Mike Scioscia is constantly stressing the importance of "bringing our game onto the field." The Angels brought something onto the Yankee Stadium field Friday night . . . and whatever it was, they had to call in a Hazmat team to clean it up.
The Angels were downright toxic in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, tying a club playoff record with three errors and letting an infield popup fall for a key run-scoring hit in a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
"It was sloppy, man, definitely out of character for us," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "But we're professionals. We've got to have amnesia, because we're going to be right back at it tomorrow. We've got to figure out our mistakes and make the adjustments."
If they don't, the Angels will fall into a sinkhole of a deficit in the best-of-seven series, which resumes with Game 2 tonight.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia was dominant Friday night, giving up one run and four hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking one, but the Angels hardly pressured him, putting the leadoff runner on base in one inning.
Angels starter John Lackey gave up four runs -- two earned -- and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, and it seemed as if he was pitching out of the stretch as soon as he got off the team bus. The Yankees had at least two runners on base in five of Lackey's six innings.
The Angels, who set a franchise record for fewest errors this season with 85 and played flawlessly against Boston in the division series, were horrible on defense. Only twice this season did the Angels commit three errors in a game; they made three Friday night.
And their most egregious miscue wasn't even ruled an error.
It appeared Lackey would minimize damage in the first inning when, with runners on second and third and no out, he got Mark Teixeira to fly to shallow left, the runners holding, and Alex Rodriguez to hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Hideki Matsui hit a towering popup to the left side of the infield. Third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar converged, both looked at each other thinking the other would catch it, and the ball dropped for a single, allowing Johnny Damon to score.
"I yelled 'Aybar!' early, because I thought he was going to catch it," Figgins said. "It got too loud. . . . It's one of those plays one of us has to make."
Said Aybar, through an interpreter: "It was bad communication between me and Figgy. I didn't hear anything. I saw him there. I thought he was going to catch it."
The Angels trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the fourth when Vladimir Guerrero doubled and scored on Kendry Morales' two-out single.
But the Yankees extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Damon doubled, Rodriguez drew a one-out walk, and Matsui flared a double to left-center to score Damon.
Rivera, whose throwing error from left field allowed Damon to take second in the first inning, made a clumsy play on the ball, sliding too early and rolling over before grabbing it and throwing to Aybar.
Rodriguez ran through a stop sign at third, and Aybar fired a one-hop throw that catcher Jeff Mathis scooped. Rodriguez, with two elbows up, crashed into Mathis' neck, but the catcher held on for the out.
Several Angels players, including Mathis, said they didn't think Rodriguez's play was dirty.
"It's October, man," Lackey said. "I'd run over my mom in October, and I wouldn't care. He definitely hit Matty in the head, but you get it done any way you can."
The Angels made two more errors in the sixth, when Lackey's errant pickoff throw to first allowed Melky Cabrera to take second. Derek Jeter lined a single to center, and Hunter charged hard, hoping for a play at the plate.
But the ball kicked off Hunter's glove for an error, and Cabrera scored easily for a 4-1 lead, which closer Mariano Rivera pinned down with a scoreless ninth.
Though it was a chilly 45 degrees and breezy, no Angel thought weather played a factor in their poor play.
"It happens," Scioscia said. "These guys are not going to be robots out there. It was ugly, but we move on from it."