Hopping time zones, Angels stay in winning zone


October 12, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY

Chicago -- It could have been, really should have been, a mismatch.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had just endured flights longer than their contrived team name.

They had flown 5,000 miles in 30 hours, and boy, were their pitching arms supposed to be tired.

These red-capped zombies were playing their third consecutive game in a different time zone. After losing in New York on Sunday and winning at home Monday, they had to face the rested and ready White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago last night.

It seemed cruel, unfair.

That's why the Angels' 3-2 win against the American League's best team was so impressively crisp, so gutsy, so postseason baseball.

Bloody socks, hobbling pinch hitters and now sleepwalking Angels.

It's a new chapter in October lore. At least for a night, anyway.

"It makes a great story for later," Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy said.

Catcher Bengie Molina said he didn't comprehend his exhaustion until he caught the final third strike in the bottom of the ninth.

"You can't be thinking you're tired," Molina said. "You might be tired, but you can't be thinking you're tired out there. You have to be thinking that doing your job is a priority."

Red-eyed and jet-lagged, the Angels took an early 3-0 lead against playoff warrior Jose Contreras and hung on in front of a hostile crowd that had waited a dozen years to host another American League Championship Series game.

With the win, the Angels captured a bit of Chicago's recent momentum while dismissing a potential controversy.

"Should the game have been pushed back? Absolutely," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But that's not our call."

Really, it wasn't a tough decision for Major League Baseball. The reasoning was twofold: Current-day teams in their charter jets are accustomed to flying cross country. And the playoffs have built in rain/travel days like Saturday's for this very purpose.

If yesterday's ALCS start in Chicago had been pushed back until today to make it a little more humane for the Angels, and then rain caused a postponement today or tomorrow, the rest of the carefully planned postseason schedule would be altered.

There would be a ticketing nightmare, a broadcasting nightmare, and, perhaps, another traveling nightmare. So the Angels had to deal with it.

Besides, the White Sox wrapped up their Division Series sweep against the Boston Red Sox on Friday and were rewarded with a pleasant three-day break. That was plenty of rest, though. They didn't want more time off for their hot bats or anxious arms. So this is the way it had to be.

"You really don't fly three days in a row and play three games in a row," said left fielder Garret Anderson, whose bases-empty homer gave the Angels a lead they never lost. "But, hey, it's this time of the year, you have to put that aside and focus on playing ball."

To their credit, the Angels weren't making excuses. Even if their internal clocks were shutting down.

"I was sitting down in the bullpen and I hit a brick wall there for a couple minutes. Wow," said reliever Scot Shields, who pitched two scoreless innings. "But you got to wake yourself up and get ready to go in."

Some Angels spun the scheduling squeeze like a curveball.

"You could look at it as they're rested and we're tired," said tonight's Angels starter, Jarrod Washburn. "Or you can look at it as they've had a few days off and could be rusty and we're just staying in the groove."

Washburn is a perfect symbol of what these Angels have to overcome. He was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday with strep throat after having a 102-degree temperature Saturday night.

He had to be quarantined. He wasn't allowed on the team flight to Anaheim on Sunday. He had to watch the Angels' final two Division Series games in a side room away from his teammates.

"I can't think of anything that would be worse torture for a baseball player to go through," he said. "Those were the hardest two games I've ever watched in my life ... I really didn't feel like part of the team. I just felt kind of like an outcast."

Tonight, he's on the mound. Tired. Weakened. Rusty.

Tonight, Washburn is trying to carve out his own little piece of October magic.

Something his teammates already did last night.


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