Angels vs. Lester

October 01, 2008 - 1:02 pm

The postseason success of the Red Sox last year was predicated upon grinding at bats from every member of the lineup. While it would be difficult to suggest that the Angels offense is of the caliber as was that of the 2007 Bostonians, the Angels certainly appear to have a formidable bottom third of the order to face Jon Lester.  Angels catcher Mike Napoli will bat seventh. Since returning from a shoulder injury in early August, he has been one of the best hitters in the game. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances after the All-Star break, he ranks second in the majors (to Manny Ramirez) in batting average (.388) and OBP (.481), and leads all of baseball with a .776 slugging mark thanks to eight homers in 105 plate appearances. Batting eighth, the Angels have Gary Matthews, Jr. In September, he hit .318/.375/.485. Moreover, Matthews is the only batter to have taken Jon Lester deep twice in the same game. Matthews accomplished the feat at Fenway Park on April 23 this year, though it is worth the footnote that Lester was pitching on three days' rest.  Lester, however, should be able to preserve some bullets against Angels No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar. Aybar averaged just 3.26 pitches per plate appearances this year, ranked 278th among 281 big-league hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. Even so, Aybar is 2-for-3 against Lester in his career.  The Angels have presented problems for Lester throughout his young career. In four career outings against the Halos, he has a 7.78 ERA, his worst mark against any club against whom he has started more than once. Of course, Lester only made one start against Anaheim (oops: Los Angeles) this year, the aforementioned outing on three days' rest.  Speaking of three days' rest, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had some interesting thoughts about the impressive performances of several pitchers in recent weeks--C.C. Sabathia, Johan Santana, John Danks, etc.--on three days' rest.  "I don't think it's any problem going once or twice around a rotation on three days' rest, if it happened," said the Angels manager. "A whole season, I think that's going to be a cultural change in where baseball is now. It's going to have to start in minor-league development and it's going to have to carry us up to the major leagues if you're going to go that route. There is a reason, I think, teams went to a five-man rotation at some point and it probably has helped to lengthen some careers. To go back to a four-man rotation, it would take four special-type pitchers right now to do that." Just a guess: you might want to start that four-man with Harry Leroy Halladay, Carsen Charles Sabathia...and Old Hoss Radbourn.