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Yankees Borrow Angel Formula

New York plays small ball, using timely hits, smart baserunning and solid effort from the bullpen to send the AL division series to a decisive fifth game.

October 10, 2005|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The Angels don't play Moneyball, but they have concocted their own formula for winning. They don't emphasize power or patience, but they win with timely hitting, aggressive baserunning and outstanding relief.

That made Sunday's 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees particularly painful. The Yankees beat the Angels at their own game, scrapping for a must-win victory on a night they got two legitimate hits.

"We were like desperate animals, just trying to survive," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said.

The Yankees had the pesky offense, the smart baserunning, the stop-'em-cold bullpen. The Angels had none of the above.

So the Yankees lived to play another day, forcing a decisive fifth game in this American League division series. The Bronx Bombers play small ball too.

"You've got to be able to do that," Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Good pitching is always going to stop good hitting, so you've got to be able to win these low-scoring games, especially in postseason."

Jason Giambi has no home runs in the series. Neither does Gary Sheffield, hitting .188, or Rodriguez, hitting .182.

The Yankees did not get a hit Sunday until the fifth inning, a double that barely eluded 40-year-old center fielder Steve Finley.

With one out in the sixth, Rodriguez walked. He took second on a ground out and scored when Sheffield hit a line drive into left field for a single.

The Angels still led, 2-1, with their bullpen set up for victory: Scot Shields in the seventh, Kelvim Escobar in the eighth, Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth. But Robinson Cano led off the seventh with an infield single, a grounder tapped so softly that shortstop Orlando Cabrera had no play. One out later, Jorge Posada walked.

Ruben Sierra, who batted .174 as a pinch-hitter this season, came off the bench and hit a single into right field. Cano scored the tying run, and Posada chugged from first to third -- a trademark of the Angels, and the key play for the Yankees.

"I'm not fast," Posada said.

Jeter then grounded to third baseman Chone Figgins. Posada beat the throw home and scored the winning run -- by running on contact, another Angel trademark.

Shields took the loss. Francisco Rodriguez never got into the game. Closer Mariano Rivera pitched two perfect innings for the save.

Reliever Al Leiter faced one batter, getting Darin Erstad to hit into a double play, and Posada threw out Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero at second base.

For the Yankees, the thrill of victory overshadowed the hullabaloo surrounding center fielder Bernie Williams, the longtime star whose contract expires this fall. If the Yankees do not win this series, Sunday might well have marked Williams' final game at Yankee Stadium.

The crowd serenaded him with a standing ovation before every at-bat, demanding a curtain call after his final at-bat.

"To me, it was one of those 'just in case you don't come back, we'll show you how much we love you.' My focus was on the game -- and the victory," Williams said.

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