A timeless classic on both sides
Yanks come out on top, but Halos show what they're made of
NEW YORK -- This game lasted five hours and 10 minutes. But you did not hear anyone complaining about "pace of the game."
There were people complaining about the weather again. It was not warm enough or dry enough. Big deal. This was a classic postseason baseball game on Saturday night -- and Sunday morning -- as the Yankees prevailed over the Angels, 4-3, in 13 innings in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
This was precisely the kind of thing baseball fans could have hoped for with the two best teams in baseball involved. No, not necessarily five hours worth of baseball, but a closely contested, dramatic, even riveting event. It was good stuff throughout -- a happier ending for the Yankees than the Angels -- but a contest fully worthy of these two fine baseball teams and of an October game at this level.
The Yankees are 2-0 in this series (and 5-0 in the postseason). But the difference between Games 1 and 2 in the ALCS was the Angels' caliber of play. In the opener, the Halos played an uncharacteristically sloppy, less-than-alert game. It was an aberration, a fluke, a one-time deal. There is an excellent chance that kind of thing will not be seen again in this postseason. Yes, the Bombers won again, but you don't get a classic like this without two teams being dialed in for the duration.
The game ended on an errant throw by Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis, but that wasn't characteristic of the level of play. The Angels may have been deeply and understandably disappointed by the outcome, but they saw plenty of improvement between Games 1 and 2.
"We did a lot of good things out there on that ball field tonight," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, one of them wasn't hitting with runners in scoring position. But I'm encouraged by what I saw on the field. We saw a lot of good things there. And hopefully, we'll carry them over into Game 3 [on Monday]."
With baseball's two top offenses on board, the pitching had to be outstanding to limit the damage to seven runs over 13 innings. Both starters, the Yankees' A.J. Burnett and the Angels' Joe Saunders, were exceptional. Most of the relievers were extremely effective as well. Had the game ended a few innings earlier, there would have been more focus on yet another extraordinary night from New York closer Mariano Rivera. He was asked to get seven outs in this game, and, of course, he delivered, needing only 25 pitches to perform the difficult task.
|5:49||BOS 5||NYY 4||2004|
|5:46||NYM 3||ATL 2||1999|
|5:27||TB 9||BOS 8||2008|
|5:14||CLE 13||BOS 6||2007|
|5:10||NYY 4||LAA 3||2009|
|5:02||BOS 6||NYY 4||2004|
The Angels scratched and clawed back from a two-run deficit, and grabbed their first lead of the game at 3-2 in the top of the 11th. It looked like the Halos were on track to even this series with three consecutive games coming up in Anaheim. Everything changed when Alex Rodriguez, leading off the bottom of the inning, hit an 0-2 pitch over the wall in right-center. Rodriguez is filling in the one blank on his list of necessary achievements. He is hitting so well in the postseason that he is helping his team succeed when it matters most.
When the Yankees finally found the game-winning run in the 13th, a hit by seldom-used Jerry Hairston Jr. started the inning. This was a roster-wide victory for the Bronx Bombers, who had only one reliever, the starting pitchers and the third catcher unused at the end.
One way or another, this game lived up to the advance billing for this series and then exceeded it. It wasn't quite the stereotypical contest -- the potent and powerful Yankees against the pesky and persistent Angels in a glorious panorama of postseason possibilities. But it was fine on its own merits.
This series carried a lot of expectations, and not just the usual ones from fans of the Angels and Yankees. This was to be a baseball showcase, between the two teams with the best records in the regular season. As an added attraction, the Angels were the one club that actually had a winning record against the Yankees over recent seasons. AL adherents were saying that this was the real World Series, that the National League couldn't possibly produce anybody who could beat either one of these teams.
We'll see on that one. But what this series produced in Game 2 was a contest with enough excitement to sustain 13 innings, a game that was as close as it was long, a top-shelf event from front to back, a classic October competition, full of twists and turns and never decided until the last possible pitch/play/moment.
It was nothing like Game 1, except in this one regard: the Yankees still won. You could argue that the 2009 ALCS has so much competitive potential that it should go the full seven games. This might seem ideal to neutral observers, but there is a problem: the Yankees don't seem inclined to let that happen.
It took a long time for the Yankees and Angels to settle this one argument, but from the standpoint of what you're looking for in postseason baseball, it was time well spent.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.