Vlad Rocks the Sox

By Jonathan Lloyd and John Adams
|  Sunday, Oct 11, 2009  |  Updated 4:55 PM EDT
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After being dominated in years past, to the tune of one post-season victory in the past 13 tries, the Angels used the Rally Monkey to get the Red Sox gorilla off their backs. 

The Angels faced a 6-4 deficit entering the ninth Sunday before Vladimir Guerrero delivered the game-winning single. With the bases loaded, the Angels outfielder smacked a two-run single off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

"That's the biggest hit he's had," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think the way we did it, in a sweep, in Game 3 with two out in the ninth, gives us momentum."

The intimidating right-hander hadn't permitted a run in any of his 26 post-season innings before Sunday.

Pitcher Brian Fuentes shut down the Red Sox in the bottom of the inning to help the Angels advance to the American League Championship Series with a 7-6 win.

The Angels will face either the Minnesota Twins or New York Yankees. The Yankees led that series 2-0 entering Sunday's game.

Los Angeles trailed 5-1 early, was behind 5-2 after seven innings and still down 6-4 when Papelbon retired the first two batters of the ninth. But Erick Aybar singled, Chone Figgins walked and Bobby Abreu singled in one run.

After Hunter was walked intentionally to load the bases, Guerrero, in typical Vlad fashion, swung at the first pitch and launched a single to center scoring Figgins and Abreu, giving the Angels the first lead of the game.

Major league saves leader Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth for Los Angeles. Dustin Pedroia popped up to Aybar for the final out, with the shortstop pumping his right arm even as he tracked the ball with his left.

The crowd that just one inning earlier had been primed for a celebration quietly filed out of Fenway Park for the last time in 2009, having seen the wild-card Red Sox beaten.

The Red Sox had won 12 of 13 postseason games against the Angels heading into the series, including an 11-game winning streak that dated back to Dave Henderson's homer off Donnie Moore in the 1986 ALCS - Hendu's shot in Game 5 sent the Red Sox to a win by the same 7-6 score.

Henderson, not coincidentally, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday, even adding a little jump and twist like the one he did after he helped propel Boston to within one strike of the 1086 World Series title.

Boston didn't win it that year, but they ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004 after sweeping Los Angeles in the first round. The Red Sox swept out the Angels again in '07 en route to a second title, and beat them in four games last year before losing to the Tampa Bay in the ALCS.

Darren Oliver earned the victory after getting one out in relief, and Papelbon took his first career postseason loss. The Red Sox closer had converted seven of his previous eight postseason save opportunities.

The Angels advanced to the AL championship series for the first time since 2005. They also inched one-step closer to a potential Freeway Series in Los Angeles after the Dodgers swept the Cardinals.

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