The Angels knew they wouldn't be able to outslug the Yankees in their first-round playoff series, but they hoped to use their speed and aggressiveness and manufacture runs.
It's a problematic approach if there is a dearth of baserunners and, with their seven hits being scattered throughout nine innings Tuesday, there was little from which to build and it resulted in a 4-2 loss to open the best-of-five American League Division Series.
And while they kept the Yankees in the yard, the Angels couldn't prevent one of baseball's best lineups from putting together a confidence-sapping early rally to open a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Even Bartolo Colon couldn't deliver a win, so now the Angels find themselves down in a short series and will be looking for a way to generate some offense beginning with Game 2 here on Wednesday night. Counting their early exit from the playoffs a year ago, Tuesday was the Angels' fourth straight loss in the postseason and the fifth consecutive playoff series they've opened with a loss.
"This is a team that is always aggressive, on the bases and at the plate, but they took a lot out of us tonight," said shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who singled in the first inning. "They took the momentum and we couldn't get it back."
The Angels' top five hitters went 3-for-19, managing just three singles, and had only three at-bats with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-3. Darin Erstad's one-out RBI single in the ninth and Bengie Molina's seventh-inning homer made the final score appear closer than the game actually was.
The Angels got more production from the bottom end than the top, with Juan Rivera going 2-for-3 on the night and Steve Finley hitting a double. But the offense that took the field Tuesday looked more like the lineup that struggled in several spots during the regular season and not the one that got the timely hits down the stretch when they finished with 12 wins in their last 14 games.
"Early runs are big in this series. They jumped on us early and they pitched well after that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're going to have to do a better job offensively."
Taking the hill Tuesday was the club ace, and Colon looked the part while getting two quick outs. But the Yankees strung together three successive line singles to right by Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui to load the bases. Robinson Cano then knocked in three runs when he poked a double the opposite way over left fielder Garret Anderson's head and the Yankees opened with a 3-0 lead.
Thinking Cano would not drive the ball to left, the Angels positioned Anderson at a middle depth and the sharply hit liner continued to rise, allowing the left fielder little choice but to reach up and make chase.
"In general, there are not too many left-handed hitters that drive the ball to left in this ballpark," said coach Ron Roenicke, who positions the outfielders. "I'd rather him play for the line drive, but if a guy smokes it and hits it on a line, there is not much you can do."
Colon settled down to record a pair of strikeouts to open the second, but the Yankees once again generated a two-out rally. Derek Jeter flared a base hit to right and Colon then drilled Alex Rodriguez with a pitch, hitting the Yankees third baseman on his left side. Rodriguez fell to the ground in pain, but after a couple of minutes, he went to first.
Giambi followed with an RBI double to right and the Yankees took a 4-0 lead.
"Against any club, particularly a club like the Yankees have, you have to finish innings," Scioscia said. "You have to finish hitters; you have to finish innings. [Colon] started off the first couple of innings really sharp and he was making pitches. He just couldn't put Matsui away and then obviously Cano hit the ball over Anderson's head with two strikes."
Colon (0-1) allowed eight hits on the night while walking one and striking out six to take the loss.
Staring up at an early deficit, what offense the Angels did produce they couldn't translate into runs. Rivera singled to right off Yankees starter Mike Mussina with two out in the second and Finley pulled a double into the right-field corner. Rivera would have scored easily, but the ball hopped the wall for a ground-rule double to hold Rivera at third. Adam Kennedy's fly ball to left ended the inning.
As Colon struggled, Mussina excelled, limiting the Angels to five hits over 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees right-hander had little trouble on the night and was extended in just the second, when the Angels put runners at second and third with two out. Mussina (1-0) did not walk a batter while striking out four to pick up the win, his seventh in 19 career postseason starts.
"He shut us down; he got command of his pitches, every single one of them," Cabrera said. "He's been around for a long time and his command was pretty good tonight."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.