Angels prove they're a tough out
Down early, Halos rejuvenate ALCS by never giving up
ANAHEIM -- Too legit to quit, with too much invested to go home and become rested, the Los Angeles Angels transformed the American League Championship Series from almost over to highly competitive.
Teams that can do this sort of thing, especially in the pressure of the postseason, always appear admirable. With the Angels, it's more than an appearance. They've been admirable for some time. They just hadn't been too good in the first two games of the ALCS.
That changed on Monday in Game 3 of the ALCS with another prolonged session of dramatic October baseball. With the alternative being a three-game deficit, the Angels battled back from three runs down to beat the Yankees, 5-4, in 11 innings. The Halos went from being on the doorstep of elimination to being one victory away from dead even.
The Yankees, winners of 103 regular-season games, had something to do with putting the Angels in the 0-2 hole. New York had pitched supremely well in the first two games.
But it was the Angels' position that the Yankees' lead was not primarily a result of the Bombers' performance, but had occurred because the Halos themselves had not played up to their own standards.
"Absolutely," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of that notion before Game 3. "I think if a team's playing well, it's going to be reflected in maybe some of the things the other team can't do. Some of the things we haven't done, you know, you have to give the Yankees some credit on the way they've pitched, obviously.
"But we can do more. We can hopefully, you know, expand our game a little bit. We're going to have to."
Consider the Angels' game expanded. Down by three in the fifth inning, second baseman Howard Kendrick hit a solo home run to give them a lift. In the sixth, designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero reached back into his days as an impact hitter and produced a game-tying two-run home run.
2-1 ALCS ADVANTAGE
|Year||Team up 2-1||Opponent||Final|
|1993||Blue Jays||White Sox||4-2|
It was truly a large hit, the kind that the Angels had been missing in the first two games.
"Well, it was our first large hit, I think," Scioscia said with a small smile. "So, you know, we needed to keep going. Howie had got us back in the game with a home run. Vlad, that's a big hit to tie the game at that point. It set us up a little bit better moving forward. It's a big hit."
The Angels took a lead in the seventh after Kendrick tripled and scored. The Yankees tied the game again in the eighth. The Halos could not convert a golden opportunity in the 10th, but they did not despair. With two outs in the 11th, Kendrick singled for his third hit of the game. And then he scored his third run on catcher Jeff Mathis' booming double to left-center.
After three games, the Angels are in the victory column. And it wasn't easy for a second. The previous two games of this series lasted a cumulative 24 innings and nine hours and 31 minutes. These games were so closely contested that they appeared to be in danger of becoming endless.
This tends to support Kendrick's postgame comment about the highly competitive nature of the series.
"I think, in a sense, we're evenly matched," Kendrick said. "They have a lot of guys that do a lot of things. And we have a lot of guys that wreak havoc, too, especially on the basepaths."
That kind of comment would have seemed out of place in a 3-0 series. But in a 2-1 series, it seems sensible, particularly when considering the nature of the competition in the past two games.
"This is the type of games that, as a team, we've played all year," Kendrick said. "We've come from behind all year, just like the Yankees have."
Now, the Angels are back in the series. They do not have to stage a major breakthrough. They can just keep on doing the kind of thing they did in Game 3. When Kendrick suggested that they could do the same thing on Tuesday, he helpfully suggested, "Hopefully not as long of a game."
Better late than never, the Angels have given themselves life in the ALCS. Anybody who thought they were going to quietly vanish from the 2009 postseason hasn't been paying enough attention to the work of this club.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.