ANAHEIM-- Francisco Rodriguez's biggest save of a record-breaking season came in a tie game.
Rodriguez wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th inning to save the Angels' season, Mike Napoli hit two early homers before scoring the go-ahead run in the 12th and Los Angeles avoided another playoff sweep by beating the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Sunday night in a game that lasted 5 hours, 19 minutes.
Boston had beaten the Angels in 11 consecutive AL playoff games, including three-game sweeps in 2004 and '07 en route to a pair of World Series titles. But the Angels chased Red Sox ace Josh Beckett early, then got six scoreless innings from five relievers to keep them in the game.
Jon Lester will face Los Angeles right-hander John Lackey in Game 4 on Monday night at Fenway Park, and if the Angels can win that one they would return home for the decisive fifth game Wednesday.
"We've got to come back out here tomorrow and get after it again," Napoli said. "We're not done yet."
Napoli hit a mammoth homer off the Green Monster light stanchion to tie the game 3-all in the third, then gave Los Angeles a lead with his second homer before the Red Sox tied it 4-all in the fifth. It stayed that way until Napoli singled to lead off the
12th, went to second on Howie Kendrick's sacrifice bunt and scored when Erick Aybar blooped a single to left-center.
Jered Weaver, making his first career relief appearance, pitched two scoreless innings for the win. Javier Lopez, the sixth Boston pitcher, took the loss.
Rodriguez, who saved a major league-record 62 games during the regular season, loaded the bases in the 10th but got Jed Lowrie on a routine fly to right to end the threat.
Winners of a major league-best 100 games in the regular season, Los Angeles was in danger of the shortest possible stay in the playoffs against the wild-card Red Sox. After losing the first two at home, the Angels came to Boston needing to beat Beckett, who has been virtually unbeatable in October.
But Beckett struggled from the start, giving up a double on the first pitch of the game and needing 30 pitches to get through the first half-inning, which took 22 minutes. Meanwhile, the Angels left the bases loaded in the first and fourth - stranding eight in the first four innings.
The air was crisp, the baseball was not.
The Angels misplayed a popup into a three runs - the first three-run single in postseason history. Beckett failed to cover the bag on a grounder to first. Mike Lowell, playing with a sore hip, two-hopped a throw to first that Kevin Youkilis dug out to avoid an error. Torii Hunter was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double to lead off the ninth.
Beckett had been the presumptive Game 1 starter before a side strain in the last week of the regular season left him in need of a few more days' rest. When the Red Sox opened a 2-0 lead in the series behind Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the prospect of
sending their ace out for the clincher seemed to guarantee their third straight playoff sweep of the Angels.
But Beckett struggled from the beginning, giving up a double to Chone Figgins on the first pitch of the game and then, after a pair of strikeouts, handing out two walks and a single. Napoli grounded out to end the inning but came back in the third with a mammoth,
two-run shot off the light stanchion to tie it 3-all and then again with a solo shot in the fifth that made it 4-3.
"I was just trying to drive the ball up the middle," Napoli said.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Youkilis doubled in the bottom of the fifth to tie it 4-all and spare Beckett the loss.
In all, Beckett was charged with four runs on nine hits and four walks, striking out six in five innings. The fiery right-hander, who shut out the Angels in Game 1 of last year's first-round sweep, saw his postseason ERA balloon to 2.09 from 1.73, which had been the third-best in baseball history (minimum 40 innings).
Saunders, who was making his first postseason start, received a rough initiation.
He gave up four runs on five hits and four walks, striking out two in 4 2-3 innings. But instead of the line-drive homers that cost Beckett, Saunders was hurt most by a fluke popup that dropped to the grass for the three-run single.
After the Red Sox loaded the bases on two walks and Jason Varitek's single, Ellsbury worked the count full and lofted a blooper to short center. Hunter came in, Kendrick and Aybar went out, and at the last minute Hunter and Kendrick gave up on it and let it fall.
Crisp, running all the way with two outs, scored easily from first, while Ellsbury held up with a single. It was the first three-run single in postseason history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and it gave Boston a 3-1 lead.
Notes: The Angels went 68 straight playoff innings without a homer before Napoli's shot in the third. ... The paid attendance of 39,067 was the largest at Fenway Park since World War II. ... Twelve of Boston's first 15 runs in the series were scored with two outs. ... Game 2 hero J.D. Drew, who homered in the ninth to give Boston a 7-5 victory, was not in the starting lineup as he rested his ailing back. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... Dustin Pedroia, a candidate for AL MVP honors, is 0-for-13 in the