YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


For baseball drama fans, Angels-Yankees' seventh is heaven

It is an inning with a season-full of heroics, tense moments, strategy and second-guessing, with both teams putting up the numbers and the Angels ultimately prevailing.

October 23, 2009|BILL DWYRE

If you like baseball even a tiny bit -- heck, if you have a pulse -- this one reached up and grabbed you by the throat and wouldn't let go.

Angels 7, Yankees 6.

Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

Angels become a Bee Gees song: Stayin' Alive.

Torii Hunter, one of the bigger veins in the always throbbing Angels' heart, captured what the 45,113 fans in Angel Stadium and millions more watching on TV saw Thursday night.

"We were just kicking and punching and scratching and scrambling," he said.

The 2009 Angels, now down 3-2 in the series and heading for Yankee Stadium for Game 6 on Saturday night, have given new meaning to the concept of resiliency all season. They still are longshots to win this series -- talk about Miracles on 34th Street -- but they are not likely to go meekly into the night, as they did in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

This time, they made a game into high drama, with the Yankees, probably the best team in baseball, a perfect supporting cast. If you switched the channel on this one, shame on you.

This was more a swinging pendulum than a baseball game.

The Angels hadn't scored a run in the first three innings of any of their playoff games, which included the three-game sweep of the previously dreaded Red Sox in the division playoffs and a win in Game 3 at home Monday, after losing the opening two in New York.

So what did they do Thursday night?

They scored four runs in the first. And this after Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon led off the game with singles against big John Lackey, the Angels stopper for this lose-and-you-go-home game. Lackey didn't even wince. He fanned Mark Teixeira, got Alex Rodriguez to pop out and Hideki Matsui to bounce back to the mound.

Three multimillionaires, flicked away by Lackey, who will become one himself next season. Somewhere.

Before Lackey could find a comfortable seat in the dugout, Chone Figgins had walked, Bobby Abreu had doubled, Hunter had singled, Vladimir Guerrero had doubled, Kendry Morales had singled and the Angels led, 4-0. Vendors around Yankee Stadium were drooling. Fox was announcing it had shifted its telecast for Game 6 to a later start for prime time Saturday.

The Yankees were in a different situation: Win-and-go-to-the-World-Series. But the shock of that first inning seemed to linger.

Then came the seventh, an inning with a season-full of heroics, tense moments, strategy and second-guessing.

It started meekly again, with right-fielder Nick Swisher, a switch-hitter who has been mostly lousy from both sides of the plate in this series, flying out to center. Between that and Swisher's second fly to center, the Yankees scored six runs. Johnny Damon had also flied out, so all six came after two outs.

There were several pivotal moments. If you looked away, you could have missed a career-changing moment, a series-ending move. Everything mattered. Every move had ramifications. Every call was scrutinized.

With Melky Cabrera at second base and one out, Lackey threw a great-looking three-and-two pitch to Jorge Posada. Umpire Fieldin Culbreth called it ball four. Lackey came off the mound and jawed at Culbreth. That's a no-no. Culbreth answered back while the Fox replays seemed to show the pitch in the strike zone.

"Obviously, I wasn't happy about it," said the fiery Lackey. "But I'm going to get fired up out there. That's what I do."

That was just a tiny bonfire compared with what was to come.

Lackey, likely losing a little poise along with his temper, walked Jeter on four pitches and started Damon with one way outside. But he got Damon to line out to shallow left and Cabrera, the first Yankee to reach third base in the game, was held at third in deference to Juan Rivera's rocket arm.

Then Manager Mike Scioscia came out with the hook and Lackey, who never goes easily, was really a pit bull this time. TV replays and lip-reading seem to show him saying: "C'mon Scosh, this one is mine. Are you [naughty word] me? This one is mine."

Scioscia waved Darren Oliver in from the bullpen, explaining later that he wanted his lefty pitcher to make switch-hitting Mark Teixeira bat right handed, his weaker side.

While the merits of yanking the Angels ace, with a four-run lead, two out and a six-hitter going, was still being chatted about in the press box and on TV, Teixeira slapped Oliver's first pitch into the gap in left, clearing the bases for 4-3.

Suddenly, the furniture in the clubhouse around Lackey's locker was in grave danger.

"I wanted to turn Tex around . . . " Scioscia said. "Obviously, it didn't work."

In a flash, Matsui singled in Teixeira and Robinson Cano tripled across two more and the Yankees led, 6-4. It might have gone on forever, had not Swisher come up for the second time. He flied out again.

It would be a seventh inning to add to Yankees lore. The tabloids would make it Super Seventh! Or Sizzling Seventh! The Angels, pretty much dead after Tuesday's 10-1 stinker, were certainly goners now.

Well, no.

Los Angeles Times Articles