Orlando puts the O in Angels
Cabrera's seventh-inning hit breaks tie, evens series vs. Yanks
ANAHEIM -- Orlando Cabrera has played under the shadow of former fan favorite David Eckstein all season, but the shortstop grabbed his defining moment with a clutch hit that has the Angels very much alive.
Cabrera stepped up to the plate of a tie playoff game Wednesday with two on and two out, and his name over the PA barely raised a whisper. The decibel level spiked considerably, though, when Cabrera hammered the first pitch from Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang into center, giving the Angels their first lead of the series and some much-needed swagger.
That hit and some little ball that preceded it added up to a 5-3 win over the Yankees to square the best-of-five American League Division Series at a game apiece.
"I've been here for a long time and I know these guys. They don't like to lose," said Bengie Molina, who tied the game in the sixth with a single and then added a solo home run in the eighth. "This is the way we play; this is the way the Angels play baseball."
Cabrera's single broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh as the Angels completed a rally from a 2-0 deficit and took advantage of three Yankees errors.
Kelvim Escobar (1-0) tossed a pair of scoreless innings to pick up the win in relief while Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth to earn his first save of the playoffs. Wang (0-1) took the loss.
"You just keep the pressure on them the whole time," said Cabrera, who is hitting .351 with seven RBIs in the postseason against the Yankees. "They somehow are going to crack up and we're going to take advantage of any mistake they make."
The scene now shifts to Yankee Stadium on Friday, when the Angels will send out right-hander Paul Byrd to face Randy Johnson, who finished the season with a 6-0 mark and a 1.92 ERA in his last eight starts.
But instead of staring at the daunting task of sweeping the next three games to advance in the postseason, the Angels have whittled the series to a best-of-three.
"Orlando got the big hit with two outs," said Steve Finley, who laid down a sacrifice in the seventh and reached base safely when Wang threw late to first. "But a number of guys came up big tonight. Scot Shields and Kelvim Escobar in the bullpen. It's much different being tied than being down 0-2.
Juan Rivera opened the game-winning seventh with a ground ball to short, beating Derek Jeter's throw with a headfirst dive into the bag. Rivera was replaced by pinch-runner Jeff DaVanon. Finley then chopped a bunt in front of the plate and Wang charged, but the ball checked up, causing him to rush the throw that pulled second baseman Robinson Cano off the bag, and Finley was safe.
Adam Kennedy advanced both runners with a sacrifice and, when Chone Figgins popped out to shallow center, it appeared the Angels had blown a key opportunity. But Cabrera drilled the first pitch from Wang to score both DaVanon and Finley to give the Angels their first lead in the series.
The Angels, who always look to press their advantage as opposed to sit back and wait for the big hit, were not surprised at how the inning unfolded and took pride in its very execution.
"I love it. A lot of us can't hit 20 homers," Kennedy said. "I don't even look down for the sign on that one. I know what I need to do when I step up there."
The Yankees struck in the top of the second when Hideki Matsui lined a one-out double to center and scored on Cano's double down the left-field line to put the Yankees up, 1-0.
In the fifth, the Yankees added to their lead as Alex Rodriguez worked a one-out walk and went to third on a double by Jason Giambi. Gary Sheffield then hit a ground ball to third to score Rodriguez and the Yankees built a 2-0 lead.
Rivera got the Angels on the board with a home run in the bottom of the fifth and Molina tied the game with his two-out single over the head of Cano in the sixth.
Cabrera had reached base on an error to lead off the inning when Rodriguez could not handle his high chopper for an error. After Garret Anderson flied out to short, Cabrera went to second on a ground ball by Vladimir Guerrero and scored on Molina's base hit. Molina then hit his second home run of the series in the eighth.
"The two-out hits have been there all year for us and tonight we got them," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That was what we needed and a couple of home runs from Bengie and Juan."
Wang held the Angels in check for much of the ball game with a sinker that kept just about everything on the ground. Over 6 2/3 innings, Wang allowed four runs, one earned, on six hits and no walks. John Lackey started for the Angels and allowed two runs on five hits and five walks over 5 2/3 innings for a no-decision.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.