10/05/2002 8:06 pm ET
Pitching, defense abandon Yanks
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For seven seasons under Joe Torre's watch, the Yankees have used splendid pitching and solid defense to win six American League East titles, five American League pennants and four World Series rings. But in New York's four-game American League Division Series loss to the Angels, they fell victim to poor performances from their starters and shoddy defense in the field.
"We didn't pitch well, and some defensive lapses hurt us, too," said general manager Brian Cashman. "The Angels were tremendous. The way they hit all our pitchers, they couldn't have done better if we'd actually told them what pitch was coming. They were that impressive."
"It was just a bad time to have a three-game losing streak," Torre said. "I have no explanation because we all know we're capable of pitching better than we did in this series. It was not up to our standards and we paid the price."
In the four games, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and David Wells combined to allow 20 runs in 17 1/3 innings. Anaheim hit the Yankees for 31 runs on 56 hits in the four games, putting on a display never seen before in the Torre era.
"It's surprising. We've never struggled in the postseason, at least not like this," said Pettitte, who allowed four runs in three innings in Game 2. "As a pitching staff, we take all of the credit when we win championships here, and as far as I'm concerned, our starters just didn't get it done."
Though the starters struggled to the tune of a 10.40 ERA, they can't take all of the blame. New York's six relievers allowed 11 runs in 16 2/3 innings, a 5.96 ERA, blowing a late lead in Game 2 and allowing Anaheim to climb back from a 6-4 deficit in Game 3.
"It is surprising. When you run out the kind of quality arms and names that we have, you don't expect to get beat up like that," said Mike Stanton, who went 0-1 with three runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings. "You can't point your finger at one person or one pitch -- they just beat us the whole series. We're a team. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we all lost."
Defense played a part in the early exit as well, though that was not as surprising as the pitching performances. All season, Torre said that while the defense wasn't as solid as he wanted it to be, it hadn't cost his team any games.
That changed in the Division Series, as several balls that should have been caught dropped in for hits. Saturday, Darin Erstad's fifth-inning popup appeared to be catchable, but it fell between Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams, giving the Angels momentum as they went on to score eight runs in the inning.
"There's nothing you can do, it was an in-betweener," Wells said. "You think it's going to be caught, but crazier things have happened. That's when things started happening. That would have been a key out, but you just have to keep making pitches and get the outs."
"That's just stuff that happens," Pettitte said. "But when it does, it's the pitcher's responsibility to overcome it. We just weren't able to get it done. Every time we did something good, they came right back at us the next inning."
The Yankees lost last year's World Series after scoring just 14 runs in seven games. After adding Jason Giambi, Robin Ventura and Raul Mondesi to the roster this year, the offense wasn't the problem anymore, as New York scored 25 runs in the four-game set. All of a sudden, it was the pitching that led to the Yankees' postseason demise.
"The offense came through and scored a bunch of runs for us, but those guys just kept plugging away. Any mistake we made, they went after it," Wells said. "We just have to learn from our mistakes, regroup and come back next year."
The Yankees' early exit from the postseason leaves many questions hanging in the air heading into 2003. Clemens is a free agent at 40, Wells is 39, while Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza are also free agents.
"As far as I'm concerned, I hope everyone comes back," Wells said. "We have great chemistry, everyone pulled together and it was a great bunch of guys."
Pettitte, whose club option will likely be picked up, said he hopes that this current pitching staff has another year to make a title run.
"It's disappointing. When we put our team together in Spring Training, it's put together to win the World Series. That's our goal. It's not to get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs," Pettitte said. "I realize we have a few guys getting older, which is why they went out and got Jeff Weaver, but I think everybody probably has another year left in them."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.