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Rotation is biggest question mark

Angels brace for White Sox with arm woes

ANAHEIM -- By eliminating the Yankees in the American League Division Series, the Angels have won the right to advance in the postseason and play the team with the AL's best record.

That would be the Chicago White Sox, but the matchup projects as one that should be remarkably even.

The strength of both clubs is in their pitching staffs, while offensive styles are similar and each team plays solid defense.

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It is true the White Sox won 99 games to the Angels' 95 during the regular season, but it was the Angels who won the season series between the two clubs, six games to four.

"It doesn't matter who we play or where we play, we're going to play our style of baseball," Darin Erstad said. "They're a good team, but it doesn't matter."

A big issue facing the Angels is the status of their pitching staff, especially the rotation.

Questionable for the series is Bartolo Colon, who left Monday's 5-3 clinching victory over the Yankees in the second inning after throwing just 23 pitches.

Colon, who has battled a sore lower back since the end of August, now must contend with inflammation in his right shoulder and the Angels must face the prospect of possibly getting through at least the next round of the playoffs without their staff ace and his 21-8 regular season record.

Also questionable is left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who missed his start in New York on Sunday with strep throat.

The Angels will start right-hander Paul Byrd in Game 1 and follow him with a pitcher to be named. Rookie left-hander Joe Saunders may be added to the postseason roster and the Angels could also turn to long man Kevin Gregg for the start.

Probable starting pitchers for the following two games are right-hander John Lackey in Game 3 and rookie right-hander Ervin Santana in Game 4.

Lackey went 2-0 in his three starts against the White Sox this season while Santana had his breakthrough moment in his start against Chicago earlier this year. The 22-year-old right-hander tossed a shutout against the White Sox on May 23 for his first Major League win.

The White Sox will counter with right-hander Jose Contreras in Game 1, left-hander Mark Buehrle in Game 2, right-hander Jon Garland in the third game and Freddy Garcia in Game 4.

"They're definitely a good club; they have some very good pitchers," said Byrd, who is 5-2 in his career against the White Sox and 3-0 at U.S. Cellular Field, where the first two games of the best-of-seven series will be played. "But I think we match up well and we're playing with a lot of confidence.

The White Sox tied with Cleveland in the AL with the lowest staff ERA at 3.61 while the Angels were third at 3.68.

One decisive edge the White Sox have over the Angels is power. They hit 200 home runs in the regular season while the Angels hit just 147.

Paul Konerko led the White Sox with 40 homers and Jermaine Dye hit 30. Against the Angels this season, Konerko hit two homers and Dye hit one, while Aaron Rowand led the team with six RBIs this season against the Angels.

The Angels' offense is not built on power, though, and the club posted better numbers than the White Sox in batting average, runs scored and RBIs this past season, albeit the margins are slim.

Leading the Angels against the White Sox this season were Garret Anderson and Erstad. Anderson hit .310 in 10 games with three homers and eight RBIs, while Erstad hit .342 in 10 games with a homer, four doubles and five RBIs.

There should be plenty of movement in the series as both teams like to run. The Angels led the Majors with 161 stolen bases, but the White Sox are not shy about running. They stole 137 bags in the regular season, third best in the AL.

"There is no question we'll have our work cut out for us in this series," manager Mike Scioscia said. "They're aggressive, but so are we."

Chone Figgins led the Majors with 62 stolen bases while Scott Podsednik was third with 59.

Mike Scarr 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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