10/03/05 8:50 PM ET
Yanks try to change history in Anaheim
Memories of 2002 playoff series are in the past for New York
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
It was Oct. 5, 2002, in Edison Field, and the mighty, heavily favored defending American League champion Bronx Bombers had just been trounced in four games by the upstart Angels, who batted a playoff-series-record .376 and put up an eight-run inning to close out a lopsided Game 4.
Derek Jeter rested on the fence in front of the dugout and stared into the nothingness of a winter without a pennant. The Angels, who would go on to win the World Series, celebrated the first playoff series win in club history in front of their red-clad fans.
The pundits and prognosticators might have been stunned, but given the recent history between these two teams, the Yankees were not.
And even though Edison Field is now Angel Stadium and the Anaheim Angels are now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Yankees are typically aware of the challenge ahead of them. Simply put, the Angels play them better than anybody else.
"They're very balanced, they're very talented and they do a lot of the little things," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Since 1996, the Angels lead the regular-season series against the Yankees, 49-48, making them the only team in the Torre era with a winning mark against New York.
The Angels also have won the last two season series, taking five of nine games against the Yankees in 2004 and six of 10 this year, which earned them home-field advantage despite the fact that both teams finished with 95-67 records.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Monday that he's not a big believer in the so-called "Yankees mystique," which might help explain why the Angels have had New York's number lately.
"The thing about the mystique, those guys, they play the game the right way," Scioscia said. "They are deep. If anything, they have begun to pitch better and I think that's been probably what has fueled their ride to the playoffs.
"I don't think what happened in 2002 is anything that's going to affect what will happen in this series."
Fair enough, but what about what happened earlier this year?
In the first meeting between the two teams in Yankee Stadium from April 26-28, the sluggish-to-start Yankees rolled in the first game, 12-4, when Alex Rodriguez took Bartolo Colon deep three times and drove in 10 runs. Still, the Angels rebounded for two victories and the series.
In July, the Angels won three out of four over the Yankees in Angel Stadium, then went back to the Bronx and won the first game before watching their bullpen blow late leads in crushing one-run losses.
When you add it all up, the Angels had a 6-4 advantage in 2005 and the Yankees are once again not surprised.
"They're good in all aspects of the game," Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui said through an interpreter. "Hitting, pitching, defense ... they do everything well. They don't have many gaps in their game. In that sense, they're always a tough matchup for us."
In this series, the Angels, who led the AL in stolen bases, will once again try to push that envelope, using the speed of leadoff man Chone Figgins -- he led the Majors with 62 steals -- to set the tone for their situational offense.
On Monday, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was bombarded with questions about the Angels' running game, and for good reason.
The Angels were 21-for-27 stealing bases against the Yankees this year, something Posada and Game 1 starter Mike Mussina admitted would have to change for New York to be successful in the ALDS.
After all, you can't steal a base if you don't get on base.
"Our pitching staff's got to do a better job," Posada said. "There's nothing me or [backup catcher] John [Flaherty] are going to do different. You've got to keep the guys that run off the bases and see what happens."
"It's obviously a challenge with Figgins at the top and getting on base and making things happen when he has to," Mussina added. "We have to do our best to hold them down and keep them off base and try not to let them get any big innings going on us."
The prevailing mood in the New York clubhouse Monday afternoon was that the Yankees are past the point of intimidation with these Angels.
They know they won't have any advantage before the first pitch is thrown. They saw in 2002 what a Scioscia-managed team can do when it's clicking.
"They find the weakness of the opponent and take advantage of it," Matsui said.
Posada broke it down in very basic terms.
"They're good," he said. "They have a very good team."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.