BOSTON — Torii Hunter emerged from the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park to spray champagne over the fans and family gathered there. Erick Aybar did him one better, handing over bottles of bubbly to those who came from California to see the Los Angeles Angels go for the sweep.
The Angels and Vladimir Guerrero shrugged off their postseason failures and swept away the Red Sox on Sunday, scoring three runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to beat Boston 7-6 and advance to the AL championship series.
It was the first postseason sweep in Angels franchise history. And they did it against the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs the previous four times they met.
"I told you guys earlier: It's going to be a different scene," Hunter said in the clubhouse afterward. "Vladdy came through. That's probably one of the biggest hits of his career. They've been waiting for him to do it, and he did it."
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Papelbon was one strike away from extending the series with three different batters; but Aybar singled on a two-strike pitch, Chone Figgins walked after fouling off a full-count offering and Bobby Abreu fouled off three straight pitches before doubling in one run.
Hunter was walked intentionally before Guerrero singled the first pitch to center and Figgins and Abreu raced home to give Los Angeles a 7-6 lead. Major league saves leader Brian Fuentes pitched the ninth; and when Aybar caught Dustin Pedroia's popup to end the game, pumping his right arm even as he tracked the ball with his left, the Angels advanced.
"It's nice to be going home and playing again, instead of going home and it's over," said pitcher John Lackey, who was part of the Angels teams that were eliminated by Boston in three times in the previous five years. "This is the most fun for me, and I've got a ring. That says a lot."
An eight-time All-Star and former AL MVP, Guerrero has a .321 career batting average, 407 regular-season homers and 1,318 RBIs. But he'd managed only one extra-base hit in 69 at-bats going into Game 3, and he had one RBI in 19 playoff games since his grand slam against Boston in the 2004 division series.
And he came through against Papelbon, who had never before allowed a run in 27 postseason innings.
"You're not going to get to him too often. But we did this afternoon," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And I felt great for Vlad. hopefully, that's a momentum-builder for him. I know he's relieved. He's excited about contributing. And hopefully it will be the start of something good."
NOTES: The Red Sox hadn't been eliminated in Boston since the Chicago White Sox finished off a three-game sweep in the 2005 first round. ... Napoli was hit by a pitch in the second inning, but Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez argued that it hit the end of his bat. Napoli was also hit in Game 2 by Josh Beckett, who argued that the batter didn't make any effort to get out of the way.