Monday, August 8, 2011
Angels Moment No. 19: Rallying off Papelbon
By Mark Saxon
If ever the reverse-lock theory came into play, it was the 2009 American League Division Series.
The Boston Red Sox had tormented the Angels and their fans throughout the teams' playoff histories. It began, famously, in 1986 with a dramatic comeback sparked by Dave Henderson's home run, but it became an epidemic in the last decade.
The Red Sox knocked the Angels out of the playoffs in 2004, 2007 and 2008. So, when the 2009 playoffs began, it seemed as if the Angels were just walking into their yearly October trap. Fenway Park was their chamber of horrors and it started getting scary again when, while holding a 2-0 series lead, the Angels fell behind 5-2 entering the eighth inning of Game Three.
What made things seem more hopeless was the guy sitting in Boston's bullpen. In 17 post-season games, no team had ever managed to score off Jonathan Papelbon.
On this particular October afternoon, though, the Angels were relentless. Papelbon would come within one strike of ending the game three different times and be denied.
The Angels started their rally off Billy Wagner in the eighth, with Juan Rivera smacking a two-run single. But Boston scored an insurance run and Papelbon had a two-run lead entering the ninth. What happened next would send most of the 38,704 fans streaming out of the old stadium with a sense of vintage Fenway despair.
The man in the middle of the rally was Bobby Abreu, who -- after an Erick Aybar single and Chone Figgins walk -- smacked a 1-and-2 pitch for a double off the Green Monster to make it 6-5 Boston. Terry Francona opted to walk Torii Hunter to load the bases and bring up Vladimir Guerrero, who was 1-for-10 lifetime against Papelbon.
Guerrero didn't make hard contact, but he blooped a two-run single to center, the Angels held on in the bottom half of the inning and, just like that, they dragon was dead. For once, it was Boston that had to nurse its wounded pride.
"More than anything, I wasn't able to stop the bleeding," Papelbon said.
Abreu was probably the primary reason the Angels won that series. He batted .556 and walked four times, filling the bases all series long.
"We never surrender. We never give up," Abreu said.
This story is part of an occasional series of Angels Moments which, when it's complete, will -- we hope -- add up to 50. The Angels are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. These are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but simply an assembly of scenes and anecdotes that are part of the team's colorful past.