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NEW YORK 6, ANGELS 5

Yankees blow lead but end up beating Angels

New York leads 5-0 before L.A. ties it and then needs a ninth-inning run to put the game away.

September 23, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Much like the Angels' victory in Boston last week, this was a mental-health win for the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, a 6-5 victory that was their first in Angel Stadium in five tries this season.

The Yankees may have the wealthiest collection of talent in baseball and 26 World Series championships to their name, but Angel Stadium has been to them what Fenway Park is to the Angels, a place where the Yankees are humbled, maybe haunted.

And if the Yankees are to win their first championship since 2000, there is a chance they'll have to go through Anaheim to do it.

They nearly suffered another epic collapse Tuesday night, letting a 5-0 lead slip away and committing two errors that enabled the Angels to tie the score in the eighth inning.

But Brett Gardner singled to lead off the ninth and later scored on Alex Rodriguez's sacrifice fly, and Mariano Rivera threw a scoreless ninth for his 41st save, giving the Yankees only their sixth win in their last 24 games at Angel Stadium.

The Yankees became the first major league team to clinch a playoff berth -- their 14th in 15 years -- when Texas lost to Oakland earlier Tuesday night, but it was a lot more rewarding to reflect on that achievement after a win.

"This has been a tough place for us," Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. "To me, you want to get in with a win, and that's what we did. We beat a team that has been very tough on us."

Despite the loss, the Angels maintained their 7 1/2 -game AL West lead over the Rangers and reduced their magic number to clinch their third straight division title to five.

"Down five," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said, "and we came back to make it a game."

But the Yankees seized it in the ninth with the weapon that gave them a win over the Angels in New York on Sept. 14: speed.

Gardner, who stole third and scored the winning run on an error that night in Yankee Stadium, led off the ninth with a single off Matt Palmer, who had relieved wobbly starter Ervin Santana and kept the Angels in the game with a perfect seventh and eighth inning.

Gardner stole second, despite Palmer's pitchout, and Derek Jeter walked.

Manager Mike Scioscia summoned left-hander Darren Oliver, who gave up Johnny Damon's sacrifice bunt. The Angels walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who hit a prodigious two-run homer in the third.

This assignment seemed more suited to right-handers Kevin Jepsen or Jason Bulger, but they weren't available.

"Bulger was up and warm almost every day last week," Scioscia said. "You have to give these guys a chance to catch their breath."

Rodriguez hit a fly ball to medium center, and Hunter made a strong throw home, but Gardner scored.

"That guy can fly," Hunter said. "Speed kills."

The Angels threatened in the ninth off Rivera when he walked Kendry Morales, who had a double and three singles. But Juan Rivera struck out, and pinch-runner Reggie Willits was thrown out trying to steal second. Erick Aybar grounded out, ending the game.

The Angels scored twice in the fifth and sixth innings to trim a 5-0 deficit to 5-4 and tied it with the help of two Yankees miscues in the eighth.

Pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick led off with a sharp grounder that got under the glove of second baseman Robinson Cano for an error.

With Chone Figgins batting, Yankees setup man Phil Hughes pitched out on a hit-and-run play, but catcher Jorge Posada's throw bounced into center field, allowing Kendrick to take third.

Figgins popped out to second, but Maicer Izturis lined a single to right for a 5-5 tie.

Two-run homers by Rodriguez (his 27th) and Posada (his 22nd) in the third and Hideki Matsui's solo shot (his 28th) gave New York a 5-0 lead.

The Angels mounted a two-out, two-run rally in the fifth, Figgins sneaking a solo home run around the right-field foul pole, Izturis hitting a double and scoring on Guerrero's single.

The Angels scored two more in the sixth, Morales and Rivera opening with singles and pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. (single) and Abreu (bases-loaded walk) driving in runs.

But with the bases loaded, Rodriguez made a diving, back-hand stop of Guerrero's grounder to third and made the long throw to first to end the inning.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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Magic number

5 This is the combination of Angels wins and Texas losses that will clinch the AL West title.

H: Home games left.

R: Road games left.

*--* AL WEST W L Pct GB H R Angels 90 61 596 -- 8 3 Texas 82 68 547 7.5 3 9 *--*

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