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Angels keep their season going with Game 5 victory

After taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning and then watching the Yankees score six runs in the seventh, they rally with three in the bottom of the seventh to send the ALCS back to New York.

October 23, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

The forecast for New York City on Saturday night calls for rain with occasional thunderstorms, a 90% chance of precipitation, and a low of 51 degrees, hardly optimum conditions for baseball.

And the Angels couldn't care less.

Down to their final breath in the American League Championship Series, the Angels came out swinging, kicking, screaming, scratching and clawing in Game 5 against the New York Yankees Thursday night.

They scored four runs in the first inning, gave up six runs in the seventh and mounted a dramatic comeback with three runs in the bottom of the seventh before surviving a white-knuckle-ride of a ninth for a thrilling 7-6 victory at Angel Stadium.

The Yankees still lead the best-of-seven series, three games to two, but there will be a Game 6 in Yankee Stadium, with Angels left-hander Joe Saunders scheduled to oppose Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte on Saturday night, and the Angels will show up, rain or shine.

"Man, it could be 2 degrees, snowing and hailing, and we'll play," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's going to be wet. It's going to be soggy. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be exciting."

It would be hard to imagine the Angels and Yankees packing more excitement into nine innings than they did Thursday night.

It started with Angels ace John Lackey carving up the heart of the Yankees' order to escape a two-on, no-out jam in the first, and the Angels pounding A.J. Burnett for four runs in the bottom of the first, which featured Hunter's two-run single, Vladimir Guerrero's RBI double and Kendry Morales' RBI single.

Then there was a seventh inning for the ages.

The Yankees erupted for six runs to take a 6-4 lead, pummeling relievers Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen after Manager Mike Scioscia's debatable decision to pull Lackey.

The Angels countered with three in the bottom of the seventh, a Jeff Mathis single and Erick Aybar walk sparking the rally, Chone Figgins bunting the runners up, Bobby Abreu driving in a run with a groundout and Guerrero and Morales hitting score-tying and go-ahead RBI singles for a 7-6 lead.

Jered Weaver, who started Game 3, came out of the bullpen to throw a scoreless eighth, striking out two of three batters, and the Angels failed to score after putting runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth.

Then came Scioscia's second debatable move, pulling Weaver, who looked very strong, in favor of closer Brian Fuentes to start the ninth.

The left-handed Fuentes retired the first two batters and gave Alex Rodriguez the Barry Bonds treatment, intentionally walking the slugger to pitch to lefty Hideki Matsui. But Matsui walked, and Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Nick Swisher worked the count full, and with 45,113 fans on their feet, those wearing red not knowing whether to watch or shield their eyes, Fuentes got Swisher to pop out to shortstop, ending the game.

"Man, that was intense," Hunter said. "My heart was pounding -- it was going Lamborghini fast. This game is driving me crazy. I've got a headache. But I know the fans are getting their money's worth."

The Angels' bullpen could have kept blood pressure down in the stadium had done its job. But the weak link on an otherwise championship-caliber club reared its ugly arms in the seventh after the Yankees, with the help of a controversial call by home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth, loaded the bases with one out.

Trailing, 4-0, Melky Cabrera doubled with one out. Lackey, who blanked New York on four hits through six innings, thought he had Jorge Posada struck out with a full-count pitch that appeared knee-high on the inside corner.

Culbreth signaled ball four, and Lackey erupted, screaming as he arched backward and thrust his arms to his side.

"He didn't even talk about where the pitch was, which tells you something," Lackey said of Culbreth. "He didn't like the way I reacted. That was a pretty big spot."

Lackey walked Derek Jeter to load the bases. Johnny Damon flied to left, the runners holding, and Scioscia summoned the left-handed Oliver to face switch-hitter Mark Teixeira. Lackey, his pitch count at 104, was not thrilled.

"I didn't agree with the decision -- I told Mike I thought it was my game," Lackey said. "I thought I had a lot left. I wasn't quite ready to be walking off. That's as good as I've pitched in a while."

Oliver was the team's most consistent reliever all season, but his first pitch was smacked into the left-center field gap by Teixeira for a three-run double that made it 4-3.

"My heart said let's win or lose with John, but my head said let's turn Tex around," Scioscia said. "It didn't work out."

Rodriguez was walked intentionally, but Matsui lined an RBI single to center to make it 4-4. Scioscia summoned right-hander Kevin Jepsen to face another lefty, Cano; lefties hit .373 off Jepsen this season. Cano hit a two-run triple to right-center for a 6-4 lead before Swisher flied out to end the inning.

The Angels were angry when they got to the dugout. "I threw my glove down -- everybody was upset," Hunter said.

Then they took out their frustration in the bottom of the seventh on Yankees reliever Phil Hughes, who walked Hunter to load the bases before giving up Guerrero's game-tying single to center, past the diving Jeter, and Morales' go-ahead single, a liner to right.

"It was a great comeback against a great team," Figgins said. "We live to see another day."


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