The prevailing sentiment was that the Angels, having added Mark Teixeira at midseason to the middle of a batting order that already featured three superstars in Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, were better equipped for offensive fireworks.
The Red Sox were the powerhouse team when these same clubs squared off in a 2007 ALDS, but they traded away Manny Ramirez in the same week that the Angels got Teixeira, and J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell were hurting.
In the wake of what happened in Game 1 at Angel Stadium, however, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis' assessment of the prevailing sentiment, delivered here Tuesday, rang true.
"Once the playoffs start, you throw all that stuff out," he'd said. "None of the talk or hype or whatever means anything until someone throws that first pitch."
Anderson, Teixeira, Guerrero and Hunter, the Halos' No. 2-5 hitters, combined for eight of the Angels' hits Wednesday, but all of them were singles, three of them were of the broken-bat variety, and only one of them came with a runner in scoring position.
And the man who replaced Ramirez, Jason Bay, had the biggest hit of the game. Bay's two-run homer in the sixth inning erased the Angels' one-run lead and provided the Red Sox with all the offense they needed on the way to taking the upper hand in the best-of-five series with a 4-1 win.
If the Angels hope to even the series in Game 2 on Friday and avoid the daunting prospect of heading to Boston one loss from elimination, they need more than singles from their sluggers.
And they certainly need more than what they got from the rest of their lineup. Kendry Morales' pinch-hit single off Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the ninth was the only hit not provided by the quartet of All-Stars in the middle of the Angels' order.
"You've gotta give [Red Sox starter Jon] Lester credit because he pitched well," said Angels starter John Lackey. "But we have to find a way to score some runs. It's frustrating."
Hunter's jam-shot RBI single to left with two out in the third inning was the Angels' only taste of success in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, but Hunter accepted his share of the blame for his team's offensive futility.
"Vladdy is The Man here, but Vladdy can't do it all," Hunter said of Guerrero, whose baserunning gaffe in the eighth inning short-circuited his club's most promising late-game rally. "We gotta all chip in, man. That's a great team over there, Manny or no Manny, and we have to step it up."
Said Bay, "I think we proved a lot."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't want to dwell on his team's offensive struggles, suggesting that they might be best viewed through the prism of Lester's excellence. The Angels loaded the bases in the first inning, stranded two runners in the third and two more in the fifth.
"As the game went on, Lester got stronger," Scioscia said. "But early in the game, all the things that you want to do to try to create pressure, they were there for us. We had opportunities."
But they didn't cash in on them. The big boys' hits were small, and the rest of the lineup was all but invisible.
"That's gotta change," Hunter said. "Lester was nasty, and it's tough to get extra-base hits off someone when he's that filthy, but we have to come out Friday swinging the bats the way we know we can.
"The way we all can. It's gotta be a team thing."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less