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Angels put Yankees on edge

Angels put Yankees on edge

NEW YORK -- Orlando Cabrera doesn't believe in ghosts, at least those that some believe haunt the opposition at Yankee Stadium.

And on Friday, the Angels proved him right when they summoned a little divine intervention of their own to smile in the face of adversity after the Yankees erased a five-run Angels advantage to take the lead.

A punchless Angels offense that played to a draw in Anaheim turned powerful in the very building that has defined offensive prowess by collecting 19 hits and a pair of homers while even sprinkling in a suicide squeeze to record an 11-7 win to take a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five American League Division Series.

Weather permitting, left-hander Jarrod Washburn will start Saturday for the Angels, going for the clincher against Yankees right-hander Shawn Chacon. Rain threatened Friday's game and a light drizzle fell through most of the night, but heavy rain is forecast for Saturday. If the game is called, Game 4 will be here Sunday with Game 5 on Monday in Anaheim, if necessary. The series winner will play the White Sox for the American League pennant.

Once maligned for not having the sticks to match up against a pitcher such as Randy Johnson, the Angels chased the future Hall of Famer in the fourth inning and a host of relievers while putting a scare into the Yankees that the kings of the comeback just may be from California.

"That is what it is all about," said Darin Erstad, who tied the game with a single and scored the go-ahead run when Chone Figgins drove him home in the sixth. "A packed house. That was the loudest crowd I've ever heard in a baseball game. It was so loud it was good. This is what you play for."

Garret Anderson went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer, a triple and five RBIs while Bengie Molina hit his third home run of the series.

"In the first couple of games I thought we pitched well and we got enough runs in Game 2," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Tonight we needed every run we could muster and we shut them down."

One downside occurred in the seventh, when Molina suffered a bruise to his left elbow after he was hit by a pitch from Yankees reliever Tom Gordon. X-rays were negative and the catcher will be re-evaluated Saturday. Jose Molina pinch-ran for his brother and scored on a perfectly executed squeeze by Steve Finley and later added an RBI single.

As good as the offense was, the bullpen was up to the task of not being cowed by the Yankees. Starter Paul Byrd surrendered all but a run of a 5-0 lead and left after 3 2/3 innings. Brendan Donnelly then gave up a pair as the Yankees stepped out in front on Robinson Cano's game-tying double to center that was compounded by a throwing error by Cabrera and a sac fly by Bernie Williams.

But Scot Shields then combined with Kelvim Escobar and Francisco Rodriguez to throw five clutch innings.

Shields (1-0) pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when he allowed a single and walked two batters to pick up the win. Escobar followed with two frames, allowing a solo homer to Derek Jeter after the Angels had built a five-run bulge while Rodriguez cleaned up in the ninth in a non-save situation.

Byrd has referred to Escobar as the team's secret weapon and everyone agrees that having the right-hander in the 'pen makes them nearly impossible to beat with a lead.

"Just having him available to pitch in the seventh inning is huge," Shields said. "He helps us a lot; we can make games even shorter now. He takes pressure off of me and Donnelly. You can't ask for anything more."

The Angels got on the board in the first when Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina both singled with two out. Anderson, dropped to fifth in the batting order, then drilled a 1-1 pitch from Johnson into the right-center fields seats for a three-run shot and his first hit of the series.

In the third, the Angels again struck with two out. Figgins led off the inning with a fly ball to left and Cabrera followed with a double into the right-field corner. After Guerrero grounded to short, Molina hit the first pitch from Johnson just out of reach of left fielder Hideki Matsui and over the fence for a two-run shot and a 5-0 Angels lead.

But the Yankees came back with four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Matsui led off the inning with a homer to left off Byrd while Jorge Posada drove in a run with a groundout and Jeter and Jason Giambi had RBI singles. But with runners on the corners, a catch by Figgins in center on Gary Sheffield's sinking liner ended the inning and may have shaped the eventual outcome.

"That was the play of the game," Erstad said. "If that gets by Figgy and scoots by, who knows how many more runs they score."

After rallying for two runs in the sixth, a couple of insurance runs gave the Angels a three-run lead in the seventh with RBIs on Anderson's single to right and Finley's squeeze bunt. Jose Molina singled home Figgins in the eighth and Anderson followed with his fifth RBI of the night with a single as the Angels extended their lead to 11-6.

"I look for mistakes out over the plate," Anderson said. "I'm not going to hit the great slider. I'm not going to hit the pitches that are borderline pitches off the plate away. I look for mistakes and tonight I just didn't miss them."

Neither starter figured into the decision but the Angels set the tone by getting to Johnson early, hammering the left-hander for five runs on nine hits to end his night just two batters into the fourth inning.

"We don't see who is pitching out there," Bengie Molina said. "All we try to do is look for our pitch no matter who is pitching that day against us and we showed that."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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