Still, reinforcing one another and trusting his reinforcements, Angels manager Mike Scioscia's troupe marches on with purpose, knowing this season still has at least nine innings of shelf life.
"No excuses," Mickey Hatcher, the forever-young Angels hitting coach, said. "These guys make no excuses. They can get on a roll and do fantastic things. They just go out and play."
They'll go out and play Game 3 of the AL Division Series on Sunday at seven minutes past noon PT, with young Jered Weaver staring down David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Co., while Boston's aging Curt Schilling reaches back for a vintage October effort.
The Angels will put their best nine, in Scioscia's judgment, on the field. They'll take their hacks against Schilling, hoping to draw energy and inspiration from an Angel Stadium crowd that has been vocal and responsive all season.
"We've got to have a short memory," catcher Mike Napoli said. "We've got to get out there Sunday and win -- play hard and see what happens. We can't lose any more games. We've just got to win the rest of our games."
The Angels had the best home record (54-27) in the Majors this season, and they handled the Red Sox twice before losing the series finale in August. Weaver outdueled Schilling in the opener of that set, with Maicer Izturis going deep against Schilling in the seventh inning for the telling blow.
Led by the irrepressible Chone Figgins, whose .404 average at home was the Majors' best, the Angels batted .305 in their yard, perfecting the slash-and-dash, first-to-third style that can drive an opponent to distraction.
"There's no panic in here," Figgins said. "This team doesn't panic. We go out and play our game, try to make things happen. We'll keep pushing, keep pressing. I promise you that."
Figgins is one of five players remaining from 2002, that magical crew that fell behind in each of its three postseason series before storming back to rock the Yankees, Twins and Giants in succession, claiming the franchise's first World Series title.
Along with Figgins, Anderson, John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields also experienced the Angels' remarkable 2002 playoff run.
Even though 80 percent of the personnel has changed, the personality of this team is similar, Shields feels.
"Guys are just going about their business," the setup man said, having worked two scoreless innings in Game 2 before Ramirez decided the outcome with his three-run walk-off blast against Rodriguez.
"It's the way we've done it since I've been here," Shields said. "There have been times we didn't get it done and times we have, but the personality of this team is we're never going to give up.
"In '02, we had some real loose guys. We had some real intense guys, like [Darin] Erstad, [Adam] Kennedy, but everybody else on that team was pretty relaxed. That's what we have now."
Asked if he or any of the other '02 holdovers might use that magical ride -- the club lost the first game of each of the three postseason series -- as a rallying cry, Shields deferred.
"I don't think guys on this team need that," Shields said. "Guys in this room understand how good we are and that we can come back. We've had a lot of comeback wins this year, and that shows what our character as a team is like.
"We know how to play our game. We know we're a good team. We've just got to go out and play together and get the job done."
Be a part of the ALDS Mailbag
|Who's going to win this series? Who's the best player? Why'd the manager make that move? If game stories and features aren't enough for you and you want more, e-mail MLB.com's Mychael Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. After the game, before it, even while the action is going on. Send in your question (make sure the subject line contains ALDS Mailbag), and Urban will answer selected queries in a mailbag right here on MLB.com.|
Rodriguez, who took Friday night's developments with remarkable calm and aplomb, acknowledged one significant difference between 2002 and '07.
"That team was more like Boston now," K-Rod said. "We had some guys who could drive the ball out of the park. Now it's more small ball. It's still a good team -- just different. In '02, we expected guys to hit the ball out of the park. Now we expect them to get on base and run hard.
"We've just got to go out and let it go. It's possible to do it. We've just got to play our game."
If the Angels claim Game 3, Lackey will get his chance to even the score against Josh Beckett on Monday in Game 4. Lackey (four runs in six innings) wasn't bad in Game 1; he just looked ordinary juxtaposed against Beckett's brilliance.
His home park clearly is more to Lackey's taste than intimate Fenway. Lackey has a 4.62 ERA against the Red Sox in four starts at home compared to 7.46 at Fenway. Beckett won his only start at Angel Stadium in 2006, giving up one run in six innings.
In any event, sweeping the two home games would buy the Angels a return trip to Fenway Park for a Game 5 on Wednesday. That would bring Kelvim Escobar back against Daisuke Matsuzaka in a matchup that clearly favored Escobar in Game 2 on Friday.
The Angels have now seen Dice-K, having worked counts, like the Red Sox, to get him out of the game after 4 2/3 innings. Escobar would love another crack at Boston, having shown in five innings that he's not intimidated by the Sox or Fenway.
"It's not over yet," Escobar said. "We can still come back in this series. No doubt in my mind."
Up next: Weaver (13-7, 3.91 ERA) challenges Schilling (9-8, 3.87) on Sunday at 12:07 p.m. PT.