Torii Hunter plays baseball like a linebacker.
He recklessly throws his body around in center field, leading to both spectacular plays and injuries. He plays the game with his emotions on his sleeve — this is not a refined, gentile game to him.
When Hunter hit a fifth inning three-run home run off Boston ace John Lester to give the Angels a lead they would never relinquish, he wanted to spike something, like any football player would. Except, he couldn’t spike the ball, it was bouncing around in the rocks out in center field.
So, when he got back to the dugout, he spiked his helmet, which bounced up and almost hit the roof of the dugout. He was pumped.
So was Angels starter John Lackey, who threw 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball, alleviating the concern about getting deep into the Angels bullpen. The veteran Darren Oliver came in and closed out the game without giving up a hit the rest of the way as the Angels won 5-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the American League Division Series.
Not everything was smooth for Los Angeles. Or the umpires, who had some bad calls that went against the Red Sox, but in the end none of those calls came in an inning that a run was scored. Los Angeles earned that win.
All that had Angels fans partying like it was a football game. Angels Stadium was rocking, and that was without the Rally Monkey needing to make an appearance. Not that there were not a few nervous moments. Like in the third inning, when Vladimir Guerrero came up with the bases loaded, two outs and a chance to prove he can hit in the post-season (unlike all those other years). Well, that part of the game was like years past, he struck out.
But not much else felt like old times. After the game Hunter was laughing off the idea of a curse on the Angels, a team that has never beaten the Red Sox in a postseason series. He said things were different with this Angel team.
On the first night ever that both the Dodgers and the Angels won a playoff game on the same day, things felt different. That may not mean much if Jered Weaver gets trumped by Josh Becket on Friday, but for now things are not the same as it ever was in Orange County.
It was different. It felt almost like a football game.