Angels, Yankees are in ALCS for the long haul

Andy Pettitte goes after a record 16th postseason win tonight. Yesterday, he tried to stay warm at workout in Yankee Stadium.
Andy Pettitte goes after a record 16th postseason win tonight. Yesterday, he tried to stay warm at workout in Yankee Stadium.
Posted: October 24, 2009

ANAHEIM - When you get to this stage of a series, nearly anything is possible. You try to detect patterns before realizing the whole deal could change on one pitch.

As the teams headed back to New York for tonight's scheduled (rain is in the forecast) Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees lead, 3-2.

New York won Game 1 after the Angels could not catch the ball. The Yankees won Game 4 decisively. The teams split extra-innings wins in Games 2 and 3. And then Los Angeles won Game 5 on Thursday, 7-6, as the Yankees left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.

The teams combined for those 13 runs at Angel Stadium Thursday, even though runs were scored in only three halves of innings: The Angels got four in the first before New York recorded an out; the Yankees got six in the seventh, all with two outs; and then Los Angeles got three in the bottom of the seventh to win it.

Brian Fuentes got a 24-pitch, 14-ball, 10-strike, seven-batter save for the Angels.

The top of the Angels order - Chone Figgins (.105) and Bobby Abreu (.143) - is not hitting at all in the series. The middle - Torii Hunter (.316) and Vladimir Guerrero (.304) - is starting to hit. And backup catcher Jeff Mathis is hitting a cool .600. He had hit safely six straight times until New York finally got him out in the eighth inning of Game 5.

For New York, Mark Teixeira (.174) got two hits Thursday. Alex Rodriguez (.368) and Melky Cabrera (.381) have been the Yankees' hitting stars.

Tonight, it is Joe Saunders, who started Game 2, for the Angels, against Andy Pettitte, who started Game 3 for New York.

"I wouldn't say we're the favorites," Saunders said after Game 5.

No, they are not. But they are alive. When it gets to be late October and only three teams are still playing - the Phillies will be in the World Series next Wednesday, in case you missed it - it is good to be one of them.

"I was in the bullpen [Thursday]," Saunders said. "And I was the emergency after the emergency guy. So you go down to the bullpen and hope you don't have to pitch."

Now, he does have to pitch. And so does Pettitte, who will be going for a record 16th postseason win.

"All that experience or whatever is not going to help me when I go out in the first inning, and help my pitches be where they need to be," Pettitte said. "Hopefully, it's just there. Hopefully, I get everything going and give this team a quality start, a good start, and give us a chance to win that ballgame."

Like Saunders, Pettitte watched Game 5 not knowing whether he would pitch tonight. That, he said, makes it a bit different, even if the preparation has to be the same.

"Yeah, there's no doubt," Pettitte said. "You're sitting there and you're just, like, 'We're down four.' And we come back. And we're up two . . . And then they come back."

On a conference call with Angels manager Mike Scioscia yesterday, somebody wanted to know whether being in the World Series in South Philly, not far from where he grew up in Delaware County, would be special.

"Getting to the World Series is obviously our focus," he said. "It would surely be something special to go back to Philly."

To get there, his team will have to beat New York twice in Yankee Stadium.

"If you're afraid to fail or you're afraid to lose, you will never achieve," Scioscia said. "So I think you go out there and you have to play free. You have to play with nothing in your mind except making plays and winning a game and not be afraid to go out there and play the game of baseball."

If Yankees manager Joe Girardi is concerned, he is not showing it. His team blew late leads in its two losses in California. It also dominated the game it won.

"The demeanor has not changed at any point during the course of this season," Girardi said. "No matter what the stakes in the game were, our demeanor has been the same, and I think that's important. Because the last thing you want guys to do is make too much of one at-bat or make too much of one pitch, because, to me, that's when you get in trouble."

So, the ALCS goes on. The Phillies and Philadelphia await the winner. *

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