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Momentum shift in store for Game 4?
Momentum shift in store for Game 4?
By Ian Browne
ANAHEIM -- Two extra-inning thrillers in back-to-back fashion has created one compelling American League Championship Series that has turned into a must-watch affair.
When the Yankees and Angels square off for Tuesday night's Game 4, you can only wonder what type of encore -- or dramatic momentum shift -- might be in store.
Johnny Damon's thoughts on the quality of baseball that has been on display in this series?
"Great. This is what baseball is about," said the Yankees' left fielder. "We know the viewing audience is definitely getting their money's worth. These are two very good teams going at it."
The drama will continue for Game 4, when CC Sabathia, who fired a gem in Game 1, takes the ball for New York on three days' rest. Another lefty with good stuff will make his entrance to this series in Scott Kazmir, a key trade acquisition by the Angels in August.
Consider the circumstances that have gotten the series to this point -- the Yankees leading the best-of-seven set 2-1.
The Angels nearly had a win in Game 2, only for closer Brian Fuentes to surrender a game-tying home run to Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the 11th on an 0-2 pitch. The Yankees emerged victorious, thanks to a walk-off error by Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the 11th.
So they came home reeling, the Angels did, trailing the series, 2-0. Not only that, but the Yankees, backed by three early solo home runs (with a fourth to be added later), bolted out to a three-run lead by the fifth inning of Game 3.
Could it be that the Yankees were going to put a stranglehold on the series and go up 3-0?
Elapsed time through three games of the ALCS, dating back to 1985
After all kinds of riveting action, it was the Angels walking off with a 5-4 win, riding a double by Jeff Mathis that scored Howard Kendrick from first.
"It's a booster," said Angels center fielder Torii Hunter. "It's a momentum booster. We're going to go out there and keep playing. We feel good. It's the way we play games. We never give up."
Neither team has, which explains the fact that Game 2 took five hours and 10 minutes to play, followed by the riveting four hours and 21 minutes that Monday's Game 3 entailed. In fact, the 12 hours and 49 minutes played is the longest total elapsed time after three ALCS games.
"You would anticipate the games being close," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "They have a great team over there. We know it's going to be a challenge. You'd like to get things over in nine innings, but it doesn't always work out that way."
It is the first time there have been back-to-back extra-inning games in LCS play since the Red Sox won a pair of them against the Yankees in Games 4 and 5 in 2004.
Boston won that series, despite losing the first three games. The Yankees have no interest in watching another team come back on them this year.
"We'd much rather be up 3-0," Damon said. "Missed opportunities. In the playoffs, momentum can definitely swing. Hopefully we can stop it tomorrow with a big win."
They will need some big swings.
After Game 2, all the talk was about the Angels' inability to hit with runners in scoring position.
But over the past two games, the Yankees are 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
"So that means we're due. How about that? We're due," said Jeter.
Meanwhile, the Angels broke out in Game 3 with several big hits, leaving the likes of Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu feeling far better about themselves entering Tuesday.
"Offensively, we know what we have to do," said Rodriguez. "We chased a lot of balls out of the zone today. As a team, we have to focus on hitting strikes. We know that in a series like this and games like [the past two], those opportunities go back and forth. The good news about [Tuesday] is that it's another game."
And one can only wonder what it has in store.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.