Lots of reasons to believe Angels will still make some playoff noise
Despite being down 2-0, the Angels still seem confident against the Yankees
Expect Jose Molina to remain A.J. Burnett's personal catcher in the playoffs
Joe Girardi has pushed mostly the right buttons so far in the postseason
NEW YORK -- As clubhouse post mortems go, the Angels' atmosphere after Game 2 here wasn't nearly as deadly as many. Even after they blew a second straight game in the ALCS that left them in the very unenviable position of being two games down to this vaunted Yankees team, the Angels don't seem defeated.
They're going to need to beat the best $200 million Yankees at least two out of three just to get back to New York for Game 6, and that's not going to be easy. But remember: this team has overcome more than any other just to get to this point.
"You better believe we'll be back here,'' a confident Angels manager Mike Scioscia told a couple writers as he departed the visiting managers' office on his way to the plane. "I'm leaving my briefcase here.'' (It's not believed he actually left his briefcase. But the point was made.)
The Angels threw out an uncharacteristic clunker in Game 1, and followed that by blowing chance after chance in Game 2, by blowing a save and also by ultimately throwing the game away. Yet, they made no excuses and talked a good game -- two positive signs -- as they left for the six-hour cross-country flight.
"There's a lot of baseball left,'' Torii Hunter said.
The Yankees can be an intimidating lot, especially when Alex Rodriguez is locked in like this (his game-tying home run in the 4-3, 13-inning Yankees victory off Angels closer Brian Fuentes made it three times he's foiled a closer with a game-tying blast in five playoff games). But let's not forget the Angels ran away in the AL West, which is tougher than you might think, after starting the season with more than half their rotation on the disabled list. What's more, they stayed together after the cruelest blow of all, the tragic death in April of their talented young pitcher Nick Adenhart.
This isn't a team that won 100 games (including their three-game sweep over the Red Sox) by accident.
Sure, this is also a team that left 16 men on base in Game 2, a team whose closer Brian Fuentes served one up on platter for A-Rod at the most inopportune time, and a team whose foolish throwing error by second baseman Maicer Izturis finally ended the evening five hours and 10 minutes after it started.
But this is a team that thinks positively, and a team with the best possible manager for a time like this. Scioscia, whose Angels beat the Yankees in both 2002 and 2005, isn't a fellow who gets flustered. One Angels insider said he hasn't blown up at the miscues here (and there have been a few, including shortstop Erick Aybar letting a popup drop in Game 1 and also failing to touch second on what should have been an easy DP in Game 2), and that this team has only caused Scioscia to blow up on rare occasion, like after a lackadaisical series in Tampa Bay.
"We played a good game tonight, we played really well,'' Scioscia actually said while alone in his office after the game. "We had opportunities. We ran the bases well. We just couldn't close out the game. We got the game where we wanted it. We just couldn't close it out. We did a lot of good things leading up to that last mistake.''
Here are some more reasons they may come back:
They'll be more comfortable back in sunny Southern California. They won't complain about the weather, but this was no Disneyland here. Plus, I suspect that missed popup in Game 1 might have been caused by Aybar's cap with extended ear flaps (a few cold-averse players wore them, including Mark Teixeira and Johnny Damon on the Yankees). Aybar never said a word on the popup, and at the last second Chone Figgins blurted, "Aybar.'' Maybe Aybar never heard him. The Angels had the best road record in the AL during the season (48-33), but none of those games were played in conditions like these.
That Yankees bullpen may be a tad depleted. Maybe, anyway. The rumor is Mariano Rivera is human. So that season high 2 1/3 innings in Game 2 might affect him a bit. Maybe it will, anyway.
Perhaps they'll learn not to pitch to A-Rod. They succeeded in the 2005 playoffs by busting him inside. But now there appears to be no good strategy. It certainly wasn't Fuentes throwing a meatball of an 0-and-2 pitch to him with the Angels up 3-2 and Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardner on deck in the 11th. "I was trying to elevate. I just didn't get it up enough,'' Fuentes said ."He's very dangerous right now,'' Bobby Abreu said of A-Rod. "So we have to be careful with him.''
The Angels are due to play cleaner defense. Their 85 errors in the regular season were fourth fewest in the AL. But now they have six this postseason, more than anyone. Izturis never should have tried that throw to second with one out in the 13th when an out at first would have sufficed. "I'm aggressive. But sadly, it cost is the game,'' Izturis told El Universal, the Venezuela paper. This is not a team to blow several in a row. So it won't happen again.
The Angels can still make things happen like almost no one else. Despite possessing much less power than the Yankees, they scored the second most runs in the American League. But so far in this series, they have failed to force the action and failed to hit in the clutch. That isn't them.
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