The ball soared high into the misty air, reached its apex and, with two outs in the bottom of the first inning on Friday night, began to fall back to the earth where the infield at Yankee Stadium ends and leftfield begins. Angels third baseman
The Minnesota Twins last week doomed themselves in the Yankees' ALDS sweep by making uncharacteristic blunders, mostly on the basepaths; but in retrospect, it seems doubtful they'd have advanced even had they played gaffe-free baseball, so great was the Yankees' talent advantage. The Angels, however, are supposed to be different: Able to score almost as prolifically as the Yankees, able to pitch nearly as well as them, not nearly as prone to forcing themselves into making careless mistakes in their desperation to eke out any sort of advantage against the game's premier club. They were have supposed to have proven that throughout the
That confident and sure-handed club was not the one that took the field Friday night in Yankee Stadium. It actually took two Angels fielding mistakes in the first to allow Damon to score what ended up being the game-winner -- the first came when
"It was sloppy, man," an open-shirted Hunter said in front of his locker after the game, of his club's performance. "Miscommunication on one [the pop-up], an error on my part. It's out of character for us. We usually play the game the right way."
Why, Hunter was asked, did the Angels' uncharacteristic breakdown happen, on this stage, against these Yankees? "I have no idea at all," he said. "The cold has nothing to do with it. Maybe it was loud. Fig was saying, 'Aybar, Aybar, you got it,' and Aybar heard something else. For me, it was just a bad hop. That's baseball."
During this postseason,
"We haven't seen our guys crack the door open for a team like we did tonight in a long time," said Scioscia after the game. "The Yankees are going to take advantage of that, and they did."
"We can't count on the Angels making three errors every game," said Sabathia. "That's a really good team, fundamentally, defensively, and it was just one of those days tonight."
The Angels cannot afford to have "one of those days" Saturday night, as they can't expect their Game 2 starter to perform even as well as did Lackey, who went 5.2 innings and allowed four runs -- only two of which, of course, were earned. Scioscia will put the ball in the hands of
"Joe Saunders was the guy that we felt was ready," Scioscia explained, "and I thought his stuff would match up better than anywhere else ... We feel his stuff is going to play really well in this ballpark, and hopefully we'll see that."
If Saunders' stuff plays as it usually has against the Yankees, though, and if their power bats finally come alive, then it won't matter if the Angels play their typically fearless and error-free brand of baseball. They'll still be flying back to Anaheim in a 2-0 hole, one out of which they likely won't be able to climb.