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A long night, a deep hole for the Angels

Yankees win on Maicer Izturis' error and take a 2-0 lead in the series

October 18, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

NEW YORK — The highly anticipated rains finally came in the 10th inning, as Saturday night turned to Sunday morning in the Bronx and chilly, soggy Yankee Stadium filled with the fingernail-biting tension of extra-inning playoff baseball.

The Angels punched in the top of the 11th inning with Chone Figgins' run-scoring single. The New York Yankees counter-punched in the bottom of the 11th with Alex Rodriguez's score-tying solo homer off Angels closer Brian Fuentes.

So on Game 2 of the American League Championship Series went, deep into the October night, until an ambitious and ill-advised double-play attempt by Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the 13th.

Izturis threw wildly past second base, allowing Jerry Hairston Jr. to score from second and lift the Yankees to a heart-stopping 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"It was a great game; it was a frustrating game," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said after the 5-hour 10-minute marathon, the longest playoff game in Angels history. "If I let my hair grow out, I would have grays everywhere."

Hairston led off the 13th with a single off Ervin Santana, the fifth Angels' pitcher of the night, and took second on Brett Gardner's sacrifice bunt. Robinson Cano was intentionally walked, and Melky Cabrera hit a grounder to the second base hole.

Izturis fielded the ball cleanly, his momentum carrying him toward first, but instead of taking the sure out, he spun around and fired past shortstop Erick Aybar at second.

Figgins, the third baseman, alertly backed up, but he dropped the ball and had no play as Hairston scored from second, touching off a wild Yankees celebration at the plate.

"I was trying to be a little aggressive, but that's the way I am; I'm not afraid to be aggressive," Izturis said through an interpreter. "Sadly, it cost us the game. That's the way baseball is."

Said Manager Mike Scioscia: "Izzy just tried to do too much."

The Angels didn't do enough offensively, managing eight hits and going three for 15 with runners in scoring position, and now they find themselves in a 2-0 hole that only three of 20 teams have overcome since league championship series play began in 1985.

"We did a lot of good things on that field tonight; unfortunately, one of them wasn't hitting with runners in scoring position, and that's eventually what hurt us," Scioscia said after the Angels left 16 men on base.

"We had a lot of opportunities. We couldn't get that key hit that might have put the game in a little different light. We have to get better at that, for sure. But we're going back home, and the momentum in this series can swing in a heartbeat."

The emotions of both teams swung wildly in the 11th, the Angels taking a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning when Figgins ended an 0-for-18 playoff slump with his RBI single.

Gary Matthews Jr., who entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, opened the 11th with a walk off reliever Alfredo Aceves, who replaced closer Mariano Rivera to start the inning.

Matthews took second on Aybar's sacrifice bunt, and Figgins flared a single to left to score Matthews. Figgins took second on the throw home, punctuating his hit with three violent fist pumps toward the Angels' dugout.

The euphoria didn't last. Bobby Abreu was walked intentionally, and Hunter grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Fuentes opened the bottom of the 11th with two quick strikes on Rodriguez, but he left an 0-and-2 fastball up and over the plate, and Rodriguez lined it over the glove of the leaping Abreu in right field for a 3-3 tie.

"You're certainly not thinking home run after you're down 0-2," Rodriguez said. "You're just trying to get on base. . . . He made two tough pitches on me. I finally got a pitch I could handle."

Until then, the game featured some stout relief, Kevin Jepsen (two scoreless innings) and Darren Oliver (scoreless 10th) shining for the Angels and Phil Coke, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Rivera combining for 3 2/3 scoreless innings for New York.

Both starters, Angels left-hander Joe Saunders and Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett, pitched well, Saunders giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings, and Burnett yielding two runs and three hits in 6 1/3 innings.

The Yankees scored in the second on Cano's RBI triple and in the third on Derek Jeter's solo homer.

But Izturis opened the fifth with a double, only the second time in 14 ALCS innings the Angels put the leadoff batter on base, and Aybar hit an RBI single to center to make it 2-1.

Aybar stole second, and Figgins was hit by a pitch. Hunter walked to load the bases. Burnett got ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, 1-and-2, but threw a wild pitch, allowing Aybar to score the tying run.


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