Angels Fly Back To Bronx With Big Comeback In Mind

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Chone Figgins and the Los Angeles Angels know they're heading straight into more than one kind of storm, and they can't wait to get wet.

Heavy showers in Saturday's New York forecast are threatening to wash out Game 6 of the AL championship series, yet that's a minor drizzle compared to the high-pressure system the Angels created for both themselves and the Yankees by extending the ALCS through the weekend.

Rejuvenated by a ramshackle win in Game 5 that cut the Yankees' series lead to 3-2, the Angels still face long odds to make the seldom-seen comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against their star-studded opponents. Yet Figgins still senses a team-wide confidence that the Angels can rain on the Yankees' 27th championship parade.

"It doesn't get any better than this, especially going into that ballpark," said Figgins, the Angels' leadoff hitter. "It's going to be another crazy game, I can tell you that. You go back and just enjoy it. The pressure is on both teams."

The Angels were grateful to show up to work Friday in suits instead of sweats, holding a brief workout before flying out to Game 6 on Saturday night.

Figgins and his teammates all packed the cold-weather gear that did little good in their last trip to Yankee Stadium, when they lost the series' first two games with poor hitting and sloppy defense. The Angels' defense and pitching mostly got back to normal in Anaheim, but their hitting didn't improve until Game 5, when they scored seven runs after mustering just 10 in the entire series beforehand.

"They are the favorites, but after this one, we've got obviously a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum," said Joe Saunders, the Angels' Game 6 starter. "It's going to be the usual Yankee hostile environment. It's going to be a lot of fun. They're going to be all over us."

So will the rain, if the forecast is accurate. If Saunders has to wait a day to pitch, it could create another possibility in the series - one that might make the Yankees push even harder for a closeout victory.

If Game 6 is postponed, manager Mike Scioscia says the Angels would consider bringing back ace John Lackey on three days' rest to pitch a potential Game 7 as a counter to Yankees stalwart CC Sabathia, who already has shut down the Angels twice in the series.

"Yes, we've talked about a lot of different scenarios," Scioscia said Friday before the Angels' flight. "We're going to let this thing unfold a little bit and see how the weekend goes. If there is an opportunity to look at bringing a guy like John back, it's something we certainly would consider. We've talked about a
bunch of things."

Jered Weaver, who pitched an outstanding eighth inning of relief in Game 5, is the scheduled starter for Game 7 - but Lackey is the Angels' best, most experienced pitcher. Lackey, a soon-to-be free agent with every motivation to star in the playoffs, confounded the Yankees for six innings of Game 5 before Scioscia removed him with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, precipitating New York's six-run comeback.

But the Angels made a three-run comeback of their own in that sublime seventh. Closer Brian Fuentes slept soundly after finding trouble and escaping it in the ninth inning of Los Angeles' 7-6 comeback victory, retiring Nick Swisher on a bases-loaded popup with a full count and two outs.

Fuentes is no stranger to high stakes, and the major leagues' saves leader knows his teammates also thrive in such straits. Ever since the tragic start to their season with the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, the Angels have tapped untold wells of strength on the way to an AL West title, 97 victories, a first-round series win over Boston - and now an ALCS that gets more tense by the inning.

"Pressure is something you put in your car tires," Fuentes said. "I don't feel like it's any different now. We've still got to keep playing, still got to keep doing our work for another game. We don't get anything extra for that one. ... If it's raining, we've all got to play in it. If we get postponed, we'll be ready when we get the chance."

The Angels were relaxed and happy during a brief workout at their stadium Friday. Before soft-toss and batting practice, several players lounged in front of a television and shared a laugh over Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's decision to fire his wife as the team's CEO.

Los Angeles is quietly confident about its chances against Andy Pettitte, who has a long history of series-clinching wins - and whose 15 career playoff victories are tied for the most in baseball history. Pettitte had far more opportunities than most pitchers to build that resume during the Yankees' six World Series runs during his first tenure with the team he rejoined in 2007.

"All that experience is not going to help me when I go out in the first inning and (get) my pitches where they need to be," Pettitte said. "Hopefully, it's just there. ... You know there's going to be a lot of energy in the ballpark. You just hope you can control yourself, make quality pitches throughout the game.
Hopefully we'll be able to wrap this thing up on Saturday."


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