OK, the Yankees have won the first two games in the AL Championship Series.
Well, sort of won the first two games. Actually what the Yankees did was benefit from some very un-Angelic-type play, and took two gifts, courtesy of the Angels.
“We just need to calm down and play our game,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter told the media covering the ALCS. … We’re beating ourselves. We are playing a great game, and right when we make mistakes, they take advantage of it.”
So now the Angels head to Anaheim Stadium for Game 3 on Monday, needing to win four of the next five games if they plan on advancing to the World Series.
It’s not an easy task.
But it has happened before. It can happen again.
Since the LCS was expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven back in 1985, 20 teams have won the first two games of a series. Only three of those teams have failed to advance to the World Series.
In 1985, the Kansas City Royals rallied to knock off Toronto by winning Games 6 and 7 in the ALCS at Toronto, and St. Louis rallied from losing the first two to win the next four against Los Angeles in the NLCS.
Since then, there’s only been one team that overcame losing the first two games — the Boston Red Sox back in 2004 who actually lost the first three games to the Yankees and then ran off four wins in a row before running off with the World Series.
The Angels win Game 3, in the comfortable confines of their home Monday, and they can start to give the Yankees second thoughts.
There are only five Yankees remaining who took part in that 2004 ALCS, but they are five key players — catcher Jorge Posada, shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, left fielder Hideki Matsui, and closer Mariano Rivera, who blew saves in both Games 4 and 5.
What’s important is that the Angels don’t panic. And that means manager Mike Scioscia, who is known for his steady, calm approach, has to remain steady and calm. The last thing he can afford to do is show signs of uncertainty.
Yes, Vladimir Guerrero is in a funk, and twice failed to deliver with the bases loaded in the Game 2 loss, but he is Vladimir Guerrero. He does have a track record. And he has earned the role of being the fourth place hitter in the Angels lineup.
Dumping him out of the cleanup spot would be akin to the Dodgers skipping Chad Billingsley in their NLCS rotation against Philadelphia, choosing instead of gamble — and lose — with Hideki Kuroda, whose lack of late-season action because of arm problems was apparent in his inability to even get out of the second inning Sunday night at Philadelphia.
The Angels don’t need to create any doubt for themselves. They have plenty of reasons to feel they can win.
It starts with the starting pitchers — Jered Weaver for the Angels and Andy Pettitte for the Yankees.
Weaver is the relative newcomer on the postseason block. He’s in only his third postseason. He’s making only his fourth postseason start. He is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA so far in his postseason career, but all three of those starts have come against Boston.
This is the first time he will face off against the Yankees in October, but he has handled the Yankees fairly well during the regular season in his career. He is 4-2 in seven starts.
Pettitte, meanwhile, is the old hand in the postseason, looking for a 16th victory, which would give him the all-time postseason record. The Angels, however, have given Pettitte a devil of a time in the last two years. He’s not only 0-4 in six starts against the Angles, but he’s allowed 29 earned runs in 33 innings and in four starts at Anaheim Stadium he is 0-3 and has given up 15 earned runs in 22 innings.
Get the picture?
The Angels have to like what they see when they look at what’s ahead of them.
What they have to do is wipe out the image of the first two games of the ALCS, where they were anything but themselves, bumbling in the field and stumbling at the plate.
A team that set a club record with a .285 batting average during the regular season and led the majors with a .297 average with runners in scoring position were a two-game flop at Yankee Stadium. They hit .154 and scored four runs in 22 innings. They were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position — 3-for-12 in the 13-inning loss in Game 3.
A team that committed a franchise fewest 85 regular season errors and ranked third in AL with a .9864 fielding percentage was charged with five errors the first two games, including second baseman Macier Izturis’ game-ending wild throw in Game 2.
The biggest error, however, would be if the Angels start to panic.
It would be if they start trying to juggle what has been a winning formula.
They just need to get back to being the Angels.
That will be more than enough to make them champions.