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Friday, October 07, 2005

Little Big Unit: Angels 11, Yankees 7

Last year when it came up in scattered rumormongering, I opposed the idea that the Angels should have picked up Randy Johnson. At the time it was principally because of what they would have had to give up versus what they would they have gotten in return. Tonight's game answered any questions about the return: a very good lefty during the regular season, but an aging one and one who probably won't be able to carry the load over an entire season. Randy got knocked out after three, giving up a single to Darin Erstad, and a home run and a triple to Garret Anderson. That is, the two guys in the lineup he should have been able to knock out knocked him out instead. Whether Johnson is done or not -- I expect he has something left in his tank -- the Yankees are still on the hook for $16M/year through 2007. Of course, that's pocket change to the $200 million payroll, but still it represents the kind of squanderous behavior forced upon Brian Cashman by the Yankees' gluttonous Boss.

Home runs from Bengie and GA definitely gave the game a coating of magic syrup, especially as Byrd mowed the Yankees down through his first three innings, doubly so against Johnson. (Revenge for '95!) After so much disappointment this year, after so much inconsistent play, after all the offensive lapses, the hope that we could be seeing a return of the 2002 pixy dust certainly entered my mind. But the Yanks quickly dashed such hopes, scoring four in the fourth and knocking out Byrd. The Yanks sure can score runs in a hurry, and two more in the sixth made me quite certain the Angels would have a must-win game tomorrow.

Only it didn't happen. Torre, somewhat desperately, put 10-0 journeyman Aaron Small into the game; putting one of their best starters into a game in relief showed the kind of stakes the Yanks were playing for. And for two innings, the Angels succumbed essentially in order, but in the sixth, the Angels pounced, squeaking out two runs on a Juan Rivera double, an Erstad single, a Kennedy single, and a Chone Figgins single. The merry-go-round started; children, get on your horses.

It started again in the seventh, when Tom Gordon plunked Bengie hard on the arm (X-rays came back negative, but don't expect him to play tomorrow) following a hard Vlad single to left. GA then singled, scoring Vlad. Topping things off, a Gary Sheffield throwing error allowed Jose Molina to reach third. And then Finley got down a suicide squeeze, getting Jose home! Of all the crazy, nutty, things. And once more in the eighth, the Angels got RBI singles from Jose Molina and Garret Anderson, putting GA only a double away from the cycle. The Angels' 19 hits apparently set a franchise postseason single-game record.

The Yanks, for their part, did their only scoring past the fifth on a leadoff Derek Jeter home run off Escobar in the eighth. Remembering the maxim that more games are lost in the eighth than in the ninth, it got me worried, but Escobar rebounded immediately with three clean outs; and while Frankie's save was a little worrisome, it never got to the point of nail-biting. Angels pitching, though taxed in this game, managed to come through with a big win, Donnelly assisted in the fourth with a brilliant Chone Figgins sliding catch on a Gary Sheffield sinking liner.

On the other side, the Yanks put the junk portion of their middle relief out there, exposing happy, hungry Angel bats to line drives and other tasty treats. Yankee defense once again -- despite Joe Morgan's incessant drumbeat of inane praise for the Yankees -- played sloppy, sloppy baseball tonight, making two errors, and five over the last two games. Some of that can be attributed to the wet field tonight, but not yesterday's three errors. Somewhere, George Steinbrenner is pressing shirts with his forehead.

Tomorrow: I'm predicting the Angels' bats will desert them, the good parts of their bullpen won't be available, and hence a tie going back to Anaheim Sunday. Good things could happen: Shawn Chacon in a critical game? Well, it could work. Wash has always pitched well in Yankee Stadium; maybe he's thinking about his next job. Maybe he'll pitch the game of his life tomorrow. Maybe we won't need anyone but Frankie.

Nah, that'll never happen. See you on Sunday. Meantime, keep that TV tuned to ESPN. They might just get lucky.

Update: Say, unlikely though it is, that the Angels advance, and advance again, and the Cards do the same. How cool would it be that all three Molina brothers could appear in the same World Series game?

Also: this was without a doubt Scioscia's best lineup this postseason ever. Maybe Bengie's homer made the decision to bat him at cleanup a little easier, but a great bit of improvising from Mike, whose Game 1 lineup was just plain wrong.

Helen made a good point during the game: the camera tightened up in the ninth on Bernie Williams in center while Joe Morgan prattled on and on about some inanity. She said to me that Morgan clearly missed something significant: if the Yanks put Bubba Crosby in center tomorrow and lose, that could be the last time we see Williams in center in a Yankees uniform ever. Morgan's a prickly clown, with absolutely no sense of the big picture; certainly, it's something Vinny wouldn't have missed.

Update 2: Matt tells the Nation to STFU, Richard liveblogged again, Sean feels Homerian (the epic Greek poet, not Simpson), the Rev is in shock, and Seitz is toasted. Can't say I blame you, Bill.


I don't think the bullpen thing will be an issue so much, if Wash can go 6, then they can potentially go Donnelly, Shields, Escobar, Rodriguez (assuming they have the lead). If something goes wrong, they have Santana to pick up the slack, as well as Gregg for some long relief. Basically, if they feel they have a chance to win tomorrow, they will be willing to use all of their top relievers for an inning each, and if they need more, they have some options.

Also, the Yankees used basically all of the pitchers that they feel they can trust a little (Small, Sturtze, and Gordon) to get the game to Rivera, and the Angels lit them all up. The Yankees NEED a good start from Chacon, the Angels just need an adequate start from Wash.
I've been really surprised how well the Angels have been hitting fastball pitching the past 3 games. After game 1, I was really encouraged with the quality of swings they had against Gordon and Rivera. After that, I suspected that they would hit much better in games 2 and 3. And they eventually figured out Wang as well. They had (briefly) problems against pitchers with a lot of breaking and curve stuff. It'll be interesting how they respond to Chacon, who has a big curve and good offspeed stuff.

Much was said about his control, Randy's fastball and slider completely flattened out tonight. Even through the 2nd half of the season, his velocity had been fluctuating wildly game to game. The cold, rainy weather might have tightened Randy up.

Has Garret Anderson found his long-lost bat speed? If so, the Angels will win the WS.

Byrd pitched much better than the stats showed. Had it been a dry field, maybe he gets out of that jam. That being said, I felt it was an inevitability for Byrd to get shelled.

Donnelly was awful, though. He's more or less lost the sink in his fastball. I would drop him off the roster for the rest of this series.

A little appalled at Cabrera's play today. I understand it's rainy weather, but he seemed reckless out there.

A little appalled at the various third and no-out situations that the Angels failed to capitalize on. Sounds like harping given the # of runs that were actually scored, but during the middle innings, I just went nuts.

I kinda feel Scoscia's "one game at a time" mindset all season is why the Angels mentally didn't fold after that Yankee comeback.

Expect Washburn to be a little wild in the first 2-3 innings. Been a week since his last start. He may get shelled early, but I think Scoscia should just keep him in there.

Really proud of the Angels tonight.

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