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Stunning Role Reversal at Yankee Stadium

Game 2: Angels earn respect in New York clubhouse with come-from-behind victory.

October 03, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — It was so quiet in the Yankee clubhouse, you could hear a pinstripe drop.

Gone was the joy, the wide-eyed amazement, the laughter over that baseball phenomenon known as Yankee mystique.

With an 8-6 come-from-behind victory Wednesday night in the second game of this American League division series, the Angels had thrown a pall over the room that had been brimming with confidence 24 hours earlier.

As they drifted out of the trainer's room or the eating area, heads down, walking slowly and resolutely, the Yankees gave the Angels the respect they had earned.

To a man, the Yankees used such words as "battlers," "tough," and "talented" to describe the team that had just evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece.

"You don't get a free pass into the postseason," Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said.

"They had to be doing something right. They are a tough team."

Much had been made of the Angels' lack of postseason experience. A cartoon in a New York newspaper had depicted a giant figure in a Yankee uniform taking aim with his bat at a diminutive, helpless looking pitcher in an Angel uniform.

The headline read "Angel Food."

But that was before Game 2.

"People said they didn't have postseason experience," Jeter said. "They do now. Those guys don't give up. They fought off quality pitches to stay in there."

What about the momentum the Yankees had supposedly built up Tuesday when the Angels lost a heartbreaker?

"If that was the case," Jeter said, "we would have won. Momentum is as good as your next game's starting pitcher."

Said Yankee reliever Mike Stanton of the disparity in postseason play between the two teams: "There has been a whole lot of talk about experience.

"You know what, it doesn't mean a whole lot if you don't go out there and perform."

Jeter could not be accused of failing to perform. He had reached base his first seven times up in this series going five-for-five with a pair of walks.

After fouling out in the sixth inning, Jeter came up in the eighth to face Angel closer Troy Percival with two out, the bases loaded and the game on the line.

Uncharacteristically, Jeter took a called third strike on the outside corner.

Jeter was undaunted, however, in the clubhouse.

"It was a ball," he said.

End of subject.

Jeter stood at the plate long after the Angels had departed for the dugout, talking to home-plate umpire Doug Eddings.

What did they say to each other?

"You'll have to ask him," Jeter said.

But he knew it was a useless conversation.

"He's not going to call the other team back on the field," said the Yankee shortstop.

And Jeter was not about to say he won't continue to relish such situations.

"You want to be up," he said. "That's why you play. That's what you dream of as a youngster. That's what you dream of now.

"But that doesn't mean you are going to be successful."

And, as the Yankees acknowledged Wednesday, just because they are playing in Yankee Stadium doesn't necessarily mean they are going to be successful.

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