10/05/2002 12:23 pm ET
Press Row: NY pitchers stumble
Angels on the verge of a clincher
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Pitching, pitching, pitching.
You can never have enough pitching. That's the credo the Yankees have been living by during their run over the last half decade or so and many expected them to continue existing in the postseason because of the arms on their staff. But after Friday night's debacle in Anaheim, the world is wondering just where all the arms have gone.
Writes Anthony McCarron of The Daily News:
"This group of Yankees is one loss away from a long, bleak winter pockmarked by George Steinbrenner tirades about an underachieving $140 million team. And Yankee pitching -- the bedrock of their postseason success and World Series wins -- is to blame.
Their starting pitchers -- Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and last night's, Mike Mussina -- have combined to allow 12 runs and 22 hits in 12 2/3 innings in the first three games of the series, an 8.52 ERA. The Angels are batting .373 against the trio.
If the starters from the recent Yankee championship teams had pitched this poorly in the postseason, Torre probably wouldn't even be here."
Murray Chass of The New York Times was equally unimpressed with Mike Mussina's performance in Game 3.
"One baseball aficionado noted the other day, the Yankees have a huge advantage over other teams in a playoff series. While the quality of starting pitchers declines after the first two for most teams (see Arizona Diamondbacks), the Yankees, he suggested, might actually get stronger with Mussina (18-10) and David Wells (19-7) starting the third and fourth games.
"But Mussina did nothing to support that theory tonight. He did nothing that resembled his performance in Game 3 of last year's division series, when he pitched seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory over Oakland. He did nothing to give Torre what the manager said before the game he wanted from his starter."
And in Texas, where they know a thing or two about baseball payrolls, Ken Daley of The Dallas Morning News had this take:
"The Yankees raised their team payroll this year to a record $135 million, mostly on expenditures aimed at improving the offense. But it is their Millionaires Row of starting pitchers that is largely responsible for putting the team in a 2-1 hole heading into Game 4 of the best-of-5 series. Yankees starters have managed neither a win nor a six-inning start in the series, and have been battered for 12 runs and 22 hits (including four home runs) in 12 2/3 innings."
Lest we forget, there are two sides to every story. And while the demise of the Yankees' pitching staff makes for great fodder in the New York tabs, the Angels' rise out of the West is cause for celebration in southern California.
The Halos are on the verge of keeping the Yankees from collecting the end-of-season hardware for a second consecutive year. Please, implores Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times, can we take them seriously now.
"October baseball returned to Fantasyland Friday, but there was nothing Mickey Mouse about it.
"The silly monkey wasn't the story. The balloon noisemakers weren't an issue. The beach balls bounced flat.
"Through Edison Field's fireworks and funky videos, an old-fashioned baseball team appeared.
"They are the Angels, and everything anyone once believed about them is wrong."
His in-town colleague, Joe Haakenson, of The L.A. Daily News was a bit more sarcastic and seemed to take the whole series just a bit more personally.
"In New York, they like to call the Angels "scrappy," "gritty" or "plucky." One more loss in the American League Division Series, and their beloved New York Yankees will call it a season."
And they are finding their heroes in the unlikeliest of places. While the Tim Salmons and Darin Erstads are doing what is expected of them, who would have figured a young reliever would make such a difference. Certainly not Gordon Edes of The Boston Globe:
"The Angels turned to a kid not much older than those working at nearby Disneyland to put away the Bombers last night - Francisco Rodriguez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan signed four years ago for $900,000 and pitching his first full season of pro ball, set down all seven Yankees he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, striking out four.
"Rodriguez, who throws a 95-mile-per-hour fastball that he complements with a joint-cracking curveball, is the kind of player the Yankees usually find."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.