Wed, Oct 01, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Season adds two days, one playoff spot left

AP , NEW YORK

Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett departs Fenway Park in Boston on Monday. The Red Sox will face the Los Angeles Angels in baseball’s American League Division Series starting tomorrow in Anaheim, California.

PHOTO: AP

The Major League Baseball playoffs have yet to begin, and already the Boston Red Sox have a loss: Pitcher Josh Beckett is out for the opener.

The defending World Series champions pushed him back to Game 3 against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday because of a strained muscle in his side.

At least Beckett is headed to the postseason. The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins still aren’t sure.

“It’s kind of an ongoing joke that it seems like nobody wanted to win the Central, so this is kind of probably the way it should go down, going into a game tomorrow when the season’s supposed to be over,” Twins closer Joe Nathan said.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers are in for the first time since 1982, when they were a member of the American League and well before wild cards even existed in the playoffs.

“It’s our time,” CC Sabathia said after pitching a four-hitter to beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1.

Today, the playoffs begin with three games: Manny Ramirez, manager Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the wild-card Brewers travel to Philadelphia, and the Red Sox play the 100-win Angels.

The Cubs beat the Dodgers 5-2 in the season series but that was before the Dodgers acquired batters Ramirez and Casey Blake.

Ramirez, the 12-time All-Star and 2004 World Series star with Boston became a team leader almost immediately, adding life to a previously drab clubhouse, and he’s hustled all the way.

The Cubs easily won their second consecutive National League Central title and finished with the second-best record in MLB behind the Angels. They’re going for their first NL pennant since 1945 and first World Series championship in 100 years.

The Brewers’ season improved after they traded for Sabathia, the 2007 pitcher of the year, from Cleveland. They hardly lost when Sabathia started, and he totaled a MLB-high 253 innings. Will he be worn out? He will start Game 2 tomorrow on three days’ rest, lining up a potential Game 5 start if necessary.

Philadelphia’s September rally started with a four-game sweep of Milwaukee, which cost Brewers manager Ned Yost his job. The Phillies just need to give a lead to closer Brad Lidge, who helped Philadelphia go 79-0 when leading after eight innings. He had a 1.10 ERA in save situations and a 0.61 ERA in his last 15 appearances.

The Angels head into the playoffs looking like the team to beat.

They were the first team to clinch a division crown, wrapping up the AL West on Sept. 10 and finished with a franchise-best 100-62 record that was tops in the majors. Their lineup is scary for opposing pitchers, especially since they added Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter to the middle of the card. And they have Francisco Rodriguez, who earned a MLB-record 62 saves in 69 chances.

The Angels beat Boston 8-1 in matchups this year. Boston was carrying injuries to ace pitcher Beckett, last year’s World Series MVP Mike Lowell (hip), and outfielder J.D. Drew (back).

Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays will make their postseason debut when either the White Sox or Twins travel to quirky Tropicana Field.

The Rays began the season with a meager payroll of about US$43 million and beat the odds by finishing ahead of big-budget Boston and the New York Yankees.

“When you believe, and you’ve got the talent to do it,” veteran designated hitter Cliff Floyd said, “anything can happen.”

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