10/26/09 2:50 AM ET
Disappointed Angels move on
Club left to lament 'ifs' in wake of season-ending loss
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
In the five stages of grief, Los Angeles had quickly moved beyond denial, anger and bargaining, and had settled into depression and, eventually, acceptance."That's a good team over there. We battled," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "They beat us fair and square. But it's frustrating right now." The Angels' frustration derives first from the end of a memorable and melancholy season -- one that saw them overcome the loss of a teammate to advance their furthest in the postseason since 2005. But there also exists the lingering thought that perhaps Los Angeles didn't play its best in these last six games -- a thought provoked by the unfathomable eight under the column marked "E" on the series box score. Following a season in which they set a franchise record for fewest errors with 85, the Angels seemingly lost the ability to play a clean game on the infield, committing those eight errors at inopportune times. The tone was set from the opening inning of Game 1, when Juan Rivera made a throwing error and Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins allowed a popup to drop just beyond the infield dirt. Two of the Yankees' four runs that night were unearned, as was the winning run in the 13th inning of Game 2. It was only fitting, then, when the Angels closed the series with two errors in their last defensive inning, both on sacrifice bunts.
"I would have laughed in your face," pitcher Joe Saunders answered when asked if he thought his team were capable of so many errors in the series. "We've been so good defensively all season, and it's one of those things where once the flood starts, it's hard to stop."Compounding the problem was the Yankees' efficiency in turning those Angels E's into Yankees R's. New York scored in five of the six innings in which the Angels committed an error, and it's no coincidence that Los Angeles' two wins in the series came in its two errorless games. "At times we played good baseball," manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times we shot ourselves in the foot. The Yankees are a team you can't give extra outs to. We did it in a couple of games, and obviously it cost us." The Angels also lamented their lack of opportunities on offense, starting with Figgins, their leadoff man. After going 0-for-12 in their AL Division Series sweep of Boston, the third baseman fared little better in the ALCS, collecting just three hits in 23 at-bats. Figgins' partner in crime at the top of the order, Bobby Abreu, finished the series 4-for-25. Figgins' postseason was encapsulated in the sixth inning of Game 6, when he laid a good bunt down the first-base line -- only to run into it on his way down the line for an out. "It was the way things went for me," Figgins said. "I just couldn't get anything going." With neither Figgins nor Abreu reaching base with any regularity, the Angels weren't able to show off their speed on the basepaths. They finished the series with just four stolen bases, and only one of those thefts led to a run. In fact, it was the Yankees who played excellent defense, who took the extra base, and who took advantage of the mistakes of their opposition. "Looking back, we didn't play Angel-style baseball," Hunter said. "We might have played one game, two games the Angels way. We just got away from that a little bit, and they capitalized on all our mistakes." With all that said, the Angels didn't keep their heads down for long. Despite their defensive miscues and offensive lethargy, they pushed the 103-win Yankees to six games. And three of their four losses came down to the wire. "We came here, played a great Yankees team, and played those guys well," Hunter said. "Some of the best games I've ever played in my career, and I'm pretty sure a lot of guys over here played some of the best games they've ever played. It's frustrating, but at the same time we've got nothing to hang our heads low."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.