Small ball still rules

first_imgANAHEIM – It was gone, vanished from the face of the Earth, soon to be appearing on milk cartons and the subject of a frantic search. Somebody, somewhere, please find that Angels game. “We put a couple of guys into motion, but not with a lot of success,” said manager Mike Scioscia. In the middle of the fifth the Yankees led 2-0. The Angels were staring at one Randy Johnson start from being swept out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The situational hitting and stealing and bunting and scraping and tough defense that had served them so well during the regular season, that had helped to make up for their lack of power, suddenly appeared to have deserted them in playoffs. Chien-Ming Wang, a rookie sinkerballer who had never started in the postseason in his young life, was handcuffing the Angels. Through four innings, he had allowed just two singles. This was something of an improvement over his last start, where he appeared rattled and walked six Red Sox. Fenway Park, of course, actually comes equipped with playoff atmosphere anytime the Yankees come to down. Angel Stadium apparently gave all it had to give in 2002. Some Elks Clubs offer more atmosphere. The Yankees led and appeared in reasonable control of the game and series. Yankees manager Joe Torre, having seen what the Angels’ aggressive style can produce, wasn’t buying in. “No lead is safe when you’re dealing with a club like the Angels,” Torre said. “They keep putting the ball in play and doing things.” They weren’t doing much throughout most of Wednesday. Chone Figgins, their needed leadoff sparkplug, is 0-for-8 in the series. So is No. 3 hitter Garret Anderson. The Angels’ first run came via the polar opposite of their typical attack. The Angels ranked 10th in the American League in home runs, but Juan Rivera led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot to deep center. The Angels first showed signs of rediscovering their game in the sixth when third baseman Alex Rodriguez lost Cabrera’s bouncer for an error. Cabrera advanced on a Vladimir Guerrero’s groundout to the right side and scored on a Bengie Molina two-out single. The search party had not been called back, but there was fresh hope discovery was possible. Then it reappeared, one small step at a time. An infield hit, a couple of bunts, a clutch hit. Suddenly the Angels knew who they were again, a postseason identity crisis averted. The prototypical rally began in the seventh when Rivera hit a high chopper to Derek Jeter at short. Rivera stumbled doing down the line, almost falling, before regaining his stride and then diving head first to just beat Jeter’s throw. Steve Finley, as everyone knew he would, bunted. Wang fielded the ball as Finley sprinted down the line, hurrying his throw just enough to pull Robinson Cano off the bag. The winning run was at second with no outs, the Angels at home and Scioscia – as he always does – still bunted. Adam Kennedy’s bunt advanced the runners to second and third. Figgins flied to shallow center, and up came Cabrera with two outs. The same Cabrera who helped break the Yankees’ hearts last year with the Red Sox. Torre elected to stay with Wang, and Cabrera lined the first pitch into center for a two-run single. “We didn’t have many hits, but they sure all counted,” Scioscia said. And just that quickly, all was right in the Angels’ universe. Small ball lived, and so did the Angels. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Throughout the opener of their American League Division Series against the Yankees and the first half of Wednesday’s Game 2, it was missing in non-action. A rumor of better times, a tale to tell small children. center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Remember when the Angels small ball drove other teams to distraction? When they put constant pressure on opponents, forced them into mistakes, stretched every possible opportunity? On an unusually hot October night, just when it appeared the Angels had suffered a serious identity crisis with the arrival of the postseason, it suddenly reappeared. Faster than you can say Orlando Cabrera, the Angels’ aggressive game was back, and with it a 5-3 victory that evened their best-of-five series at a game apiece. For one night – or at least the last third of it – small ball ruled. For most of the night, however, the Angels looked like they had lost their way. They either couldn’t get men on, or ran into outs when they did. They couldn’t force the action, couldn’t do all those little things that had been their forte. last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *