LA Angels of Anaheim at New York Yankees 10-24-09

October 24, 2009


LA Angels of Anaheim (5-3) at New York Yankees (6-2), 8:07 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: LA Angels – Joe Saunders (0-0, 2.57) New York – Andy Pettitte (1-0, 2.84)

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim try to force a seventh game in the American League Championship Series this evening when they once again try to stave off elimination against the New York Yankees, as the best- of-seven set shifts back to Yankee Stadium for Game 6.

However, a near 100-percent chance of rain is in the forecast for Saturday in the Bronx. The weather report, though, was ominous last weekend, but both games were able to be played.

Los Angeles stayed alive with a thrilling win on Thursday, as Kendry Morales’ RBI single capped a three-run rally in the seventh inning, carrying the Angels to a 7-6 victory.

The win, though, didn’t come without some trepidation, as southpaw closer Brian Fuentes intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez with two outs in the ninth then walked Hideki Matsui and hit Robinson Cano to load the bases. However, Nick Swisher, 3-for-28 with just one RBI and 10 strikeouts in the postseason coming into the at-bat, popped up to short on 3-2 pitch to end the game.

Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Morales all went 2-for-4 with two runs batted in for the Angels, who held a 4-0 lead going to the seventh, but then gave up six runs before rallying again.

“We are just going out there to play every game, one game at a time,” said Hunter. “The pressure is not on us. We are still going to go out and grind.”

Mark Teixeira had two hits, including a bases-loaded-clearing double in the big seventh for New York, which is trying to reach the World Series for an unprecedented 40th time in franchise history.

Since the ALCS became a best-of-seven series in 1985, seven teams have taken a 3-2 edge into Game 6 with the home-field advantage. Three of those teams won Game 6 to advance to the World Series, two lost Game 6 but then won Game 7, and two teams lost both Games 6 and 7 at home.

“Well, I feel good about our team,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “We’re up three games to two. We’re in our home ballpark, where we’ve played very well. I’m sure the Angels feel very good about their chances, you know, after the last game, but you win 103 games during the regular season and have a great home-field record, you’re going to feel great when you come home.”

Of course, the Yankees were in a similar position in 2004 and lost both games at home to the Boston Red Sox, who became the first team in major league history to overcome a 3-0 deficit.

Melky Cabrera added two hits in Thursday’s loss and Robinson Cano had two RBI in the loss for New York, whose normally reliable bullpen imploded in the seventh.

After the Yankees had seemingly seized control of the contest in top half of the seventh, the Angels scored three times in their turn to re-claim control. Jeff Mathis laced his third hit of the night and Erick Aybar walked to set the table for Chone Figgins, who moved both runners up one base on a sacrifice bunt off Damaso Marte.

Bobby Abreu’s slow chopper to first plated one run, ending Marte’s night in favor of Phil Hughes (0-1). The right-hander then walked Hunter and allowed Guerrero’s single to center to score the tying run.

“He is still making pitches. He got to the counts that he wanted to, but he got to Vlad Guerrero and missed his spot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Hughes.

Morales followed with a hot shot to right, plating Hunter for a 7-6 game.

Los Angeles’ rally took some heat off Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia, who had lifted starter John Lackey with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. Darren Oliver came on and proceeded to give up the double to Teixeira, setting the stage for the six-run inning.

“I just with my heart said leave John in. My head said let’s turn Tex around. I thought turning him around at that time was the move. Obviously, it didn’t work out,” stated Scioscia.

If tonight’s game is indeed washed out, Scioscia has stated that he could go back to Lackey on short rest if the contest is played on Sunday.

Tonight, though, Scioscia will hand the ball to left-hander Joe Saunders, who won 16 games during the regular season. Saunders did not get a decision in Game 2 of this series last Saturday, as he allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings.

“We’re going to be ready to play,” said Saunders. “It’s going to be the usual Yankee hostile environment. It’s going to be a lot of fun. They’re going to be all over us. It’s going to be a good battle.”

Meanwhile, New York, which hasn’t been back to the World Series since falling in six games to the Florida Marlins in 2003, will turn to left-hander Andy Pettitte, who can become the winningest pitcher in postseason history with a victory tonight.

“I know I’ve made so many starts in the postseason and been in this situation so many times,” Pettitte said. “I’ve been there and done that. All that experience or whatever is not going to help me when I go out in the first inning and help my pitches be where they need to be. Hopefully, it’s just there.”

Pettitte, who is tied with John Smoltz for the most postseason wins, was denied his 16th playoff victory on Monday against the Angels, as he allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, but did not get a decision in his team’s 5-4 loss in Game 3.

Also, with a victory tonight Pettitte can become the first pitcher to win five playoff clinchers.

“I think Andy’s here for a reason [in Game 6],” Jorge Posada said. “He loves playing in the postseason and you know Andy’s been so good for us throughout the years, a big-game pitcher, and I know he’s going to be ready for the game tomorrow.”

Should they win, the Yanks will start the World Series next Wednesday at Yankee Stadium against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, who claimed a second straight NL Pennant on Wednesday when they knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Angels have beaten the Yankees in both of their postseason meetings. Los Angeles got the best of New York in 2002 on its way to a World Series championship, then beat the Yankees again in five games in the 2005 ALDS.

In fact, since 1995, the Angels have been the only AL team to give the Yankees a losing record (68-80, .459) in the regular season.


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