Their best pitcher was on the hill in the decisive fifth game of the American League Division Series, but it looked as if he would not be able to continue.
Colon threw two more pitches and dropped to his knee again, leaving after throwing just 23 pitches because of inflammation in his right shoulder.
But instead of folding at a critical moment, the Angels found their stride. Rookie Ervin Santana took the ball and, despite a shaky beginning, pitched the Angels into the ALCS with 5 1/3 clutch relief innings and a 5-3 win to eliminate the Yankees.
"It's a terrific achievement for us right now and hopefully it is one rung up the ladder," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But I'd like to congratulate the Yankees on an incredible season because we had our hands full in every aspect of the game."
Waiting in Chicago on Tuesday now, and less than 24 hours from the final out here, are the White Sox, who clinched a spot in the ALCS last Friday by sweeping Boston.
Right-hander Paul Byrd will start Game 1 for the Angels, who will be making their second appearance in the ALCS in the last four years. Right-hander Jose Contreras will start for Chicago.
Garret Anderson homered Monday and drove in two runs while Adam Kennedy tripled and drove in a pair as the Angels won their fourth straight postseason clincher at home, dating to the 2002 playoffs.
"That team was great last year," said Orlando Cabrera, who was a member of the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox team that eliminated the Angels. "These guys right here are gamers."
And wearing that title capably Monday was Santana.
Colon left in the top of the second inning with a 3-2 count on leadoff batter Robinson Cano. The right-hander, who has been bothered by a sore lower back for over a month, was pitching on an extra day of rest and making his second start of the series. He was the loser in Game 1.
Santana entered in the second and struggled early with his command, allowing two quick runs, but settled down and did not allow another run until Derek Jeter led off the seventh with a homer.
Santana (1-0) allowed three runs on five hits and two walks overall to pick up the win while the bullpen overcame Sunday's Game 4 misstep. Kelvim Escobar tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings and Francisco Rodriguez cleaned up with another 1 1/3 innings for his second save of the series. Yankees starter Mike Mussina (1-1) allowed five runs on six hits and a walk over 2 2/3 innings to take the loss.
"It was great to see him step up and make pitches," pitching coach Bud Black said of Santana, who hadn't pitched since the final day of the regular season, Oct. 2. "Once he got through the second inning with them only scoring two runs, he was fine. He was able to minimize the damage. I saw a change in his expression when I went out to visit him during that inning. I hadn't seen that before. But he found his composure and he settled down after that."
The 22-year-old right-hander knew before the game started that he very well might log some significant innings against the Yankees on Monday. With Colon's bad back and the fact the Angels faced elimination from the playoffs, every pitcher except John Lackey (Sunday's starter) and Jarrod Washburn (strep throat) was available.
Santana mentally prepared in the bullpen and gained confidence from his two wins over the Yankees in the regular season.
"I had to be ready for whatever," Santana said. "They are superstars over there, but I knew what I could do against them and that filled me with a lot of confidence that I could go out and do it again."
After Colon left the game, Santana finished Cano's at-bat with a walk that was charged to Colon. Cano was caught stealing, but Santana walked Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. Bubba Crosby then singled to right to score Williams and Jeter followed with a sac fly to right and the Yankees led, 2-0.
But after finally gaining his rhythm, Santana settled into a groove and the offense provided him with some runs.
"I never had a doubt in my mind that he would be able to go out and pitch like that," catcher Bengie Molina said. "All of our guys have been going out and doing it all year."
Alex Rodriguez, who reached base when he was hit by a pitch from Santana in the fifth, left a runner in scoring position in the second inning when the Yankees could have taken control. But he tipped his cap to the Angels rookie.
"Especially with a young pitcher like Santana, I felt like if we could have delivered the knockout blow, it could have been a long night for them," said Rodriguez, who went 2-for-15 in the series. "He got into a rhythm and started pitching with a lot of confidence."
The Angels took the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Anderson led off with a shot off Mussina and Molina followed with a single to center. Darin Erstad struck out and Juan Rivera popped out to second, but Steve Finley walked and Kennedy tripled to right-center on a bizarre play.
Crosby and Gary Sheffield collided at the warning track and the ball kicked away as Molina and Finley both scored to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
The Angels extended their lead in the third when Cabrera singled to left and Vladimir Guerrero blooped a single to shallow right-center, advancing Cabrera to third. Anderson lifted a sac fly to center to score Cabrera and, after Guerrero took third on Molina's single to right, Erstad hit a chopper to first. But Jason Giambi's throw home was late, allowing Guerrero to score and the Angels led, 5-2.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.