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Heartbreaker puts Halos down 2-0 in ALCS
Halos drop heartbreaker
By Lyle Spencer
NEW YORK -- Opportunity lost.
The Angels made mistakes that cost them, in the field and on the mound, but their sinking feeling late Saturday night was centered on the offense's inability to produce with repeated chances to send the American League Championship Series to the West Coast dead even.
In the aftermath of a 4-3 loss in 13 innings that lifted the Yankees to a commanding two games to none lead, the Angels refused to pin blame on second baseman Maicer Izturis or closer Brian Fuentes and instead focused on an attack that fizzled in pressure situations after sizzling all year.
"It shouldn't have come down to that," Chone Figgins said when asked about the wild throw by Izturis resulting in the winning run scored by Jerry Hairston Jr. "We had too many opportunities that got away from us. That's why we lost."
The team that led the Majors in hitting with runners in scoring position at .297 was 3-for-15. The Angels stranded 16 runners, including two each in the 11th, 12th and 13th.
"We got guys on base, but we didn't get 'em in," said Figgins, whose RBI single in the 11th gave the Angels a lead that lasted as long as it took Alex Rodriguez to send a Fuentes pitch over the wall in right to tie it leading off the bottom half of the inning.
"I was trying to elevate and didn't get it up enough," Fuentes said of the pitch that enabled A-Rod to extend his arms and go the other way. "I felt like I threw the ball really well minus the one pitch. Unfortunately, it cost us the game. I take full responsibility for that."
Following the longest postseason game in franchise history, 5 hours and 10 minutes, Izturis also was willing to take the blame for making a throw from the hole on Melky Cabrera's one-out grounder with runners on first and second that sailed wide of shortstop Erick Aybar covering second.
Figgins tried to pick it up and thought he had a play on Hairston at home but had no shot when he was unable to grip the ball cleanly.
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"I thought I had a shot at him," Figgins said, "but I lost control of the ball. And just like that, it was over."
Izturis had no complaints about a field made less than pristine by persistent rains late in the game into extra innings.
"I was being aggressive, playing the way I always play," Izturis said. "I just didn't make the play, and it's sad that the run scored and we lost the game."
In Figgins' mind, the defeat belonged to an offense that was unable to produce more than three runs with eight hits and seven walks.
"A loss is a loss, any way you cut it," Figgins said. "What happened to Izzy, that was just one of those freak things. But not getting big hits, that was what hurt us. That's not us."
Cleanup man Vladimir Guerrero was left feeling especially empty after stranding eight runners -- one in the first inning, two in the fifth, three in the seventh and two in the 13th.
Hairston's pinch-hit single started the decisive rally against Ervin Santana, making his first relief appearance since 2007. Starter Joe Saunders had given the Angels seven strong innings, yielding two runs, and Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver kept the Yanks off the scoreboard until A-Rod unloaded.
Hairston was bunted to second by Brett Gardner and, following an intentional walk to Robinson Cano, came racing around to score when Izturis -- who committed two errors in 296 chances at second this season -- pivoted and missed his target at second.
"I think he was trying to make a little too much of that play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You're not going to turn two. If we get an out on any base, we're in good shape. It's a way out of the inning.
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"I think he just reacted. ... But obviously, in that situation, the force isn't really an advantage. If it's another time of the game, it might be. But you just want to get an out there. Izzy just tried to do too much."
Santana had worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 12th, retiring A-Rod on a fly ball after David Robertson, the seventh New York reliever, had left two runners stranded when he struck out Gary Matthews Jr. in the top half.
Robertson left two more stranded in the 13th, retiring Guerrero on a grounder to end the threat after Cano's second error had opened the door.
The Angels had taken the lead in the top half of the 11th when Figgins, ending an 0-for-18 postseason drought, singled home Matthews, who'd walked leading off against Alfredo Aceves.
Saunders kept the Yankees silent after Derek Jeter's solo homer in the third had handed A.J. Burnett a 2-0 lead.
Burnett had limited the Angels to one runner in scoring position -- Torii Hunter with a two-out double in the first -- before they rallied to draw even with a pair of fifth-inning runs.
Izturis opened the inning with a ground-rule double to right. With one out, Aybar slapped an RBI single through the middle. After Aybar stole second, Figgins was hit by a pitch. After Hunter walked, Burnett's wild pitch to Guerrero allowed Aybar to score with the tying run.
Guerrero then grounded out to leave two men in scoring position.
Burnett departed with one out in the seventh after second baseman Robinson Cano's error on Aybar's grounder. Phil Coke walked Figgins and struck out Bobby Abreu, bringing on Joba Chamberlain to face Hunter, whose infield hit loaded the bases.
Falling behind, 0-2, in the count, Guerrero went down swinging on a breaking ball to leave the bases loaded.
"We're fortunate to come out on top in this game, because it was a great game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And there were some miscues. Fortunately we were on the right side of it."
Jeter's milestone homer came after Cano's two-out triple in the second to the right-center gap had cashed in Nick Swisher after his walk.
Going the other way, in his familiar fashion, Jeter launched his second homer of this postseason and 19th of his career, moving him into third place on the all-time list behind Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22).
Saunders escaped a big jam in the fifth after successive singles by Cabrera and Jose Molina. Saunders started a double play on Jeter's grounder and struck out Johnny Damon with a fastball to shut down the threat.
Another double play, started by Kendry Morales at first, got Saunders out of the sixth after a throwing error by Figgins. A third double play in three innings, started by Izturis at second, erased pinch-runner Gardner after Swisher's leadoff single in the seventh.
Saunders, who walked one and yielded six hits while striking out seven, fanned Cabrera to keep the game even at 2.
"It's hard to believe we lost, after the way we played tonight, the way we battled our brains out," Saunders said. "It's tough to not get that big hit when we needed it. Obviously, it's deflating."
Peerless Mariano Rivera delivered seven outs of relief, coming on to shut down a two-on disturbance by retiring Aybar in the eighth.
Rivera then kept the Angels scoreless in the ninth and 10th.
Game 3 arrives on Monday after in Anaheim, the Angels needing to take two out of three at home to bring the show back to the Big Apple.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.