Chess Match: Timing relief proves difficult
Angels bit by Lackey removal; Yanks ride Burnett too long
ANAHEIM -- It was a thrilling Game 5 of the American League Championship Series that saw both teams make impressive comebacks. But the Angels were the last team standing on Thursday night, defeating the Yankees, 7-6, to push the series back to New York for Game 6.
Before the Angels finally hung on, both managers were faced with tough decisions throughout the late innings.
Removing the ace
The situation: Angels ace John Lackey had dominated the Yankees for most of the night, taking a shutout into the seventh. But New York finally got it going in the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs, Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate. Lackey had thrown 104 pitches. Teixeira was a .382 hitter lifetime against Lackey, including postseason, with two homers and six RBIs.
The decision: Angels manager Mike Scioscia lifted Lackey and brought on veteran lefty Darren Oliver. Teixeira was 0-for-1 lifetime against Oliver with two walks.
The outcome: Teixeira pummeled a three-run double off the wall in left, setting in motion a six-run inning for the Yankees.
Analysis: "In making that move, I just with my heart said, 'Hey, leave John in.' My head said, 'Let's try to turn Tex around and get out of that inning right there,'" said Scioscia. "I think I just have a lot of confidence in John. He might have had enough to get in there and get Tex out, but I thought to turn him around at that point was the move. Obviously, it didn't work.
Scioscia finds relief from starter
The situation: Instead of letting the Yankees' comeback deflate them, the Angels put together one of their own, coming up with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 7-6 lead.
The decision: For the top of the eighth, Scioscia brought on Jered Weaver, who started Game 3 just three days earlier and is slated to pitch Sunday night's Game 7, if there is one.
The outcome: Weaver mowed through the Yankees in a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out two, including Derek Jeter to end the inning.
Analysis: "It was a hair-pulling experience. They get you up, the nerves kick in a little bit," said Weaver. "After that, you find out that you're going into the game and you try to get in a zone and relax as much as possible."
The situation: Angels closer Brian Fuentes had mowed through Johnny Damon and Teixeira and seemed en route to a fairly painless save in the bottom of the ninth. Up stepped Alex Rodriguez, who has tormented the Angels through this entire series.
The decision: For the second time in the series, Scioscia ordered up an intentional walk of A-Rod with no one on base.
The outcome: The Angels and Fuented survived, barely. Hideki Matsui drew a walk and Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. On a 3-2 pitch, Fuentes at last got Nick Swisher on a popup to end the game and send the series back to New York.
Analysis: "Well, obviously, if they've got some action in front of us, you've got first and second, or a runner at first, we probably would not have [walked him], but in that situation, you just want to keep Alex in the park," Scioscia said. "Obviously, it got a little bit too congested at the end of the game, but, you know, we just felt it was better to take our chances with some of the lefties following him."
Burnett stays in
The situation: The Angels came out firing on all cylinders against Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett, as the first five batters reached base and four runs came across.
The decision: Yankees manager Joe Girardi, rather than getting anyone warmed up, had faith that Burnett could regain his groove.
The outcome: Girardi was absolutely right. Burnett got a key double play off the bat of Juan Rivera to get out of the first with just the four runs. And he kept the Angels off the board until the seventh. The one thing Girardi might have second-guessed himself for was bringing Burnett back out for the seventh. He had to sit on the bench during a lengthy top of the seventh, when the Yankee scored six runs. Burnett gave up a hit and a walk to start the inning and then got the hook.
Analysis: "We talked about [taking him out before the seventh]," said Girardi. "But he was throwing the ball so well."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.