Halos not making excuses for sloppy D
Angels ready to move on after errors prove key in losses
ANAHEIM -- After setting the franchise record for fewest errors in a season with just 85 errors in 162 games in 2009, the Angels' defense was considered one of the club's biggest strengths heading into the postseason.
And it showed in the American League Division Series in a three-game sweep against the Red Sox, with several marquee defensive plays made by the Angels throughout the series while only committing one error that came on a catcher's interference call in Game 1.
But that great defense suddenly deserted the Angels in the first two games of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees, as the Halos made five costly errors, and as a result, currently find themselves in a 2-0 hole heading into Game 3 (1:3 p.m. PT on FOX) at Angel Stadium on Monday.
"We're beating ourselves," said center fielder Torii Hunter, who made an uncharacteristic error in Game 1 that led to a run. "We're playing great games, and then right when we make a mistake, they take advantage of it. They're a veteran team and they don't make many mistakes, so you have to minimize yours. And we're not doing that right now."
The Yankees certainly capitalized on those miscues in Game 1 with all three errors coming in innings in which New York scored either directly or indirectly because of an error.
In the first inning alone, left fielder Juan Rivera missed the cutoff man and gave the Yankees runners at second and third, and New York later scored a run on a popup that fell between Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins in the infield that wasn't ruled an error because no one touched it. Hunter then booted a ball in the sixth inning in center field to score a runner from second after John Lackey threw the ball away on a pickoff play.
And in Game 2, the Angels got away with one miscue that didn't lead to a run on a throwing error by Figgins made in the sixth, but in the biggest play of the game, Maicer Izturis made an errant throw to second base that scored the winning run for the Yankees in the 13th inning.
So while the Angels are aware that the errors have been costly, they're ready to move on now, especially because they'll be back at Angel Stadium for what they hope will be three games.
"We made a couple errors that lost the game, but you can't keep that in your mind," right fielder Bobby Abreu said. "It's part of the game. You have to forget about it and focus on what we have to do."
The Angels have the weather on their side now, as it was cold and rainy in New York and it's expected to be sunny and warm in Anaheim for Game 3.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't want to make excuses for his team's sloppy defensive play, but did note that the Yankees made three errors themselves in Game 3, including two fielding errors by second baseman Robinson Cano and another by shortstop Derek Jeter.
"A lot of infielders had problems on the defensive side," Scioscia said. "You know, Cano, Derek Jeter ... there were some plays that were kind of routine that I'm sure the weather influenced some things that happened with those guys."
Hunter agreed with Scioscia's assertion that the weather did play a role in some of the miscues, but also didn't want to make excuses either.
"I'm sure some guys were cold," Hunter said. "It was freezing. But you can't use that as an excuse, because the other team is cold, too. I saw Jeter, and he's been there for years, and he was freezing. And he still went out there and played. He brushed [his eighth-inning fielding error] off and they still won."
Hunter was also honest in saying that sometimes playing the Yankees in the postseason at Yankee Stadium can be tough mentally, especially for younger players without much experience.
"You can let that history get in your mind, the payroll, the stadium and the fans and everything," Hunter said. "You can try to do too much sometimes. But you just have to block that out and play your game. You have to just do what you're doing of capable of doing."
The key for the rest of the series, Hunter says, is just for the team to relax and play the same way they played all season to get to this point.
"We need to calm down a little bit and have some fun," Hunter said. "Now the cold weather is no excuse, so we'll see what happens."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.