NEW YORK -- Garret Anderson was struggling. The 0-for-the-series kind of struggling. The people-are-wondering-if-you're-healthy kind of struggling. And with left-hander Randy Johnson taking the mound for the Yankees on Friday, Anderson's struggles seemed ready to worsen. In 18 career at-bats against Johnson, Anderson had struck out seven times and managed only three hits.
Anderson stepped to the plate in the first inning with two out, two on and two tons of pressure waiting to be relieved. He took a strike, then a ball and then unloaded his frustrations on Johnson's third pitch, slamming a three-run home run to right-center field. "I look for mistakes out there," 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 hit them." Johnson wasn't shocked Anderson homered. He said that despite the hitter's lack of success against him, Anderson had several good at-bats during Johnson's two regular-season starts against the Angels. He also grudgingly gave Anderson credit for hitting a good pitch. "If it was any lower it would have been on the ground," Johnson said. "[But] if you look at a typical left-hander's swing plane, he can hit the ball down there." The home run was just the beginning for Anderson. The right fielder went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, finishing a double short of the cycle. His five RBIs helped propel the Angels to an 11-7 victory. Anderson tripled with two outs in the third, but was stranded there when Juan Rivera struck out swinging. He flied out leading off the sixth, and stroked RBI singles during rallies in the seventh and eighth to pad the Angels' lead. The performance was redemptive for Anderson, who struggled through the regular season. He batted .283, the lowest average of his career, and hit 17 home runs, the least since his first full year in the Majors (1995). Though he avoided making any trips to the disabled list, Anderson missed eight games this season with a lower back irritation and left knee tendinitis, and played 36 of his 142 games as the designated hitter. Anderson had played at least 140 games in the field each season from 1996-2003. Anderson took some heat for not being able to field Robinson Cano's line-drive, three-run double in Game 1, and manager Mike Scioscia defended him then, saying that Anderson is a good outfielder who hits better when he plays the field. And he stuck with Anderson despite another "O-fer" in Game 2.
"Garret got going," Scioscia said. "We had some guys that we need to get going, and they did."But Scioscia did bump Anderson to fifth in order Friday, a move made to ease the run-producing pressure on his lefty slugger. Anderson said he wasn't aware of the change until after he took batting practice before the game, and wasn't bothered by it, either. "I don't feel pressure playing baseball," Anderson said. "I really don't pay attention to where I hit in the lineup. Obviously, I want to be in the middle of the order because that's where I've been most of my career, but that's the manager's decision." This manager's decision paid off. Anderson came to life and Bengie Molina cleaned up as the fourth hitter, going 2-for-3 with a home run. As Anderson went, so did the Angels offense. A season's worth of struggles forgotten, at least for one night.
Ben Couch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.