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10/19/09 11:23 PM ET

Jeter, Tex combine on great play

In end, Abreu's baserunning gaffe not costly to Angels

ANAHEIM -- Derek Jeter listened to the crowd and reacted accordingly. Mark Teixeira did what he is supposed to do on such a play -- he followed the runner. Then there was Bobby Abreu, and it was a little hard to figure out just what he was doing.

Add it all up, and what occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning was one of those intriguing defensive plays that could have gone in Yankees' lore if they had won Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday.

Instead, the Angels pulled out a thrilling, 5-4 win in 11 innings, turning what was at the time a huge play into a footnote, but a compelling one nonetheless.

The game was locked in a 4-4 tie when Abreu led off the eighth by belting one into the gap in right-center. Abreu roared around second and had triple on his mind. Whether it was the stop sign of third-base coach Dino Ebel or just the sudden realization that he was in no-man's land, Abreu froze.

Jeter -- as he does so well this time of year -- reacted instantly. After hauling in the relay throw from Melky Cabrera, Jeter swiftly fired to second, where Teixeira was standing. Teixeira applied the tag, and Abreu took his mistake back to the dugout.

What did Jeter see on the play?

"I didn't see anything," Jeter said. "I heard the crowd. The crowd was cheering, and then I heard them go, 'Ohhhhhh,' so I figured he must have stopped."

And there Teixeira was, being paid off for being the trailer -- a play that is often monotonous and seldom has such a huge reward.

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

"That play happens once in a while," said Teixeira. "Every now and then. That's why I always run behind him. Ninety-nine out of 100, you're not going to get anyone there, but the one time you do, it makes it worth it."

Abreu was unavailable for comment after the game. But his teammate Torii Hunter pointed out that all mistakes are forgotten in a win. Hunter made a mistake earlier in the game, getting picked off by Andy Pettitte in the fourth.

"You can't worry about it," Hunter said of Abreu getting caught in between. "It wouldn't make or break us. It was still 4-4 and you have to battle. It's baseball. Anything can happen at any time."

Jeter knows all about crazy defensive plays in the postseason. In Game 3 of the 2001 AL Division Series in Oakland, he was the second cutoff man on a play at the plate. In fact, Jeter was just a short distance in front of the plate when he intercepted the errant relay throw and made a behind-the-back flip that nailed Jeremy Giambi, who never bothered to slide. The Yankees won that game, 1-0, and overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the series.

Clearly, Monday's heads-up play won't have any such payoff. But it didn't make it any less impressive.

"Every play seems huge," Jeter said. "Especially because [Abreu] was leading off that inning. You think it's huge, but every play at this point of the season -- and especially in these playoff games -- is big."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.