NEW YORK — The Yankees ended a long, cold and wet night with another walkoff victory. And from the way the first two games against the Angels have gone, they look as if they just might stroll right into the World Series.
The 4-3 win became official shortly after 1 this morning, as Jerry Hairston scored on yet another fielding mistake by the bumbling Angels in the 13th inning.
The victory — after the Angels had taken a 3-2 lead in 11th on the first hit of the postseason by Brandon High product Chone Figgins, and Alex Rodriguez tied it with a leadoff homer in the bottom half — gave the Yankees a two games to none lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.
And it left the Angels to ponder on their long plane ride home how they let both games get away, making mistake after uncharacteristic mistake.
"We're fortunate to come out on top tonight because it was a great game. There were some miscues and we were on the right side of it,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm wiped out right now; I'm sure I'll sleep good on that plane.''
Both teams had multiple opportunities to win it earlier. The Yankees did after pinch-hitter Hairston, the ALCS-record 38th player used, opened the 13th with a single off reliever Ervin Santana.
Brett Gardner bunted him to second and after Robinson Cano was intentionally walked, Melky Cabrera hit a grounder to the right side. Second baseman Maicer Izturis fielded it, pivoted to make the play at second but threw wildly past the base, then third baseman Figgins fumbled the ball as Hairston raced home, ending the 5-hour, 10-minute saga.
"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. ... Izzy tried to do a little too much.''
"I was just being aggressive - that's the way I play,'' Izturis said. "It's sad that it cost us the game.''
The Angels, having wasted repeated chances (they left 16 on and were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position), took the lead in the 11th. Figgins, who had been a seasonlong catalyst and a postseason catastrophe, snapped his 0-for-18 nightmare with a soft single to left that scored Gary Matthews with the go-ahead run.
But that margin didn't last long, as Rodriguez, continuing his October surge, opened the home 11th by knocking closer Brian Fuentes' 0-and-2 pitch just over the rightfield wall, Rodriguez's third homer, and eighth RBI, of the postseason.
"Five (playoff) games, he's hit two game-tying homers in the ninth inning,'' Girardi said. "It's pretty unbelievable what he's done for us so far. I talked about it before the playoffs started that I thought he was in a great place. He's been huge for us.''
Rodriguez, as he has said for weeks, insisted his success - three postseason homers - is just a matter of keeping things simple. "I know you guys are probably looking for something profound,'' Rodriguez said. "I mean, I'm just in a good place. I'm seeing the ball and I'm hitting it. I mean, that's about it.''
After 15 walkoff wins during the season, the Yankees have done it twice more in the playoffs, as they've won all five games thus far.
Weather was again part of the story line, as much for the 47-degree game temperatures (up 2 degrees from Friday's opener in a slight warming trend) as the expected downpour that somehow held off, though a light rain fell over the final innings, forcing between-innings field work by the grounds crew and stirring memories of suspended Game 5 of last year's World Series. Both teams left afterward for sunnier skies, with a workout today and a Monday matinee — 1:13 L.A. time — for Game 3.
There was also some controversy, as the Angels made another mistake, shortstop Erick Aybar straddling — thus not touching — second while trying to turn a 10th-inning double play, and second-base ump Jerry Layne taking the unusual action of calling it.
The Yankees took an early 2-0 lead against left-hander Joe Saunders, getting one in the second when Nick Swisher walked with two outs and Cano, down 0-and-2, followed with a triple to right-center, and the other when Derek Jeter homered to right with one out in the third. Jeter's homer was his 19th in the postseason, breaking a tie with Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for third most all time, trailing Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22).
Since the league championships were expanded to best-of-seven play in 1985, 20 teams have taken 2-0 leads and 17 have advanced to the World Series. (The three who failed were the 2004 Yankees, losing to the Red Sox; 1985 Blue Jays, to the Royals; and 1986 Dodgers, to the Cardinals.)
Scioscia tried to put a positive spin on their predicament.
"We had a lot of opportunities out there. We couldn't get that key hit that might have put the game in a little different light moving forward. We have to get better at that, that's for sure,'' he said "But we're going back home. The momentum in this series can swing in a heartbeat. We're going to go out there and come out and play a good ballgame and grind it out pitch by pitch and start all over.
"But I'm encouraged by what I saw on the field. We saw a lot of good things there. I thought we pitched really well. For the most part we made plays notwithstanding the last play of the game. But we did a lot of good things out there. And hopefully we'll carry them over into Game 3.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NLCS, Game 3: Dodgers at Phillies
8:07 tonight, TBS, 1040 AM. Series tied 1-1
INSIDE: The Phillies' Joe Blanton will get his first postseason start in Game 4 of the NLCS. 3C