Angels regain upper hand

L.A. KO's Johnson in 4th, takes 2-1 lead on Yankees in series

Angels 11 Yankees 7

October 08, 2005|By PAUL SULLIVAN | PAUL SULLIVAN,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

NEW YORK -- Fans exiting the subway an hour before last night's playoff game at Yankee Stadium must have thought they had the wrong starting time.

A loud cheer erupted from inside the half-filled ballpark that could be heard all over the Bronx - the sound of Yankees fans wildly celebrating a big win.

The confused fans eventually discovered those cheers were being showered not on the New York Yankees but on the Chicago White Sox, whose Game 3 sweep of the Boston Red Sox was being shown on the Jumbotron in right field.

It was only the beginning of a wild, rainy night in New York, where the Los Angeles Angels blew a five-run lead before bouncing back to win, 11-7, and grab a 2-1 edge in the American League Division Series.

"Our team has always been able to come back against any team," Angels catcher Bengie Molina said. "That's just the kind of team we are."

Game 4 is today, with Angels left-hander Jarrod Washburn facing New York's Shawn Chacon.

Angels left fielder Garret Anderson, hitless in eight at-bats coming into the game, homered, tripled and drove in five runs to lead the 19-hit Los Angeles attack.

Randy Johnson, who helped carry New York into the postseason with a 6-0 record over his final eight starts, put the Yankees in a 5-0 hole before being booed off the mound during the fourth inning.

The Big Unit looked like small potatoes to the Angels, giving up nine hits, in three-plus innings.

"I pitch and my teammates expect us to win and for me to put us in a position to win, and I didn't do that," Johnson said. "My slider found too much of the middle of the plate. I didn't have a sharp one going down and away.

"Unfortunately my pitches were elevated today, and I paid the price."

Said Yankees manager Joe Torre: "If you don't make quality pitches, you can't expect good results. We didn't pitch very well."

The Yankees bounced back to take a 6-5 lead in the fifth, only to watch the Angels go ahead with two in the sixth.

Steve Finley's RBI suicide squeeze capped a two-run seventh that increased the lead to 9-6.

Two runs in the top of the eighth made it 11-6, and the Angels' bullpen closed it out, allowing only a Derek Jeter homer to lead to off the eighth.

No one could've predicted the horrible outing Johnson endured, and he inadvertently asked for fan abuse Thursday, suggesting that "if they want to boo me, then boo me, or cheer me, but do something, because I feed off that and have pretty much my whole career."

Instead of feeding off the booing, the $16 million ace was eaten alive by the revived Angels offense.

A three-run homer by Anderson in the first and a two-run shot by Molina in the second looked like lethal blows at the time, but only proved to be appetizers in a smorgasbord of offense.

Greeted by a double and single to start the fourth, Johnson, 42, officially became the Big Toast.

"If I would have paid for a ticket to watch me pitch today, I would have booed myself," Johnson said.

Fortunately for Johnson, Angels starter Paul Byrd staged his own implosion during the Yankees' four-run fourth. Hideki Matsui led off with a home run, before a run-scoring ground ball from Jorge Posada, and Jeter's RBI single pulled the Yankees within one run.

After the Yankees tied the game 5-5 in the fifth on an RBI double by Robinson Cano, an errant throw home by Orlando Cabrera sent Cano scampering to third, where he scored the go-ahead run on Bernie Williams' sacrifice fly.

Aaron Small, a journeyman pitcher who went 10-0 for the Yankees in the regular season, promptly showed how he became a journeyman, handing back the lead in the sixth. Darin Erstad's RBI single tied it at 6-6. After a bloop, two-out single Adam Kennedy, Chone Figgins ended an 0-for-11 playoff skid with a run-scoring single that put the Angels ahead 7-6.

Sloppy fundamentals by Alex Rodriguez and Cano helped keep alive an Angels rally in the seventh, leading to Finley's successful squeeze off Al Leiter that no one saw coming. In the end, the only lesson learned was $203 million doesn't go as far as it used to.

Paul Sullivan writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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