Angels survive adventurous ninth
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You could see it in the faces of the Yankees and Angels players and managers in those moments after this game ended: They didn't know. Whatever people had to ask, they didn't know. What were they thinking? Didn't know. What did this mean? Didn't know. What were they feeling out there? Didn't know.
This is the beautiful thing about playoff baseball. Words don't quite get it. Thursday night's playoff game between the Yankees and Angels wasn't necessarily a classic, not if you need your classic baseball games to dare perfection. No, this was a big, bold, beautiful, tense, ugly, quirky, odd baseball game. No one was quite sure if the game was made up of comebacks or blown leads, clutch hits or mistake pitches, brilliant timing or managerial blunders. No one was sure about anything except the umpires (who blew their requisite calls), the Angels rally monkey (back on the scoreboard to inspire) and the last inning, which left everyone breathless.
The job of journalists is to try their best to make sense of things. And so in the minutes after the Angels 7-6 victory over the Yankees -- a victory that sent this series back to New York with the Yankees still one victory away from clinching -- the questions were all about sensible things. Did the Angels feel like they could take two in New York? (Didn't know). Did the Yankees feel like there was more pressure on them now? (Didn't know). Did the momentum shift? (Didn't know).
And you could see that players really could not think of anything to say ... nothing that was going to top the beautiful tension of that ninth inning. The Angels led 4-0. The Yankees scored six runs in the seventh -- all of them after Angels starter
Then it was the ninth, the Angels led by a run, and they sent their closer
The Yankees' first three hitters in the inning were
Teixeira popped out on one pitch -- a surprisingly meek at-bat for one of the game's best hitters. And then, it was A-Rod. On Saturday night, an eerily similar situation had come up in Yankee Stadium ... and that time Fuentes grooved a belt-high fastball, and A-Rod crunched it to right field for a game-tying home run. This time, Angels manager
The Yankees immediately replaced A-Rod with a pinch-runner -- the brilliantly fast
First and second, and then Fuentes hit
Swisher, you probably know, was one of the big stars of the book "Moneyball" -- the player who Oakland GM
That hasn't changed. Swisher, off the field, is a force of nature, a non-stop talker who drives more or less everyone batty. Swisher, at the plate, is a non-stop worker who fouls off pitch after pitch, and worked pitchers for 97 walks this year -- most on the Yankees and second only to the Angels'
So they battled -- the hard-hat closer and the lunch-box hitter ... a chopper that was just inches foul ... another foul ... a change-up way outside ... another foul ... a high fastball ... an outside fastball. And then the count was 3-2, and the tension had hit its crescendo, and Fuentes simply threw the challenge pitch, his best fastball (91 mph) right down the heart of the plate. Swisher swung and hit a pop-up to shallow left. Angels shortstop
And there was nothing left. The game had drained the emotion out of everyone. What did it mean? It seems unlikely that the Angels can go to New York and take two ... especially with
What does it mean? Maybe that was the wrong question -- those answers will come soon enough. Maybe the right question was: Wasn't that fun?