Mathis' walk-off double closes ALCS gap
Angels catcher delivers in 11th as series narrows to 2-1
ANAHEIM -- The Angels looked dead in the waters of the nearby Pacific.Scarcely a red-clad creature was stirring in the fifth inning on Monday at Angel Stadium, a three-run deficit looking insurmountable with Andy Pettitte on top of his game and Mariano Rivera poised to deliver the final outs.
But Howard Kendrick, Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Mathis had their own ideas, each delivering in dramatic fashion to create a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Yankees in 11 innings in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.With Mathis game-winning double applying the final blow after Guerrero and Kendrick had set things up with their booming bats, the Angels suddenly are alive and kicking, down two games to one with Game 4 arriving on Tuesday night. "We just need to keep our heads above water and keep going," Guerrero said. The big man unloaded a two-run homer against Pettitte in the sixth that turned the game around after Kendrick had launched a solo homer in the fifth, generating energy and hope. "We had to win this one," Mathis said. "It's not like it was over if we lost ... but we knew we had to win. Vladdy came through, and Howie came through. Then I got one of those hits that you dream about. "This was the best day of my career. Now we have to carry it over to tomorrow and keep this thing going." With two out in the 11th, Alfredo Aceves relieved David Robertson and yielded a single to Kendrick. The second baseman was off and flying when fellow Floridian Mathis smoked a double to left-center, scoring easily as the Angels' dugout emptied and celebrated. "We like the matchup with Ace [Aceves] better, with the two guys [Kendrick and Mathis]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, having gone seven times to his bullpen. "And it didn't work. It's just different kind of stuff against these hitters."
2-1 ALCS ADVANTAGE
|Year||Team up 2-1||Opponent||Final|
|1993||Blue Jays||White Sox||4-2|
Left-center was the same location Mathis -- a .200 career hitter (.211 this year) known primarily for his exceptional defensive skills -- had visited leading off the 10th with a double against Phil Hughes.Mathis was left at third by the great Rivera. Always a favorable matchup for the Yankees, Rivera mowed down three hitters with the bases loaded and none out, all on tappers to first baseman Mark Teixeira. "Mariano did his thing, but our guys came through, too," said Torii Hunter, one of the three Angels put to sleep by the "Sandman" for a deflating finish to the 10th. The Angels aren't known for their bullpen, but it showed up with six quality innings behind starter Jered Weaver, who yielded solo homers to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon across five innings. The lone bullpen blip was a tying homer to dead center by Jorge Posada in the eighth against Kevin Jepsen after Mathis had gunned down swift Brett Gardner trying to steal second. "Jepsen did a good job holding him on," Mathis said, "and threw a good pitchout, and it was still close. That guy can really run." Ervin Santana, a starter sent to the bullpen for the postseason, got the win as the fifth Angels reliever with a scoreless 11th. "After what happened in New York the other night and what we went through today," Mathis said, "I think we showed what kind of character we have." These were the first back-to-back extra-inning ALCS games since Games 3-4 in 2004 between the Red Sox and Yankees. The Angels wouldn't mind following the Boston script in that one as they look to Scott Kazmir to even the series in Game 4 on Tuesday night against Yankees ace CC Sabathia. "This is the type of series we expected it to be," Girardi said. Posada's blow came after the Angels had seized the lead behind the muscle of Guerrero and Kendrick. A mental blunder by Bobby Abreu, known for his intelligence on the bases, cost the Angels in the bottom of the eighth. Banging a double to center against Phil Coke, Abreu slammed on the brakes rounding second and was an easy out trying to get back. Hughes finished the inning, sending it into the ninth tied. Kendrick, whose fifth-inning homer jumped-started the comeback, tripled against reliever Joba Chamberlain with one out in the seventh, scoring the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly. "Day in and day out," said Kendrick, who shares second base with Izturis in a platoon, "it's somebody new. It shows the depth we have -- and we believe in everybody. We have faith in everybody, one through nine and even the bench guys." Guerrero, rescuing a disappointing, injury-riddled season with postseason theatrics, lifted a Pettitte fastball and his team's spirits when he launched his two-run homer in the sixth. "I'm a human being, and not a robot," Guerrero said through broadcaster Jose Mota's translation when asked about a comment by hitting coach Mickey Hatcher about critics writing off the 35-year-old slugger. "I responded the way I respond.
"It's not so much about me. It's about the team, and the way we came from behind and won that ballgame."Following Abreu's single with his towering blast on a 2-2 fastball by Pettitte, Guerrero ended a postseason home run drought spanning 86 at-bats and five years and 11 days. "Vlad said, 'OK, I've got something for everybody,'" Hunter said. "He told us yesterday he was going to do something special." Guerrero hadn't gone deep in postseason play since smacking a grand slam against Boston in Game 3 of the 2004 AL Division Series, his first exposure to playoff baseball. Weaver, brilliant in holding the Red Sox to one run on two hits in 7 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS, had been dominant all season at home, going 9-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 17 starts. "I struggled with my fastball command, and you can't do that against the Yankees," Weaver said. "Luckily, the three homers were solo, and I was able to keep us in the game. "I can't say enough about the way we came back. Mathis, we all know what kind of athlete he is. He was going to Florida State to play football, so you know he's an athlete. Now everybody knows." Jeter sent Weaver's third pitch, a fastball, rocketing over the fence in left-center. It was Jeter's third homer this postseason and 20th of his career. Only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22) have hit more. A homer by A-Rod to left leading off the fourth was his fourth of this postseason and 11th of his career. It was a no-doubter on a Weaver changeup. Damon joined the homer parade with one out in the fifth, finding the right-field seats on another Weaver changeup. It was the first time all season Weaver had allowed more than two homers in a game. Darren Oliver arrived to start the sixth and got five outs, three on strikes, before walking Teixeira with two out in the seventh. Jepsen retired A-Rod to end the inning, but Posada unloaded on a 2-1 pitch in the eighth to tie it after Mathis -- with a pitchout call from his manager, former catcher Mike Scioscia -- gunned down Gardner. "Today," Scioscia said, "we had to go out and win a ballgame. We did it pitch by pitch. The Yankees were with us every step of the way. They played a terrific game."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.