'We did what it takes'

Angels eke by with small ball in clincher

ANAHEIM -- These Angels are not a group of prolific sluggers. They're more of a nickel-and-dime-you-to-death bunch that feeds on opportunity.

Case in point: On Monday, in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the power-packed Yankees, they combined for nine hits in 35 at-bats, a less-than-stellar .275 batting average.

But in two innings, the Angels lived up to their small-ball resume, capitalizing on breaks, bounces and timely hitting to score a 5-3 win that sent them to Chicago for the best-of-seven AL Championship Series against the White Sox, which starts Tuesday.

Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera, with a champagne-slicked head and a victory cigar in hand, put it succinctly when he grabbed second baseman Adam Kennedy and said, "Who needs a home run when you can hit a triple with two men on base?"

Cabrera was referring to the pivotal moment in Monday's game, when Kennedy tripled off the wall in right-center field, in between colliding outfielders Bubba Crosby and Gary Sheffield, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

But he could have been referring to the Angels' entire season, when their situational game paid off to the tune of 95 wins and their second straight AL West title.

On Monday, the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Angels starter Bartolo Colon bowed out with an inflamed shoulder and rusty rookie Ervin Santana gave up three walks, a single and a sacrifice fly.

But Garret Anderson answered quickly in the bottom of the frame off Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina, getting the offense going with a homer into the right-field pavilion.

From there, the Angels' patented little-ball game took over.

Bengie Molina singled, Steve Finley drew a two-out walk three batters later, and Kennedy struck with his gapper.

"We did what it takes," Kennedy said. "We've been doing it all year long. Great teams like the Yankees don't give you many opportunities. You kind of need to jump on them when you get them."

That's what the Angels did in the third inning, ending Mussina's night and effectively putting away the Yankees.

Cabrera led off with a sharp single through the left side of the infield before the bloop-and-break barrage began.

Vladimir Guerrero punched a Texas Leaguer into center field, moving Cabrera to third and leading to Anderson's second RBI of the night on a sacrifice fly. Molina added a dying quail to right that sent Guerrero to third.

Then Darin Erstad hit a tapper up the first-base line that was fielded by Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, but Giambi's throw home was too late to nail Guerrero.

Just like that, the Angels had the lead they needed.

"We have to play like that," Erstad said. "It's tough to beat that team straight up. You're not going to outslug them. You have to cash in when you can."

The Angels didn't do a whole lot of cashing in during various lulls in their offensive game during the regular season. Their team batting average of .270 ranked sixth in the AL, their run total of 761 ranked seventh and they were seventh in home runs with 147.

That led them to push their running game, with Chone Figgins leading the way by pacing the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases. The Angels led the Majors in team steals with 161.

Going into the ALDS, the Yankees were geared up to keep Figgins off the basepaths from the leadoff spot, and they accomplished that for the most part. Figgins hit .143 and didn't steal a base in the five games.

But just like in the regular season, when the Angels had to hit with runners in scoring position, they did.

"We've had our hot spells and our dry spells, but more often than not, we come through in the key situations," general manager Bill Stoneman said.

"That's what you have to do to win championships."

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