And they couldn’t execute simple throws to first base on bunts in the finale.
There are reasons the Los Angeles Angels just can’t return to the World Series.
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They may be among baseball’s most consistently excellent teams, praised throughout the sport for doing all the little things right.
But that’s during the regular season.
Against the New York Yankees, a team they normally handle quite well, it was gaffes galore. Los Angeles bungled plays large and small throughout the AL championship series, and the Angels‘ season skidded to a halt with a crushing 5-2 loss in Game 6 on Sunday night.
Torii Hunter held his hand over his face for a minute or so when the clubhouse opened before trying to explain what went wrong.
“We didn’t play Angels-style baseball. We might have played one game, two games, the Angels way,” he said. “Every mistake we made, they capitalized on and they scored runs on.”
That Vladimir Guerrero resembled a high school player when he got doubled up at first base on a fly to short right field was only one in a series of fundamental mistakes. When Chone Figgins bunted, he ran into the ball and was out.
Then, after the Angels clawed back within a run, Howie Kendrick and Scott Kazmir turned consecutive eighth-inning bunts into playground farce. Kendrick couldn’t catch an easy throw.
“The mistakes of the game are part of the game,” he said. “They happen.”
It happened on consecutive batters. Kazmir’s 45-foot toss became a parabolic shot put over first base.
“During the middle of the throw I kind of wanted to ease up a little bit,” Kazmir said, “and I ended up airmailing it.”
In the end, when they were dropping to 0-3 in the ALCS in the Bronx, their biggest spark was nowhere to be found: Unfortunately, the Rally Monkey doesn’t make road trips.
“We had to overcome a lot of obstacles this season – death of a teammate, a lot of injuries to key players, and we battled,” Hunter said.
The Angels got past their grief following Nick Adenhart‘s death to win the AL West for the fifth time in six seasons, then they swept Boston in the division series.
But they were outplayed by the Yankees, outscored 33-19 and held to one run in two losses and two runs in another. They batted .236 with just three homers and 18 extra-base hits – five of them doubles by Jeff Mathis, who had a total of eight during the regular season.
Hunter and Bobby Abreu had just two RBIs each. Juan Rivera had none.
“They played good team game,” said Abreu, who left the Yankees to sign with the Angels. “You have to give them credit.”
Instead of setting the table, Figgins hit .130 in the series, going 3 for 23 out of the leadoff spot. Abreu batted .160 (4 for 25) in the No. 2 hole.
“At times we played good baseball. At times we shot ourselves in the foot,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “The Yankees are a team that you can’t give extra outs to. We did it in a couple of games and, obviously, it cost us.”
Figgins, eligible for free agency, might have played his final game with L.A.
“I hope it’s not. I mean that’s yet to be seen,” he said. “I’m just trying to reflect on the good things that happened through the season and worry about that stuff later.”
Los Angeles’ hyped speed on the bases never materialized: The Angels swiped just four bases in the ALCS.
And the defense? After making just 85 errors during the regular season, Los Angeles had eight in six games.
“I would have said no way we would have that many errors,” Hunter said. “Defensively I thought we were sound all season and then we get in the playoffs, things just happened. I don’t know why, I have no idea. It’s probably mental, I’m pretty sure.”
So here’s the bottom line since the Angels beat San Francisco in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series:
-The Angels failed to make the playoffs in 2003 and 2006.
-They lost to Boston in the first round in 2004, 2007 and 2008.
-They lost to the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS in 2005.
There can’t be much satisfaction, even with their recent success. And to get to the World Series, the Angels probably will have to get past the Yankees in the future.
As Gary Matthews Jr. struck out, ending the season, the Angels watched the Yankees celebrate.
“I know they’ve got all those guys locked up for 20 years,” Hunter said. “So it’s going to be a mountain to climb trying to get past those guys.”