SERIES: AL Division Series; tied 1-1.
Now the road-weary Yankees hope a return to the Bronx, where Randy Johnson will be on the mound, will allow them to regain control when the teams meet in Game 3.
After taking the series opener 4-2 on Tuesday night, the Yankees played poorly in the field and got shut down offensively in falling 5-3 on Wednesday. New York grabbed an early 2-0 lead, but several costly mistakes let the Angels battle back.
Alex Rodriguez’s error on a lazy grounder led to the tying run, rookie starter Chien-Ming Wang’s errant throw allowed Orlando Cabrera to hit a go-ahead two-run single and the Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position as the Angels earned a split of the first two games in Anaheim.
“In postseason, you can’t make mistakes,” Rodriguez said. “You kind of knew that once that play wasn’t made, they were going to score somehow—even after two outs. That was as routine of a play as it could get. I looked down and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t in my glove. But you have to move on. You can’t dwell on it.”
A-Rod’s misplay on Cabrera’s bouncer allowed Bengie Molina to eventually drive home the tying run with a two-out single in the sixth. Wang’s throw that pulled first baseman Tino Martinez off the bag on Steve Finley’s bunt in the seventh led to Cabrera’s two-out hit, giving the Angels a 4-2 lead.
“If they happen, people not paying attention, then yeah, it bothers you,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the errors. “These guys are playing hard. You just have to live with the results of it, that’s all.
“We gave them a couple of extra outs and we paid the price for it.”
While the opportunistic Angels took full advantage of the miscues, the Yankees’ powerful lineup couldn’t put together a rally Wednesday. Despite allowing the two early runs, Los Angeles starter John Lackey pitched into the sixth, and Scot Shields, Kelvim Escobar and Frankie Rodriguez limited New York to one run over the final 3 1-3 innings.
Despite the lackluster performance, the Yankees feel they have two key factors working in their favor as they head east—a return to Yankee Stadium, where they went 53-28 this season, and having their ace on the mound in Game 3. New York has played 10 straight road games and hasn’t been home since Sept. 25.
It also has Johnson ready to go on five days’ rest. The big left-hander last pitched Saturday, when he beat Boston 8-4 at Fenway Park with 7 1-3 innings of three-run ball to help clinch New York’s eighth straight AL East title.
Johnson will be making his return to the postseason after a two-year absence, and for his team, the Big Unit’s Yankees playoff debut couldn’t come in a better setting. After a mostly uneven first season with the Yanks, Johnson emerged late in the year as the dominant ace they were expecting when he was acquired from Arizona. He went 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA over his final eight starts.
Johnson did his best work this year at Yankee Stadium, where he went 11-2 with a 3.13 ERA.
“I think that’s the one thing that I’ll have going for me is my slider is much better now, my velocity is up, my control is there, and I’m feeling a lot more confident about where I’m at in today’s game than I was, say, maybe a month and a half, two months ago,” Johnson said. “It’s not to say that I didn’t have good games in, but I’m not as consistent as I am now. So it should be interesting because they definitely have some quality hitters.”
The Angels will counter with right-hander Paul Byrd, who pitched well in one start against the Yankees this season but didn’t get a decision, going seven innings and allowing three runs in an 8-7 loss at Yankee Stadium on July 30.
“This team always played the Yankees very well, so there’s not a lot that I can tell these guys that they haven’t done before,” said Cabrera, who hit safely in all seven games against New York in the 2004 ALCS to help the Red Sox reach the World Series.
“You just keep the pressure on them the whole time and they are somehow going to crack up and we’re going to take advantage of any mistake they make.”
Game 4 will be Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Angels - AL West champion. Yankees - AL East champion.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Angels - CF Chone Figgins (.290, 8 HRs, 57 RBIs, ML-high 62 SBs, 64 BBs), SS Cabrera (.257, 8, 57, 21 SBs), RF Vladimir Guerrero (.317, 32, 108, .394 on-base percentage), C Molina (.295, 15, 69), DH Garret Anderson (.283, 17, 96), LF Juan Rivera (.271, 15, 59), 3B Maicer Izturis (.246, 1, 15), 1B Darin Erstad (.273, 7, 66), 2B Adam Kennedy (.300, 2, 37). Yankees - SS Derek Jeter (.309, 19, 70, 122 runs), 3B Rodriguez (.321, 48, 130, 124 runs, 21 SBs), 1B Jason Giambi (.271, 32, 87, 108 BBs), RF Gary Sheffield (.291, 34, 123), LF Hideki Matsui (.305, 23, 116, 45 2Bs), 2B Robinson Cano (.297, 14, 62, 34 2Bs), CF Bernie Williams (.249, 12, 64), DH Ruben Sierra (.229, 4, 29), C John Flaherty (.165, 2, 11).
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Byrd (12-11, 3.74 ERA). The right-hander struggled somewhat in his last two outings, going 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA, although he posted a 0.68 ERA in going 3-1 in the previous four starts. Byrd is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five career starts against New York. He made his first postseason appearance last year with Atlanta, pitching twice in relief against Houston and going 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Johnson (17-8, 3.79). The left-hander faced the Angels twice this season. He pitched six innings before departing with a bad back in a game Los Angeles rallied to win 6-5 at Angel Stadium on July 21. He faced the Angels at Yankee Stadium on July 31, struggling through 7 1-3 innings and allowing six runs in New York’s 8-7 victory. Johnson is 15-6 with four complete games, two shutouts and a 2.92 ERA in 29 starts against the Angels. He is 7-8 with a 3.08 ERA in 16 postseason games, including 14 starts.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Angels - Figgins has yet to reach base, going 0-for-8 in the first two games. … Former Yankee Rivera leads the Angels with a .667 average (4-for-6) in the series. … Anderson and Guerrero are a combined 1-for-14 in the series. Yankees - Rodriguez is 0-for-5 in the series and 2-for-22 in his last six playoff games. … Jeter had reached base in 21 straight ALDS games before going 0-for-5 and not reaching Wednesday. … Cano followed up his three-run double in Game 1 by driving home New York’s first run with a double in the second inning Wednesday. He has driven in four of the Yankees’ seven runs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Angels - 0-0 on the road. Yankees - 0-0 at home.