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Rally has Halos riding high into Bronx

Rally has Halos riding high into Bronx

ANAHEIM -- That figurative mountain Torii Hunter spoke of his team needing to climb is still there, but it has gotten just a little less imposing.

Backed by a cliff-hanging 7-6 victory over the Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday, the Angels still have at least one more baseball game to play. The weather is supposed to be dreary and chilly in New York just like it was for Games 1 and 2 in the Bronx.

Bring it on, say the Angels. This is a cross-country flight they can't wait to take. Playing with ski caps and ear flaps sure beats being on vacation.

"Oh, this is going to be a good trip, and we still have a huge challenge in front of us," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

That 3-1 deficit they once faced in the ALCS is down to a more manageable 3-2.

Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, 28 teams have trailed 3-2. Nine of those teams -- so nearly a third -- have come back to win the series.

Four of those nine conquered the challenge the Angels now face -- winning the final two on the road. The others who pulled off that impressive feat? The 1985 Royals at Toronto, the 1991 Braves at Pittsburgh, the 2003 Marlins at Wrigley Field and, yes, those 2004 Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

"It's tough being down 3-1, but you don't lose confidence," said Hunter. "If you lose confidence, you need to go home. You're in the wrong sport. You just can't lose confidence. Keep playing and play one game at a time. We're down, our backs are against the wall, but the pressure's not on us. It's not on us. I don't feel the pressure. We were down 3-1. Now we're down 3-2. We're just hungry. We smell it right now."

The five Yankees who are left from the 2004 team that couldn't hold a 3-0 lead against the Red Sox will try to avoid letting another team come back on them.

"We've got to go out there and do pretty much the same thing we tried to do today, and that's win a game," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "Unfortunately it didn't happen for us, but we have a lot of confidence in [Andy Pettitte] and in our team, just like I'm sure they do on the other side. We'll go out and play and hopefully we can win."

The Yankees definitely went for it in Game 5. Even down 4-0, they came storming back with a two-out, six-run rally in the top of the seventh.

But the Angels came up with some big answers in a three-run bottom of the seventh.

HOME NOT ALWAYS SWEET
Since the ALCS became a best-of-seven series in 1985, seven teams have taken a 3-2 edge into Game 6 with the home-field advantage. Three of those teams won Game 6 to advance to the World Series, two lost Game 6 but then won Game 7, and two teams lost both Games 6 and 7 at home.
Year Led Trailed Games 6 and 7
2008 TB BOS TB lost 6, won 7
2004 NYY BOS NYY lost both
2003 NYY BOS NYY lost 6, won 7
2000 NYY SEA NYY won 6
1998 NYY CLE NYY won 6
1992 TOR OAK TOR won 6
1985 TOR KC. TOR lost both
"It was an emotional roller coaster," said Hunter. "I was going crazy. I was pumped up. I was upset. Everything out there. But we got it done, and that's all that matters. We came through with a big win. I've got to tell you, my little boy is at home right now, he's probably got gray hair right now. He's only 14 years old."

Pettitte is a lot older than that, and he's pitched countless big games in his career. This will be another one. The Angels counter with their own left-hander in Joe Saunders.

"He knows how to pitch," Hunter said of Pettitte. "He's been on the big stage like 100 times. We're going to have to be ready for him. He knows how to do it. I'm pretty excited about our chances, though."

Having been on the Boston team that turned the tables on the Yankees in 2004, New York left fielder Johnny Damon knows what kind of killer instinct his team will need in its current situation.

"We're definitely disappointed we didn't close it out tonight," said Damon. "We know we play well at home. Hopefully Pettitte can go out there on Saturday and shut them down."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't think he needs to go all Knute Rockne on his team.

"Just continue to play hard and continue to play the way we've been playing all year," Girardi said. "We've bounced back from tough losses all year long, and we'll just continue to do it."

As for the Angels, they will relish each opportunity that comes their way.

"We came back against a great team and live to fight another day," said Angels third baseman Chone Figgins. "We feel great. We have a chance."

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

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