Commentary

Mistakes prove costly for Angels

Originally Published: October 17, 2009
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- When the Los Angeles Angels board their plane in the early-morning hours on Sunday, they may look back at this American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees and wonder how they are down 2-0.

That's because their pitching, once a weakness, has been a strength this postseason, including solid outings from the starters. First John Lackey yielded two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings Friday night, then Joe Saunders -- in just his second career postseason start -- held the Yankees to two runs and six hits in seven innings Saturday night.

In the first two games of the ALCS, Lackey and Saunders have combined for a 2.85 ERA, striking out eight and walking four. Los Angeles' pitching staff overall has produced a 2.21 ERA.

Unfortunately, the Angels' bullpen was not quite as strong Saturday night, and their defense failed them again. Brian Fuentes gave up a solo home run to Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the 11th inning that tied the game at 3, then Ervin Santana took the loss after Maicer Izturis made a throwing error in the 13th to give the Yankees a 4-3 win and 2-0 series advantage.

"It's tough being down 0-2 no matter what," Fuentes said. "It's a good sign that we're pitching well. We've lost some close games. The starters have gone out and done their jobs, and for one reason or another … the little things kill you. The defense and hitting really kind of faltered [in the first two ALCS games]. Against a good team like that, you can't do it."

It was a strange sequence of events in the 13th inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Melky Cabrera hit a grounder to Izturis, who instead of getting the out at first, threw wildly to second and allowed Jerry Hairston to score the winning run.

"I'm not afraid to be aggressive," Izturis said. "It's easy to second-guess after the fact and say I should go to first base, but it's a play that I've made in the past, and [in Game 2] it just didn't happen. You've got to move on."

The errant throw culminated an odd few days for the Angels, normally one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the league. In the first two games of this series, the Angels have committed five errors. Their inconsistent defense coupled with an anemic offense -- which has produced just four runs -- have put them into a 2-0 series hole.

"We did a lot of good things on the ball field [in Game 2]," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, hitting with runners in scoring position wasn't one of them."

The Angels went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 16 men on base Saturday night. Bobby Abreu stranded five men, while Vladimir Guerrero left six. During the first two games of the series, the Angels are 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 21 baserunners.

"The offense carried us most of the season," Lackey said. "You definitely can't point them out because we didn't pitch that well this season, and they're one of the main reasons we got here."

Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said he was not dismayed by the lack of production, especially with the rain creeping in during the later innings of Game 2.

"We just didn't get the big hit, and they weren't getting the big hit, either, and it took an error to score the run to win the game," Hatcher said of his offense, which was one of the best in the league during the regular season. "When you get into the playoffs, this is what you can expect because you're going to be facing good pitching."

Still, at least the Angels were making contact.

"What I liked [in Game 2] is that we had runners on base, and I think if you can keep putting runners on base, you can break it loose," Hatcher said. "Hopefully, we can do that when we get home."

Pitching coach Mike Butcher echoed what many in the Angels' clubhouse were saying: The Angels didn't rebound from mistakes, while the Yankees did.

"They're a good team; they've capitalized on our mistakes," Butcher said. "We definitely had our chances to win both games, really. Mistakes hurt us [Saturday]. Mistakes hurt them as well, and it just seemed like they capitalized on ours."

Butcher said his staff has pitched well, but he understood the challenge ahead. Jered Weaver will pitch Game 3 on Monday against Andy Pettitte, while Scott Kazmir is slated for Game 4, with CC Sabathia likely going for the Yankees.

"We're going back to Anaheim down 0-2," Butcher said, "and we're going to have to crawl and scratch back, one pitch at a time."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. You can reach her at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.