10/18/09 9:18 PM ET
Home cooking could revive Angels
Comforts of SoCal needed after getting burned in Bronx
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Sure, they face an 0-2 deficit to the Yankees in this American League Championship Series. But the way the Angels look at it, their quality of play could be about to change every bit as drastically as the bone-chilling weather they left behind in the Bronx.
They put away their ski caps and ear flaps and had a Sunday afternoon workout under optimal conditions that couldn't help but improve their state of mind. Now, they hope their team batting average (.154) and fielding percentage (.947) will take equal steps forward, beginning with Monday afternoon's Game 3.
"We're OK, we're OK," Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu said. "You see these guys, nobody is panicking right here. We know we can win, and we can make a comeback. It's only two games. We've got three games here at home, and we've just got to get them back."
The secret for the Angels to get back into this series is to hit their way back. In Game 1, a combination of their shoddy defense and CC Sabathia's complete dominance sunk them early.
But the Angels have to live with the fact that Game 2 was there for them to take, and they couldn't get it done, hitting 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and losing the game on a (gulp) walk-off error. Of course, it never would have come to that if closer Brian Fuentes could have protected an 11th-inning lead, only to hang an 0-2 pitch to Alex Rodriguez, who doesn't miss such gifts.
"We're beating ourselves," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I feel like we're beating ourselves. We're playing great games. Right when we make a mistake, they take advantage of it. They're a veteran team over there. They're not going to make too many mistakes. You have to try to minimize your mistakes and play the game, and that's what we're not doing right now."
One thing the Angels no longer plan on doing is bemoaning all that went wrong the first two games. They are on their turf now, backed by the Rally Monkey and a packed house that should look like a sea of red.
"It feels good," Hunter said of being in his own clubhouse. "I'm pretty sure the Yankees feel good, too. They're warm; everybody's warm. Trust me, there's nothing but positive energy going in here right now and over there, I'm pretty sure."
Most of the Angels took part in the optional workout, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave his team a well-deserved day off back at the team hotel.
Several players took part in a media conference call, but other than that, they had the day to themselves.
But the Yankees don't plan on letting their guard down. It has been nine years since they won a World Series championship, so they aren't about to get complacent, still six wins shy of that goal.
"Every game's important," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "You know, I don't think you ever sit back and say, 'Well, we won two games, so we can relax.' Our whole mind-set this entire year is to try to win every single game we play. You know, that mind-set doesn't change. Therefore, when you're in big games you have the same approach. So we aren't looking at what happened the first two games. In our opinion Game 3 is just as important as the first two."
The Angels will need a strong performance from starter Jered Weaver, who shut down the Red Sox in Game 2 of the AL Division Series. After being fairly well stifled by Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the first two games, the Halos will try to break out against Andy Pettitte, who has 15 career wins in the postseason.
"This is a guy that won't crumble," Hunter said. "He doesn't care about pressure. He's not going to be nervous. He'll try to keep us off-balance. Andy Pettitte, man, look at his record. It's pretty impressive in the postseason. We have to be ready to play. It doesn't get easier, huh?"
Once Hunter was done with his seemingly grim assessment of what the Angels are up against, he started laughing, perhaps symbolizing his team's loose state of mind.
"We still have the inspiration here," Abreu said. "We have guys here who want to win. They've got the heart to go onto the field and show everything they have."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia certainly didn't seem to be lacking any pep on Sunday.
"It comes down to how we're playing the game," Scioscia said. "And you have to carry some confidence whether you're walking into Yankee Stadium or you're walking on your field here. It has to be part of your makeup. Our guys are confident. I don't think they walk on to any field where they don't think they're going to make that play or do what we need to do to try to win a game."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.