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Angels' year ends in disappointment

Angels' year ends in disappointment

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ANAHEIM -- A Big Schill fell over the Angels on a warm autumn Sunday at Angel Stadium, sending them prematurely into winter.

If experience is the best teacher, as the expression goes, the Angels must have learned volumes watching time-tested Boston veterans Curt Schilling, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez bring down the curtain on their season with a numbing 9-1 decision in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

"That 1-2 punch of theirs is really hard to beat," Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera said of former teammates Ortiz and Ramirez, whose back-to-back homers off Jered Weaver in the fourth inning reflected Boston's series dominance. "They just play the way you've got to play in the postseason -- they let the game come to them.

"Those two guys know how to relax in big situations and just play."

Cabrera celebrated a World Series championship with Ortiz, Ramirez and Schilling in 2004, and he wouldn't be surprised to see them do it again this time.

"They're good, man," Cabrera said. "The Red Sox played great baseball, and we didn't play like we have. We didn't hit."

With close to half their roster occupied by rookies and second-year athletes, the youthful Angels weren't able to match Boston's well-aged firepower when it counted.

The Angels' offensive woes were underscored by 25 futile innings out of 27 in the series. A three-run second inning in Game 2, giving them a one-run lead for three innings, and a solo run in the ninth on Sunday represented the sum total of the Angels' offense.

"We're not happy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We fully felt we were going to come in and play better -- and we didn't. I don't feel the whole season is a disaster, even though our expectations are higher than what we achieved."

Schilling took 109 1/3 innings of postseason knowledge to the mound against sophomore Weaver, making his postseason debut.

As Schilling moved to 9-2 in the postseason with seven shutout innings, it was Weaver's misfortune to deliver pitches Ortiz and Ramirez launched.

Weaver regretted throwing a fastball Ortiz put in the seats in right-center.

"I left it down and in, and obviously he likes it there," the pitcher said. Ramirez lifted a 3-2 slider over the wall in center.

Ortiz and Ramirez have 32 homers and 87 RBIs combined in postseason play, compared to eight homers and 60 RBIs by the entire lineup fielded by the Angels on Sunday.

Maicer Izturis' three-hit day -- his second double, in the ninth, leading to the run on Howard Kendrick's sacrifice fly -- was about all Angels fans had to cheer.

The Angels' most experienced performer, Garret Anderson, finally had to concede to conjunctivitis, departing Game 3 after two innings, one at-bat (a flyout) and one play in left field.

"It was my decision," Anderson said of calling it a day. "I couldn't react in the outfield the way I needed to. I don't offer any excuses. [We] take responsibility that they beat us. That's the bottom line."

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Anderson had gamely tried to provide his team much-needed muscle in the heart of the order, but a half-closed right eye isn't an optimal condition for a hitter studying 96 mph fastballs and sharp-breaking offspeed stuff in a playoff series.

The Angels also were without center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., who injured his left knee in the final week of the regular season and was unable to play in the series.

Vladimir Guerrero, cleared to return to right field after a right elbow problem forced him to DH the last three weeks of the season, played on Sunday with a painful left shoulder after getting hit by a pitch in Game 2 in Boston.

Hitless in Game 3, Guerrero was held to two singles in the series, batting .200 to deepen his October frustrations. He's hitting .183 for his postseason career, with just one extra-base hit, his grand slam in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"At times when there's one guy you want to stop, you can do it," Scioscia said. "They pitched Vlad very tough. Some of our mistakes were to their big guys, and we paid a price. They didn't make mistakes with Vlad and [Anderson]."

The loss on Sunday was the Angels' seventh in a row in postseason play. Their last win came in Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS against the White Sox, who won the next four.

Primed for his assignment, Weaver came out with purpose and precision, striking out two of the three men he faced in the first inning, including Ortiz looking at a 95 mph heater.

"Being able to keep my heart in my chest in the first inning [was my first mission,] Weaver said, grinning. "It was nice to come out strong and work off that. It just didn't turn out the way we wanted."

Weaver and Schilling each had worked through big jams before the Red Sox struck quickly, decisively, in the fourth.

Ortiz's homer was his 10th in postseason play. Ramirez, whose three-run walk-off blast to win Game 2 was just his second home run since Aug. 5, seems to have his power stroke back right on time.

Ramirez saw everything Weaver had before unloading on the slider, the eighth pitch of the at-bat. This was Ramirez's 22nd postseason homer, tying the Yankees' Bernie Williams for the all-time record.

The Angels' biggest threat came in the third inning, after Weaver had left runners at second and third by retiring three hitters in a row, striking out Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp.

Singles by Juan Rivera and Cabrera and a walk to Guerrero loaded the bases with two outs. This brought up Anderson's spot, now occupied by rookie Reggie Willits. Willits fouled out on a nice running catch by Varitek.

"He was hitting the corners, pitching the way he pitches," Willits said of Schilling. "I was fouling them off, but I just didn't get that one in the crowd, the way I needed to."

The Red Sox busted it wide open with their seven-run eighth at the expense of the Angels' bullpen.

The Angels finally pushed a run across in the ninth against Eric Gagne when Izturis doubled, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Kendrick's sacrifice fly.

"Those guys played better than us," Scioscia said. "That's the story. They're a terrific club."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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