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Bronx Calmers

Angels KO Johnson, get 19 hits, win this New York marathon and take series edge

October 08, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — This was about the last thing Manager Mike Scioscia wanted in this American League division series, a slugfest between his Angels, who have one big bopper and a bunch of flyweights, and the New York Yankees, who have a lineup full of heavyweights.

But after a grueling four-hour game that featured four home runs, 31 hits, two dramatic lead changes, 11 pitchers, one badly bruised elbow, and, amazingly, no rain delays, it was the Angels who were somehow still standing Friday night, 11-7 winners in pivotal Game 3 before 56,277 in Yankee Stadium.

The Angels stood toe-to-toe with the Yankees, pounding out 19 hits, four of them by left fielder Garret Anderson, who snapped an 0-for-8 division series slump with a three-run home run, a triple and five runs batted in after getting dropped from third to fifth in the order.

Nine of the Angels' hits and five of their runs came off Yankee ace Randy Johnson, the 6-foot-10 left-hander who threw 62 pitches and recorded just nine outs, the three-inning start his shortest ever in the postseason.

And though the Angels absorbed a few punishing blows in the middle rounds, they finished with a flurry, scoring six runs in the final four innings while their bullpen, most notably Scot Shields (two scoreless innings) and Kelvim Escobar (two innings, one run), completely out-pitched the Yankee relief corps.

It all added up to a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series and a chance to clinch a berth opposite the Chicago White Sox in the AL championship series if the Angels can beat the Yankees in Game 4 today. Game 5, if necessary, would be in Anaheim on Sunday.

"We've got to wrap it up [today]," shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. "You don't want to give that team any chances. This is no time to be thinking about winning it at home."

The Yankees thought returning home would give them an edge, but the Angels went 26-22 in Yankee Stadium over the past decade, and they showed immediately Friday night that they were not going to be intimidated by the supposed Yankee Stadium "mystique" or the mound menace known as the Big Unit.

Two-out singles by Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina preceded Anderson's homer to right-center in the first, and Molina, batting cleanup for only the second time in his career, followed Cabrera's third-inning double with his third home run in as many division series games, a towering shot to left that made it 5-0.

Everything the Angels hit off Johnson was scalded, even several outs. There were no cheapies in the bunch.

"I have no idea," first baseman Darin Erstad said, when asked to explain why the Angels hit Johnson so hard. "It's just one of those things. You get a pitch to hit, you hit it. If you don't, you'll miss, and he can bury you."

The Yankees came back with four runs in the fourth and two in the fifth to take a 6-5 lead, but the Angels, going more to their traditional aggressive baserunning/timely hitting approach, continued to hack away, scoring two runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to pull away.

"The guys really picked me up," said Angel starter Paul Byrd, who was tagged for four runs in 3 2/3 innings. "All year long we heard that the pitching carried us. Does this team have the hitting to do it? Can they beat a guy like Randy Johnson? Tonight, we showed that we have good hitters."

The teams took the field amid a steady drizzle, with the threat of more severe storms hovering over their heads the rest of the night. The weather held; Byrd did not.

Byrd let most of the lead slip away during the Yankees' four-run fourth, which included Hideki Matsui's leadoff homer and RBI singles by Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi and Angel center fielder Chone Figgins' spectacular diving catch of Gary Sheffield's sinking liner to save a run and end the inning.

When reliever Brendan Donnelly coughed up the rest of the lead during a two-run fifth that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead, the game seemed eerily familiar to Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, when the Angels erased a 5-0, seventh-inning deficit en route to a dramatic 6-5 victory.

Only this time, the Angels were playing the part of the San Francisco Giants. The Angels, wanting no part of that kind of infamy, rallied in the sixth when Juan Rivera doubled off reliever Aaron Small and scored the tying run on Erstad's single to right.

Pinch-hitter Steve Finley struck out, but Adam Kennedy hit a bloop single to center, advancing Erstad to third, and Figgins, hitless in his 11 division series at-bats, drove a run-scoring single to right-center for a 7-6 lead.

The Angels then tacked on a pair of runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings, Anderson's RBI single and Finley's suicide squeeze highlighting the seventh and Figgins' leadoff triple and RBI singles by Anderson and Jose Molina highlighting the eighth.

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