Thankfully for the Los Angeles Angels Mike Scioscia didn't listen to Tim McCarver Monday afternoon or he and not Joe Girardi would've made the worst managerial move on the day. Had backup catcher Jeff Mathis been pinch run for for Reggie Willits in the bottom of the tenth, we might still be playing. In a game where the New York Yankees took a booming 3-0 lead on the verge of gaining a 3-0 lead in the ALCS, it was the little things that mattered most.
Derek Jeter jumped on Jered Weaver in the first for his 20th career post-season homer putting the Bombers on top 1-0 with the Yankees scoring first for the third straight time this series.
Both squads squandered opportunities in the second hitting into double-plays.
In the fourth Alex Rodriguez led off with a bomb to left in the vicinity of Jeter's off Weaver for his fourth of the playoffs. Yet beyond that the Yanks once again failed to put the Angels in a world of hurt, stranding runners at the corners once again.
Andy Pettitte continued to cruise along and Johnny Damon hit a solo shot of his own off Weaver in the fifth. A-Rod barely missed his second homer of the contest but the Yanks increased their lead to 3-0.
Then there was a chink in the armor the bottom half of the frame for Pettitte and the Yanks when Yankee killer Howie Kendrick smoked a homer to left. Kendrick's solo shot was the first allowed by Yankees pitching all post-season.
In the sixth Bobby Abreu notched his first hit of the series and with two outs the Yankees questionably pitched to Vladimir Guerrero and got burned. Vlad woke up and jolted one to left to tie the contest at 3-3.
Kendrick and the Angels were back for more in the seventh. With one out Kendrick tripled off Joba Chamberlain, leaving some to question whether Pettitte with 95 pitches should've been allowed to finish the frame. Scioscia pinch hit Macier Izturis for Mike Napoli and he lifted a sac fly to deep right scoring Kendrick and giving the Angels their first lead of the day 4-3.
Following that thing got tenuous for the Yankees. Hideki Matsui drew a walk off reliever Kevin Jepsen in the eighth. Brett Gardner and not Freddy Guzman was used as a pinch runner. Which is bad, not because Guzman is faster but since that's his only role of usefulness on the team, putting Gardner out there for defense would sacrifice the DH. I really have to question why Guzman and not Eric Hinske was added to the roster for this round, but I digress.
Gardner ended up getting caught stealing on a pitch-out and conversely Jorge Posada homered to center to tie the game at 4-4. Perhaps Jepsen let his guard down and throws a different pitch there but it makes one wonder what could've been. After that Robinson Cano singled and Nick Swisher walked, but with one out once again the Yanks couldn't capitalize with runners on base.
Then the over-managing of the bullpen commenced. Damaso Marte a lefty who got Chone Figgins for the final out of the seventh was pulled in favor of another lefty Phil Coke to face the left-handed Abreu to start the eighth. Abreu promptly doubled but rounded too far as an alert Jeter on the cut-off throw from Melky Cabrera turned to gun down Abreu who was diving back to second as an equally alert Mark Teixeira applied the tag. Phil Hughes was brought on and kept the Angels at bay.
Moving on to the bottom of the tenth, after being lights out his first inning and two thirds, Hughes was rocked for a leadoff double by the light hitting catcher Mathis. So with Mathis on Girardi smartly made a move his predecessor Joe Torre failed to make in Game Four of the 2003 World Series and called on Mariano Rivera.
Erick Aybar laid down a bunt attempting to move Mathis to third when Rivera wheeled slipped and bounced the ball into left where an alert Damon was backing up the play. Figgins grounded out to Teixeira moving Aybar to second. With runners in scoring position and one out, Abreu was walked intentionally. Then in a move that showed why taking up the DH spot with Gardner and pinch hitting for him with Jerry Hairston Jr. ironically came back to bite them in the field and at the plate as Hairston was placed in left removing the DH.
Rivera then induced Torii Hunter into a fielder's choice as Teixeira fired home to Posada recording the second out. With bases still jammed and two down Rivera got Guerrero to bounce one to Teixeira in what was another brilliant effort by the great Rivera.
In the top of the eleventh the Yanks were caught short-handed. After two quick outs and Rivera's spot due in the order, Girardi didn't want to march Rivera out for the bottom of the frame. However his options were very limited wtih only Guzman, Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli on the bench as opposed to say Hinske. Cervelli was called upon and subsequently struck out against Ervin Santana.
On the game went to the bottom of the eleventh where Girardi went to David Robertson. Robertson continued his solid playoff pitching, quickly retiring Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales. With two down, Girardi gave all New York fans watching a head scratch-er putting in Alfredo Aceves. Aceves who was once the Yanks eighth inning bridge to Rivera pre-Hughes this season, but hasn't been as dominant since being asked to throw a spot start in place of Chien-Ming Wang in Minnesota in July was brought on to face the ever annoying Kendrick.
Kendrick singled up the box and the collective groan could be heard 3,000 miles away. So with two away and Kendrick on it was up to Mathis once again. Mathis playing the role of a light hitting Mike Scoscia playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 NLCS against Doc Gooden and the New York Mets, Mathis crushed another one to deep left. If Damon had still been out there or had the Yankees been able to put Gardner in center and Cabrera in left, whether the ball would've been caught we'll never know. Yet the ball fell in and Kendrick came around to score the winner 5-4.
Girardi who has been excellent all season in handling the pen, clearly over-managed in this spot and for the first time this post-season the Yanks got burned. But one could also question why the Yanks couldn't win after hitting four homers and will need to start finding a way to manufacture some more runs.
Game Four will be the biggest test yet for these Yankees, who've played their best baseball with their backs up against the wall. This feels so reminiscent of the 1998 ALCS when El Duque hurled a gem in that series' Game Four for the Yanks against the Cleveland Indians in hostile territory. The Yanks lost a tough one and were reminded just how equally of a tough out the Angels truly are, but they have to be confident in knowing "The Dude," CC Sabathia will be toeing the rubber in his backyard Tuesday night.