MLB: Angels 7, Yankees 8
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 23, 2009
By Greg Beacham
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó Just when all looked lost, the Los Angeles Angels took a cue from an old friend.
With their Rally Monkey doing his best work in years, the Angels sent the AL championship series back to New York.
Kendry Morales drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the seventh inning, and the Angels responded to the Yankees’ six-run comeback moments earlier for a 7-6 win Thursday night that trimmed New York’s lead in the ALCS to 3-2.
Vladimir Guerrero’s single tied it in the seventh for the Angels, who somehow didn’t surrender after blowing a 4-0 lead. New York struck immediately after manager Mike Scioscia removed ace John Lackey, with Robinson Cano capping the rally with a two-run triple.
The Game 5 theatrics continued right up to the final pitch, when Angels closer Brian Fuentes retired Nick Swisher on a full-count popup with the bases loaded.
“My hair is falling out,” said shaved-headed Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who had a two-run single in Los Angeles’ four-run first inning. “We’re having a little fun, man. Everybody thought we were down.”
Game 6 is Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, with Andy Pettitte facing Los Angeles’ Joe Saunders.
When Cano put New York up 6-4, everything in somber Angel Stadium pointed to a clinching victory and a 40th AL pennant for the Yankees.
Instead, the Angels showed off the knack for late-game comebacks they’ve possessed ever since their run to their only championship in 2002, when the beloved Rally Monkey began appearing in the late innings on their scoreboard and in plush form in the stands.
“It’s a missed opportunity, but we still have another game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve bounced back from tough losses all year long. We’ve had it happen to us before and been able to get off the carpet.”
Although two games in the Bronx ó and shutdown starter CC Sabathia ó still stand in the Angels’ way, the collapse raised the slightest echoes of what happened to the Yankees’ last big lead in an ALCS. The Red Sox famously rallied from an 0-3 deficit in 2004, making a late rally to win Game 4 before finishing off the biggest comeback in baseball history in seven games.
Only six teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a league championship series ó most recently in 2007, when Boston came back against Sabathia and Cleveland on the way to a title. Including the World Series, 11 of 70 teams that fell into a 3-1 hole have made the comeback.
Lackey cruised through the first six innings after Los Angeles scored four in the first, and the ace reacted with audible disappointment when Scioscia pulled him. Reliever Darren Oliver yielded a three-run double to Mark Teixeira on his first pitch, and Hideki Matsui added a tying single.
But the Angels added another comeback to a season full of them.
Jeff Mathis and Erick Aybar reached base to chase A.J. Burnett, the big-money free agent who’s still winless in three postseason starts. After Mathis scored on Bobby Abreu’s RBI groundout, Guerrero’s dribbling single against reliever Phil Hughes eluded a diving Derek Jeter to tie it ó and Morales put the Angels ahead with the latest clutch hit of his breakout season.
“That’s not a forgiving team over there,” Scioscia said. “They hit pretty quick in that inning with six runs, and we bounced back and answered with three. In the dugout between innings, guys were still pumped up. Just some real good hitting.”
Jered Weaver, who started Game 3 for the Angels, pitched a hitless eighth before Fuentes barely escaped the ninth. After two quick outs, he intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez with nobody on base before walking Matsui and hitting Cano with a pitch to load the bases for the slumping Swisher, who battled Fuentes for seven pitches before popping out.
Hunter and Guerrero drove home runs in the first inning, and Lackey shut out the Yankees into the seventh with masterful six-hit ball ó but Scioscia pulled him with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh after 104 pitches.
“C’mon, Scioscia. This is mine!” Lackey said when Scioscia emerged to remove him. “This is mine!”
Lackey left to a standing ovation with a tip of his cap ó and the Yankees probably were cheering, too.
Teixeira, 3 for 21 in the ALCS at that point, cleared the bases. Matsui tied it before Cano drove home Rodriguez and Matsui with a triple on his 27th birthday off reliever Kevin Jepsen.
Incredibly, it wasn’t over ó and Burnett shared the blame with his bullpen. Altogether, the seventh inning featured nine runs and 63 pitches over nearly 45 minutes.
NOTES: In the latest instance of questionable umpiring in a postseason chock-full of it, Johnny Damon appeared to beat Lackey to first base on a bang-bang play to end the third inning, but Dale Scott ruled him out. … Wearing a Yankees cap, actor Kurt Russell was at Angel Stadium more than two hours early to watch batting practice. … Angels C Jeff Mathis, the Game 3 hero with an 11th-inning RBI double, set an Angels playoff record with hits in six straight at-bats. He had a single in the second inning, a double in the fifth and another single in the seventh. He finally struck out in the eighth.