Forget about it. Move on.
Angels are more concerned with their play than The Play
CHICAGO -- After playing with scotch tape propping up their eyelids, after losing one ace to a sore shoulder and temporarily losing another to a throat infection, after playing seven playoff games with two of their biggest wheels flat ... what is losing a game on its 27th out?Just another obstacle to overcome. Just another raw deal to ignore. Just another bad break to mend. Or, you didn't really expect the Angels to whine and moan over the events that unfolded at the end of Game 2 of the AL Championship Series, did you? If you did, you haven't been paying attention to this team. You may have followed its accomplishments. But you haven't listened to its heartbeat. The Angels won't cry over spilled third-strike pitches -- even one that appears to have been mishandled by a home-plate umpire. "That's the game," said Darin Erstad. "I make mistakes, too. That's the way it is. A loss is a loss. The way we went down doesn't matter. It was tough, but we'll bounce back." Mike Scioscia won't let them mope. Of all the people in the White House on Wednesday night, he knew best the mechanics of third-strike pitches and the behavior of umpires. Scioscia caught 1,395 Major League games during a 13-season career that ended in 1992. Of all the people, he had the right to be angriest. And he probably was. Inside. Outwardly, he refused to lay blame. He wouldn't toss his players a crying towel. "That's not why we lost the game," Scioscia said in his little cubicle of an office, long after the White Sox 2-1 victory had evened the best-of-seven series at one game each. "We could have been up 4-0, 5-0 going into the ninth, had we played better defensively and made better use of our opportunities at bat. "There's a lot of focus on that play, but we didn't play to a high enough level to win the ballgame. That's the bottom line. You have to play at a high enough level that if there's something -- a call, a bloop, whatever -- you can absorb it." Perhaps they could've absorbed this, too, had the game not virtually ended on it, leaving them no recourse - at least until Friday night, Game 3 in Angel Stadium. "It doesn't matter how the game ends," Erstad insisted. "I've never seen a call like that and never will again.
"But that's the beauty of the game. Unfortunately, it went this way. But it doesn't matter. That's the way it is. But it's a loss; all the other stuff doesn't count."The beauty of the Angels, conversely, is their focused ability to ignore everything outside of their control or outside the lines. They came close to going home with a two-games-to-none lead despite a pair of pitching matchups dramatically unfavorable to them. Tuesday night, Paul Byrd, baseball's Mr. Peepers, went up against Jose Contreras, the American League's hottest second-half pitcher. The Angels won.
Wednesday night, Jarrod Washburn, who had pitched a total of two innings in 17 days and fell out of sick bed, faced Mark Buehrle, who didn't drop his second decision of the season until July 3. The Angels kept up for 26 outs."You really just have to focus on just plodding away and grinding it out," Scioscia said. "The momentum in this series is going to change a number of times before it's over. You can't get caught up in anything." History is the last thing you should get caught up in, the precedent set by the numbers. So take this as an interesting fact, Angels fans, not as a warning: Tuesday, your heroes became the ninth road team to win Game 1 of a best-of-seven ALCS; on the previous eight occasions, the winner of Game 2 went on to win the series. Presumably, none of those Game 2s were prolonged by an "error" on the 27th out. That must have the Angels really hyped for revenge, huh? Erstad shrugged his shoulders, with a bemused smile. "We don't rally around stuff like that. It was a tough one. You bounce back." At least, by now they have bounce. A day before, they didn't have much hop. But they still got off the plane, got out of bed, got a victory. A couple of years ago, Game Show Network had a show called "Cram!" The concept: Contestants forced to remain awake overnight tried to answer questions and perform stunts in their sleep-deprived states. The show's catchline was, "No sleep. No privacy. No mercy." That was the Angels in the Windy City. They'll catch up on their sleep Thursday, then return to the field in search of a new upper hand in this me-and-my-shadow series. This started off as the no-sleep series, and has quickly developed into also the no-budge series. Were this tug-of-war, neither team would yet have budged the other more than a couple of inches toward that line of demarcation. It hasn't had home runs, but has had plenty of strategy. It hasn't belonged to brute force and swinging from the heels, but to choked-up swings and the lengths of leads off base. The big guys continue to sit this one out. So it hasn't awed fans, but should be enthralling them. This is an annual Americafest. Sports unites us unlike anything else. Have you ever thought about it? Sports are virtually the only events still televised live, coast-to-coast, living room-to-living room. Even "Saturday Night Live" is so only in the East. And baseball runs a thread through the nation unlike any other sport, the thread of common experiences. The Angels provided another of those experiences Wednesday night: Who has never felt wronged at some critical point of his or her life? This is what happens every October, eight teams dwindling to two race our pulses and pound our hearts, begging for our cheers or our forgiveness, depending on the outcome. Wednesday, the two teams were joined in that by six umpires. The hue of the game-turning play depended on whose colors you wore, Angels Red or White Sox black. Justice is in the eye of the beholder. Just like beauty. Which is what Darin Erstad sees in this game -- even in this particular game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.