Lacking power, scrappy Angels find a way
Scioscia uses speed to keep pressure on first-place Rangers
ANAHEIM -- Playing the New York Yankees is generally an uphill proposition. Whatever edge you can find has to be seized, maintained, maximized.
The Angels had two advantages on Friday night -- the superb pitching of Jered Weaver and their ability to transform something relatively small into something very useful by using their speed.
The Halos needed every ounce of each quality against the Yankees. In a September gem of a contest, the Angels produced a dramatic and necessary 2-1 victory over the Yankees. The win kept the Angels 2 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West, while the Yankees remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Boston in the AL East.
To beat the Yankees at this point, you have to defeat an offense that is powerful, productive, diverse. The Yankees came into the weekend leading the AL -- and, in fact, the Majors -- in runs scored and home runs. The Angels were merely 10th in the AL in both of those categories.
The Yankees have speed as well as power. The Angels, without the power, need top-flight pitching. And then on offense, they have to scratch and claw and sprint their way to runs.
"They're a dangerous team because of the speed and the starting pitching that they have," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. That turned out to be a prophetic description of how the Angels could win the opener of this three-game series.
"We're scrappy," Weaver said. "We don't hit as many home runs as those guys, so we do the little things -- the bunts and hit-and-runs. We scrap, and we find ways to win."
Weaver and Bartolo Colon hooked up for a terrific duel in which each gave up only one run. Weaver had the harder task here, keeping the Yankees in check, but Colon did nothing to damage his credentials as an AL Comeback Player of the Year candidate. While the Yankees got a run on rookie Jesus Montero's third career homer, the Angels played extremely small ball to find their way onto the scoreboard.
With one out in the fifth, Peter Bourjos reached on a bunt hit, one of the Major League-leading 38 the Angels have recorded this season. Bourjos, already an AL Gold Glove-caliber defender in center, has 15 bunt hits among his 31 infield hits. A throwing error by Derek Jeter then put two on. After a forceout at second, Howard Kendrick singled in Bourjos.
The winning run in the ninth was a display of more speed. Alberto Callaspo singled leading off, and speedy outfielder Jeremy Moore pinch-ran for Callaspo. Vernon Wells advanced Moore to third on a hit-and-run single to left, Wells getting the necessary hit on the ground and Moore's speed ensuring that he could gain the two-base advance. After Bourjos was hit by a pitch, Maicer Izturis pinch-hit and delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly to center.
It was a classic demonstration of speed in well-timed doses creating runs from relatively little offense. Scioscia, who had noted in his pregame media session that his club had more speed this season than at any time during the 12 years he has managed the Angels, had immediate evidence to support that contention.
"We obviously weren't tearing the cover off the ball tonight," Scioscia said. "Weav kept us in it, going pitch-for-pitch with Colon.
"We've been running the bases well all year, and we did a good job of it again tonight. Peter got it started with a bunt hit, and they cracked the door open a little bit with the error, and then Howie gets a big hit. Jeremy Moore on the hit-and-run, a base hit to left field, cleanly makes it to third and that shows his speed. That's not an easy ball to get to third on, even though it was a hit-and-run."
You know how it works. Speed shows up at the ballpark every day. Speed doesn't slump. The Angels have been competing successfully with an aggressive, intelligent style of play for a long time. Now more than ever, the basic virtues this team has utilized come into play as it battles down the stretch for a division title and a postseason berth.
Lacking the Yankees' ability to change the game early and often with a three-run homer, the Angels answered with their own strengths. Jered Weaver kept the Yankees from hitting the three-run homer, and then the Angels ran their way into two runs -- the only two runs they needed.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.