hope we face that team in the playoffs,'" Byrd said.

The Angels then won the American League West going away and ousted the Yankees in the American League Division Series, riding two outstanding starts from Lackey and an impressive 5 1/3 innings of relief pitching from Ervin Santana in Game 5 to advance to the American League Championship Series.

It was there that they met the White Sox.

It was there that the White Sox eliminated them in five games.

"We couldn't touch any of their pitchers," said Byrd, who earned the Angels' lone victory of that series. "It was totally different. They walked right through and won the World Series. ...

"You've got to get hot at the right time. You can't say, 'They beat us two weeks ago so they've got our number.' That's not the case at all. You want to be celebrating on the back side, and that's just the bottom line."

1 comment:

Jim Monaghan said...

I'd feel a whole lot better about things if the Red Sox had actually clinched something by now.

The Lester scare on Friday night helped conceal the fact that he seemed scared witless by that ridiculous right field wall, and he had very little going for him.

Dice-K and Byrd did their respective jobs on Saturday and Sunday but the offense did little to help out and it's becoming painful to watch Varitek attempt to do anything involving a baseball - hit it, throw it, or attempt to block it.

Let's get the Rangers out of the way first; perhaps if the team get hot the September sweep can become as distant memory as the 8-0 Red Sox start over the Yankees.