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New York Is the Angels' Kind of Town

They make it two in a row over Yankees with a 5-3 victory. Spiezio has four hits and Anderson three.

May 15, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — There are the defending World Series champions, and then there are the New York Yankees. Those teams are not one and the same this season, although that fact tends to get buried beneath a tower of hype the size of, say, the Empire State Building.

"They're always the team to beat," Angel pitcher Brendan Donnelly said, "no matter who won the World Series last year."

That's more of an observation than a complaint. The Angels haven't played nearly well enough this season to play the disrespect card, not that they would anyway. But, after administering back-to-back beatings of the team to beat -- including Wednesday's 5-3 victory -- the Angels have a little of that championship strut back in their stride.

Scott Spiezio ripped four hits and Garret Anderson three as the defending champions scrambled back to .500 at 19-19.

In their final day under Disney ownership, the Angels again turned Yankee Stadium into their little magic kingdom, winning for the sixth time in eight games. In the first two games of the series, the Angels beat Mike Mussina and David Wells, who were a combined 12-0. If they win tonight, they'll sweep the Yankees for the first time in four seasons and move above .500 for the first time since April 16.

"They never go away," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

The Angels have collected 25 hits and outscored the Yankees, 15-6, in two games. They have stolen four bases, struck out five times in 75 at-bats and generally made the same pests of themselves that they did in October, when they dismissed the Yankees from the playoffs.

"If we play our game, we can play with the best teams in baseball," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "The fact that it's the Yankees is not an issue with me. If it makes our guys feel good to beat a terrific team, that's fine."

Said Donnelly: "It's fun to come here to Yankee Stadium. They've got the history. Look at their lineup -- they've got the players. It's fun to compete against the best.... The whole thing raises your level of play a little bit."

The Angels did not play a perfect game Wednesday, but a good game was good enough. The Angels stranded runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings, but they scored once in the sixth, once in the seventh and three in the eighth, with Troy Glaus driving home the winning run on a double to right-center field, the kind of opposite-field drive coaches prod him to deliver.

David Eckstein fouled off a squeeze bunt, then muscled up and drove home the run on a sacrifice fly. Catcher Bengie Molina, who picked off a runner from first base, also singled home a run. The Angels lead the major leagues with a .316 average with men in scoring position, with Molina batting .419 and Eckstein .364 in that category.

Spiezio, who had four hits against left-handed pitchers all season, had three Wednesday, lifting his average above .200. Anderson tied a career high by stealing two bases -- both on his own, after alertly reading Wells' move -- but the Angels' cleanup batter said he had no plans to pursue membership in the 30-30 club.

"Maybe 10-10," he said.

The Angels needed five pitchers to subdue the Yankees, with Francisco Rodriguez earning his third victory, Donnelly getting the key out by striking out Jorge Posada with the tying runs on base in the eighth inning and Troy Percival pitching a perfect ninth for the save.

But the most encouraging performance might have been from Kevin Appier, who held the Yankees to two runs over six innings. In two starts since coming off the disabled list, he has pitched 11 innings and given up six hits and three runs. In six games since Appier returned, the Angels got a good start in five.

"The team wasn't in a funk," he said, "like the rotation was."

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