Angels face cold hard facts
NEW YORK – They can blame it on a night better suited for ice fishing than playing baseball. It’s never a good sign when your shortstop is wearing a ski mask.
They can blame it on Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia(notes), the biggest man in most any company he chooses, and whose stature is growing exponentially now that he struts upon a stage grand enough to accommodate him.
But most of all, the Los Angeles Angels can blame only themselves, on a cold night that defied earlier forecasts and stayed dry, but instead rained all manner of Angel misadventures in a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Friday in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Yankees profited from the pratfalls of a team with a hard-earned reputation of minimizing mistakes, which also was the formula New York used in the first round against the Minnesota Twins, another team presumably sound of mind and body that kept walking face-first into walls.
“We haven’t seen our guys crack the door open for a team like we did tonight in a long time,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after a game in which the Angels made three errors and shortstop Erick Aybar(notes) and third baseman Chone Figgins(notes) permitted a first-inning infield popup to fall untouched between them, allowing a run to score.
Angels starter John Lackey(notes), who already had watched left fielder Juan Rivera’s(notes) misguided throw allow Johnny Damon(notes) to take an extra base on his opposite-field single, thought he was headed back to the dugout having allowed just one run when Hideki Matsui(notes) lifted a routine fly to the left side. Figgins camped under it. So did Aybar, standing just a few feet away. Aybar took his eyes off the ball and glanced at Figgins, who by then had assumed the shortstop was going to take it. The ball practically landed at Aybar’s feet.
Damon jogged home with a second run. The infielders looked at each other. Lackey barked dark thoughts. The Bronx shook with amused delight.
“I didn’t hear anything,” said Aybar, who had a red wool cap pulled over his ears. “I saw him standing there. I thought he was going to catch it.”
Figgins said he called out Aybar’s name, but early, and then it got too loud to hear much of anything else.
“One of us has got to catch it,” he said. “Pretty simple.”
Yankee Stadium was supposed to be a more hospitable setting for the Angels than Boston’s Fenway Park, where they’d navigated through past playoff horrors to complete a sweep of the Red Sox in the ALDS.
But it’s hard to imagine a more inept performance than the one they put on Friday night. Rivera’s lob into no-man’s land. The communication breakdown. Lackey’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt after a two-out walk to Melky Cabrera(notes) in the sixth. A batter later, center fielder Torii Hunter(notes) booted Derek Jeter’s(notes) run-scoring single, allowing Jeter to take an extra base.
“Have no idea, none at all,” Hunter said when asked how the Angels, who made just one error in the Red Sox series, could have performed so pitifully.
The 45-degree temperature made this the coldest game yet in the new Stadium, and the third-coldest LCS game since 1995. The only colder LCS games were Game 3 in 2006 between the Athletics and Tigers, when it was 41 degrees in Detroit, and Game 3 in 2007 between the Diamondbacks and Rockies, when it was 43 in Denver.
But the Angels weren’t pinning this one on the weather.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Lackey said. “Honestly, I didn’t even have sleeves on.”
If anything, the cold might have kept the score down. This was only the second time in 84 games played at the Stadium in which neither team homered.
“The wind was howling in,” Hunter said. “A-Rod hit a ball that should have gone to the warning track and it blew back, on his sacrifice fly. But it wasn’t that cold. The cold in April, that’s a different kind of cold. The cold in October, November, that’s playoff baseball. I don’t believe in cold.
“I think it was CC. CC was the cold weather.”
Sabathia gave up a run in the fourth on a double by Vladimir Guerrero(notes) and a two-out single by Kendry Morales(notes). He didn’t allow another Angel to advance as far as third base. The only other Angels hits were a two-out single by Hunter in the first and a two-out single by Howie Kendrick(notes) in the second. Sabathia’s only walk came in the seventh.
“That’s why he’s a bulldog,” Hunter said. “He pitched his butt off, man. That’s why I tried to recruit him.”
Hunter talked up the Angels to Sabathia last winter, when he was a free agent, but the recruiting pitch wasn’t as persuasive as the $161 million the Yankees gave the left-hander.
“I’m lousy, man,” Hunter said of his sales acumen. “I wanted to be a GM one day, but I can see that’s not going to work.”
The one defensive play the Angels did execute, when Alex Rodriguez(notes) was thrown out trying to score on Hideki Matsui’s double in the sixth, had its own cover-your-eyes aspect, as A-Rod rolled catcher Jeff Mathis(notes) at the plate, elbows high.
The Angels had no objections to A-Rod’s conduct.
“It’s October, man,” Lackey said. “I mean, I’d run over my mom in October.”
Now that’s cold.