Page is turning for Sox

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:47 PM ET

We've come to Boston and Fenway Park seven different Octobers since 1986.

It has been the same each and every autumn.

The leaves have turned from one beautiful shade to another and then have fallen.

So have the Red Sox.

Yesterday, with Boston holding a 2-0 lead over the Anaheim Angels in the best-of-five American League division series -- the Sox having scored two wins in southern California -- there was an upbeat, almost eerie, atmosphere.

Instead of people asking questions such as, "How are these guys going to screw it up this year?" or, "How will they break our hearts this time?" there was optimism in Red Sox Nation, which often gives the impression it is much happier being unhappy than happy.

Of course, that's a natural reaction when a franchise hasn't won the World Series since 1918.

"This is the year," a woman wearing a red Red Sox jersey with "Ramirez" -- as in Manny -- on the back, said at Logan Airport.

"This year is going to be different for the Sox," the man at the front desk of the hotel said.

Word from Las Vegas is that the St. Louis Cardinals are no longer the favourites to win the World Series. The Sox are.

Manager Terry Francona has decided to start Bronson Arroyo over Tim Wakefield this afternoon in an effort to sweep the Angels in the best-of-five series and advance against the New York Yankees or the Minnesota Twins in the AL championship series.

"It takes a little pressure off us leading 2-0, compared with pitching with the series is 1-1," Arroyo said.

Francona won't be delivering Arroyo any pep talk.

"We don't go for the big inspirational speeches before every game," Francona said. "We've played so many games. Bronson has earned his stripes. We would not have given him the start if we didn't think he could handle it."

Former Blue Jay Kelvim Escobar will be on the mound for Anaheim.

He started last Saturday when the Angels knocked off the Oakland A's, the two-time defending AL West champs. The Angels stormed through the final 10 days, while Oakland became only the sixth team in major-league history to hold a three-game-or-more lead with 10 games left and blow it.

On Sept. 24, the A's owned a three-game advantage over the Angels with nine games to go but dropped six of eight while Anaheim was winning seven of eight, including six of seven on the road.

In this series, Curt Schilling won Game 1 and Pedro Martinez had his fastball clocked at 95 miles per hour in the seventh inning of Game 2. Martinez started off with curves and changeups for the first four innings, before going to his fastball.

A problem for the Angels has been their bullpen, which has allowed eight runs in 8 2/3 innings.

"Obviously this is a great place to play during the regular season and now you have a playoff atmosphere," Francona said of Fenway. "It's special because of coming home. But we still have to hit and catch balls and things like that. I don't think adrenalin enters into it quite as much.

PLAY UNDER CONTROL

"Baseball is not like football. We are not going to go out and try to knock people down like a linebacker. We need to play (under control)."

The Sox were 55-26 at Fenway this season. They'd just as soon use the brooms and sweep the Angels out the way.

"When you get a guy hanging over a cliff, hanging on with his fingers, you don't want to let him up," Boston outfielder Trot Nixon said. "You want to step on his fingers."


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