10/24/09 10:41 PM EST
Angels are always up for road trip
In past two years, club has best record away from home
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Over the past two seasons, 162 games' worth, the Angels have been the best road club in the Majors by a substantial margin.
With 48 road wins this season, matched by the Phillies for the game's best, and 50 in 2008, when they led both leagues with 100 victories, the Halos have gone 98-64 in hostile places, a remarkable .605 winning percentage.
In postseason play the past two falls, facing American League East goliaths Boston and New York, the Angels are 3-3 at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
The Phillies are the closest to the Angels in road performance the past two seasons at 92-70, followed by the Yankees at 87-75. The Cardinals (85-77) and Marlins (83-78) round out the top five.
Heading into Game 6 at Yankee Stadium -- pushed back to 5:20 PT on Sunday night by Saturday's rainout -- the Halos were hoping to channel positive road performances and not dwell on the many things that went wrong last time they visited the Bronx.
In Joe Saunders, their Game 6 starter against fellow lefty Andy Pettitte, the Angels have a man who has done some of his best work on the road.
Saunders, who dueled A.J. Burnett on even terms in Game 2 (seven innings, two runs) without a decision, is 25-10 with a 3.97 career ERA in 43 road starts. At home, he's 23-12 with a 4.43 ERA in 52 outings.
"I like the environment in places like New York and Boston," Saunders said. "I enjoy the energy of the crowd, the whole atmosphere in those parks."
The Angels' offense has been held to a shade over four runs per game in postseason play, hitting just .240. The Yankees have held the running game in check, but it's always a threat to bust out if leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins can get a few hits to fall. He's 2-for-31 (.065) in the postseason with a .194 on-base percentage.
"I'm not going to change anything," he said. "It's just a matter of getting some hits to fall."
Figgins remains confident it can happen in the Bronx, where he's a .327 career hitter in regular-season play.
"Our style plays well anywhere," Figgins said. "We're a line-drive-hitting team, and that kind of lineup can be effective anywhere. We're not tailored for a park, like some teams. We have a lot of versatility, with speed and some power in the middle.
"The biggest difference this year is that we've become more disciplined. We've done a better job of working counts and getting in good hitting situations. But great pitching can take make it difficult to get good pitches to hit, and we've seen some great pitching from the Yankees in this series."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia is aware that only four teams in 25 years of LCS play have come back from deficits to win the final two games on the road and move on to the World Series.
It has happened twice in the past seven years. The 2003 Marlins prevailed in Wrigley Field -- going on to knock off the Yankees in the World Series -- and the 2004 Red Sox rocked the Bronx Bombers in Yankee Stadium, moving on to sweep the Cardinals.
Scioscia wants his athletes to think of this in terms of an opportunity to do something extraordinary -- but only on a pitch-by-pitch, moment-to-moment basis.
"There's certainly some advantages to playing in your home ballpark," Scioscia said, "and certainly hitting in the bottom half of an inning where the game kind of unfolds a little bit more and strategy becomes a little more clear as to what you might or wouldn't do if you're playing in your home park."
In the Yankees' case, there's also the matter of Mariano Rivera. Nobody wants to see him in the top of the ninth inning with a lead. He's the closest thing to a sure thing the game has seen, and his cutter is as devastating as ever at 39.
"We need to get a lead and stay away from that guy," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Mariano is filthy, man."
The Angels' offense has shown signs of returning to its destructive regular-season ways. It needed seven runs to push the show back to New York, and that's how many it delivered.
"The challenge, I think, is the same wherever you're playing," Scioscia said. "It's really going to be how we're playing the game. If we can bring all the things that we did in Game 5, all the things in Game 3 -- even Game 2 -- I think we played good baseball.
"If we can bring those things onto the field and maybe try to dictate some of the terms of the game a little more than the Yankees have when they've won, we like our chances."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.