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Yanks' rally sends series back to Anaheim

YANKEES 3, ANGELS 2: New York chips away at a 2-0 deficit to set up a deciding Game 5 tonight.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 10, 2005


NEW YORK - Forget how long the all-night trip to southern California took, or how tired the road-weary Yankees might be. Given the alternative, just playing tonight will feel pretty good.

The Yankees came up with a dose of their old postseason dramatics Sunday night, staving off elimination and forcing tonight's fifth and final game in the American League division series with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Angels.

Down 2-0, the Yankees scratched out one run in the sixth, then kept grinding out at-bats and took advantage of a bad throw to the plate by Angels third baseman Chone Figgins to score twice in the seventh.

"We were like desperate animals tonight trying to survive," New York's Alex Rodriguez said. "And animals are most desperate when they are in that snare."

Both teams flew west after the game and won't get much sleep before tonight's game, but that was much less of an issue in the Yankees' clubhouse Sunday night than it was when Saturday's rainout forced the schedule shuffling.

"No one was really looking forward to that six-hour flight," Yankees pitcher Shawn Chacon said, "but we are now."

"We could fly to Hawaii right now and we couldn't care less," Rodriguez said. "We're just so excited to play Game 5 and have a chance to take this to the next level."

Tonight's winner faces the White Sox in the AL Championship Series, with the opener still scheduled for Tuesday in Chicago. There had been talk of delaying the series until Wednesday because of the rainout, and Fox made it tougher on the teams by insisting Sunday's game be played at night so it didn't overlap with NFL coverage.

Both starters, New York's Mike Mussina and Los Angeles' Bartolo Colon, were in California waiting to see what happened. And both teams say they won't let weariness be an issue.

"We've got to play the same way we played tonight," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who scored the decisive run Sunday. "It doesn't mean anything if we don't go out and play like we're capable."

The winning rally didn't look like much at the start. Rookie Robinson Cano got an infield single off reliever Scot Shields, and Posada drew a one-out walk. But veteran Ruben Sierra delivered another huge pinch-hit, singling hard to right to score Cano.

Derek Jeter followed with a slow bouncer to third. The Angels had the infield back and Figgins, the super utility man who was voted co-MVP by his teammates, rushed his throw home. The ball bounced and pulled catcher Bengie Molina toward first base, and by the time he dived back across the plate, Posada was safe.

"Tough play," said Figgins, a Brandon High product. "The guy's going on contact and you're tying to get off the best throw you can."

"I'm not fast," Posada said. "But you're going on contact, and he put the ball on the ground. That gave me a chance."

Once the Yankees got the lead, they did everything they could to protect it, with closer Mariano Rivera working two perfect innings to the roar of an electric Yankee Stadium crowd of 56,226.

"Let me tell you something, it's not easy," Rivera said. "I trust my pitches and I trust my teammates behind me."

The game was scoreless, and virtually offense-less, through five innings as two starters who were not their team's top choices, Los Angeles' John Lackey and New York's Chacon, matched zeros.

The Angels were forced to use Lackey on three days' rest because scheduled starter Jarrod Washburn was sick, and he got them off to a good start, holding the Yankees hitless until the fifth and allowing only two hits and one run over 52/3.

The Yankees had no choice but to have Chacon make his first postseason start, and the former Rockie also came through, allowing one hit through five and two runs on four hits over 61/3.

"Chacon was outstanding," Rivera said. "His first time being in the playoffs, doing it in Yankee Stadium facing elimination, it was tremendous."

As a result, the Yankees get to play another day.