Anaheim, Calif. When Derek Jeter led off Game 3 with a homer into the bullpen, this AL championship series seemed uncomplicated. Power hitting and steady pitching appeared to be driving New York to the World Series.
About 261 minutes, 14 pitchers, six homers and several big blunders later, a winning hit by a backup catcher left only one thing certain in this cuckoo series: The Los Angeles Angels won’t be trampled by the mighty Yankees.
Jeff Mathis drove home Howie Kendrick with a two-out double in the 11th inning, and the Angels survived a second straight ALCS thriller, beating New York, 5-4, Monday to trim the Yankees’ series lead to 2-1.
“There was a lot of great baseball on that field this afternoon,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There were a lot of twists and turns, and both teams played a terrific game. We just got it done at the end.”
Kendrick, himself a part-time infielder, homered and tripled before singling with two outs in the 11th off rookie Alfredo Aceves. Mathis followed with his drive up against the left-field wall, and Kendrick slid home well ahead of a desperate throw, setting off an on-field celebration of the backups’ bonanza.
Mathis, a .211 hitter in the regular season, came up with his third late-inning, extra-base hit of this outlandish series, just two days after the clubs’ 310-minute, 13-inning icy epic in Game 2.
“Obviously, it’s the biggest hit of my life,” Mathis said. “For Howie to have the at-bat he did right there, and to get on base and put one in the gap to win the game, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
If the Angels had any lingering doubts about their ability to match up with the big-money Yankees after two discouraging losses in the chilly Bronx, those worries melted during their comeback in the balmy Orange County sun.
“Man, that was one of the craziest games,” said Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who lamented his 1-for-5 effort. “It was an emotional roller coaster, man. We were up, we were down. I’ve got a headache right now, but it was a lot of fun. Both teams were battling and we came through in the end. As long as you have innings and outs left, you’ve got a chance to make something happen.”
Game 4 is tonight in Anaheim, with CC Sabathia pitching on three days’ rest against Angels newcomer Scott Kazmir. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday in Anaheim.