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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / DIVISION SERIES

Yankees Execute a Fly-By

Cano's drive sails past Anderson for three runs in the first inning, and Colon can't recover in Angels' 4-2 loss

October 05, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Maybe if Garret Anderson had been positioned a little differently or had gotten a little better of a jump on Robinson Cano's first-inning drive, the Angel left fielder would have been able to run it down instead of watch it sail over his head for a three-run double.

Maybe if Bartolo Colon had made a better pitch to put a hitter away during those first two crucial innings, the Angel ace would have been able to quash a pair of rallies that began with two outs and no one on base.

Maybe if the Angels weren't stuck in an early four-run hole, they would have been a little more patient at the plate, put a few more runners on base and played the kind of aggressive, opportunistic baseball that got them to the postseason.

Regrets? The Angels probably had a few Tuesday night, but in the playoffs, there is no time to dwell on what might have been.

The Angels lost to the New York Yankees, 4-2, in Game 1 of the American League division series in front of 45,142 in Angel Stadium, and if they let their frustrations from Tuesday night linger, it will be another short postseason, like last year's division series sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox.

A loss in Game 2 tonight would not eliminate the Angels in the best-of-five series, but it's a virtual must-win situation, because lurking in Game 3 on Friday in New York is left-hander Randy Johnson, the 6-foot-10 Angel nemesis who has a 15-6 career record and 2.75 earned-run average against the Angels.

"The playoffs are pretty much all must-win games," reliever Scot Shields said. "We've got to win [tonight], period. We're not looking at Randy Johnson in Game 3. We're looking for [Angel right-hander John] Lackey to do [in Game 2] what he's done all year, and for our offense to step up like it has been lately."

For most of Tuesday night, the Angels looked more like the lackluster group that struggled in late August and early September -- flat, unable to string any hits together -- than the clutch-hitting team that won 14 of its last 16 games to seize the AL West title.

In nine innings, the Angels put the leadoff runner on base once, and Chone Figgins, the top-of-the-order spark plug who was supposed to ignite the Angel offense, went hitless with two strikeouts in four at-bats.

Right-hander Mike Mussina, plagued by elbow problems in September, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, and after reliever Tanyon Sturtze gave up a home run to Bengie Molina in the seventh, trimming the Yankee lead to 4-1, set-up man Tom Gordon came on to throw 1 1/3 hitless innings.

The Angels made a little noise in the ninth, nicking closer Mariano Rivera for a run on Vladimir Guerrero's walk, stolen base and Darin Erstad's run-scoring single, but Rivera got Molina to ground into a fielder's choice and shattered pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman's bat, inducing a weak, game-ending pop-up to third.

"We know what they do when they put men on base ... they are very distracting," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "It was more important for our starter to control the tempo of the game and get men out instead of worrying about holding them on.

"I think Mike paid special attention to that leadoff hitter every inning."

Colon, the leading AL Cy Young Award candidate, did not let the leadoff hitter reach base in any of his seven innings, but that didn't matter in the first two.

After getting Derek Jeter to ground out to start the game and striking out Alex Rodriguez, Colon gave up consecutive singles to Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui to load the bases.

Up stepped Cano, the 6-foot, 170-pound rookie second baseman who bats from the left side. After fouling off a tough, low-and-away, 2-and-2 pitch, Colon grooved a fastball, and Cano rifled it toward the gap in left center.

Anderson, slowed by a stiff lower back and sore left knee and relegated to the designated hitter spot in two of the last 10 regular-season games he played, was pinching in with two strikes and playing toward the line.

Anderson appeared to run a good route but could not catch up to the ball, which bounced before hitting the wall. Three Yankees scored.

"If you play back and a line drive bounces in front of you, two runs score," said third base coach Ron Roenicke, who also positions outfielders. "I'd rather he play for a line drive. If a guy smokes it and hits it over your head, he deserves the hit. Only two times in six years have I seen a left-hander hit a home run to the opposite field here.

"There wasn't enough loft for him to get under it. It was hit really well."

The second inning began much like the first for Colon, who struck out Bernie Williams and Bubba Crosby. But Jeter singled to right, Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, and Giambi ripped a run-scoring double to right field for a 4-0 lead.

Colon, slowed by a stiff lower back for most of September, struck out Sheffield to end the inning and blanked the Yankees on two singles over the next five innings.

But the early deficit seemed to deflate the Angels.

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