NEW YORK – Hardly any time to feel satisfied for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the Yankees. They packed their bags and bolted for the airport – New York is still around in these playoffs and has much more work to do.
Slow-footed catcher Jorge Posada barely beat the tag for the go-ahead run on Jeter’s seventh-inning bouncer, and New York scratched out a 3-2 victory Sunday night over the Los Angeles Angels to force a decisive fifth game in California.
Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra came through with a tying single and, with Yankee Stadium rocking, Rivera retired Vladimir Guerrero for the final out to finish off a two-inning save as the Yankees evened the best-of-five A.L. playoff series at two games apiece.
“The whole game was a grinder, we did a lot of things well,” Posada said. “It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t go out there and play the way we’re supposed to.”
After a rainout Saturday postponed Game 4, the teams must now fly cross-country overnight to play today in Anaheim at 5:15 p.m. Both scheduled pitchers were already waiting out West – Game 1 winner Mike Mussina and Angels ace Bartolo Colon.
“It’s a long flight for both teams,” Los Angeles outfielder Steve Finley said. “This team is not going to hang its head. We’re going to come back tomorrow with the same energy we had today.”
Thanks to yet another New York comeback, this first-round series is the only one to go the distance in 2005. The winner today faces the Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Championship Series.
Trying to knock New York out of the playoffs for the second time in four seasons, the Angels built a 2-1 series lead on airtight defense and a deep bullpen.
This time, both betrayed them.
With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Robinson Cano reached on an infield single to start the seventh and Posada drew a one-out walk from losing pitcher Scot Shields.
Sierra, batting for No. 9 hitter Bubba Crosby, grounded a sharp single to right and Cano scored standing up despite a strong throw from Guerrero, leaving runners at the corners.
Jeter topped a slow bouncer to third, forcing Chone Figgins to charge the ball.
Figgins bounced a wide throw to the plate, and Posada skidded in on an aborted slide.
Acquired from Colorado for a pair of minor league pitchers in late July, Shawn Chacon was one of the fill-in starters who helped save the Yankees down the stretch – and he delivered again in his playoff debut.
While Chacon went 10 days between starts, Los Angeles’ John Lackey was pitching on only three days’ rest.
“That was an outstanding performance by John Lackey,” Scioscia said. “Unfortunately, Chacon matched him pitch for pitch.”
Lackey lasted 5 2/3 innings – just as he did for a no-decision in Game 2 – and allowed only two hits. He struck out six and walked four.
“I felt like I was still strong, but you can’t argue with going to our bullpen,” Lackey said.
Chacon gave up two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“I get nervous, I’m human,” Chacon said. “When I get out on the mound, that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m in control and nobody can bother me.”
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