Angels dominate Yanks

The Angels are in a dogfight for the AL West and wild card, and so far the Yankees haven't slowed them down.

Originally Published: August 22, 2004
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

Yankees Angels

Big Series: Anaheim (70-54) at the Yankees (76-47).

Big Wipeout: The Angels completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, edging New York 4-3 on Sunday. Anaheim held New York to four runs in the series, and the Angels are one of the AL's hottest teams, with 21 wins in their last 30 games as they push for a playoff spot. The Angels moved within a half-game of first place in the AL West and are one game back in the AL wild-card race.

Big Boss: The Yankees may hear from a certain impatient owner on Monday. Facing two contending teams in their past two series, the Yankees were nearly swept by Minnesota and then were dominated by the Angels. This is not what George Steinbrenner wanted to see for his $183 million team.

 Tom Gordon
Gordon

Big Desperation: Cool, calm and collected Joe Torre knows what's coming whenever the Yankees go into a tailspin -- a Steinbrenner eruption -- and he tends to manage with more desperation in times like these. On Sunday, setup man Tom Gordon entered the game with the Yankees trailing 4-2, and closer Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth inning with the Yankees down a run. On Saturday, Gordon warmed up with the Yankees down four runs.

Big Thought: The Red Sox have won six straight games; the Yankees have lost six of seven games. Boston has cut the Yankees' lead to 5½ games. The two rivals still have six games to play after mid-September ... Maybe the Red Sox could ... Naaaaah. Forget it. Couldn't happen.

Big Road Warriors: Anaheim, a team wealthy in veterans, has the best road record in the AL, at 37-27. That's something to keep in mind during the playoff race, and perhaps into October.

 Bengie Molina
Molina

Big Contact: The Angels pounded out a healthy 36 hits in the series -- 13 Friday, 13 Saturday and 10 Sunday, including 10 from Bengie Molina -- and that's not a surprise. The Yankees' rotation is made of much different stuff than in years past. With Roger Clemens, David Cone and even Andy Pettitte at times, the Yankees had starters who could ring up strikeouts. This season -- and in this postseason -- opponents can feel pretty sure they won't be overpowered. The New York staff is averaging 6.35 strikeouts per nine innings, its lowest ratio since 1994. Kevin Brown is probably the most dominant of all the Yankees' starters this season in his stuff, and he gave up eight hits and four runs in seven innings Sunday.

Big Boo-birds: Alex Rodriguez struck out in the eighth and heard a healthy measure of boos as he returned to the dugout.

Big Reflection: These two teams are similar: good bullpens, good offenses, suspect starting pitching, some veterans with postseason experience. If Anaheim wins the wild card, the Angels would face the Yankees in the first round.

Big Flop: Esteban Loaiza struggled again for the Yankees, surrendering four runs in three-plus innings Saturday. On his way off the mound, he was booed heavily -- not a surprise, considering that he complained about the Yankee Stadium fans after his last start. Torre did not give Loaiza a chance to pitch out of a fourth-inning Anaheim rally, a sure sign that his confidence in Loaiza is diminishing. The Yankees have had talks with the Rangers about Loaiza, but Steinbrenner might be reluctant to trade the pitcher to a team that could face New York in the postseason; it's more likely Loaiza will get buried on the Yankee staff because the Yankees have five other starters in place.

Big Trade Crumbles: While the Yankees looked for ways to settle their rotation last week, they talked about a possible trade with San Diego. The Yankees would've dealt Jon Lieber and Kenny Lofton to the Padres for David Wells -- yes, the Boomer again -- and center fielder Jay Payton. Somehow, Wells managed to slip past Boston on the waiver wire. But the deal fell apart; Wells' early exit from Game 5 of the World Series last year may have tempered the Yankees' enthusiasm for Boomer, Part III.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," was released Aug. 17, and can be ordered through HarperCollins.com.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine