- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. | The long night in the cold and rain was bad enough. The blown lead in the 11th inning on an 0-2 fastball to Alex Rodriguez was worse. The mental and physical error by Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the 13th that handed the New York Yankees a victory was downright demoralizing. And then the all-night, cross-country flight back to Southern California was the low point of an absolutely miserable Saturday for the Los Angeles Angels.

Few would have faulted players had they not wanted to show up Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium for an optional workout in advance of Monday’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

The Angels, though, have been resilient all season, overcoming a number of obstacles both on and off the field. So a little jet lag - not to mention a 2-0 series deficit - wasn’t going to stop the majority of manager Mike Scioscia’s roster from reporting to the ballpark Sunday.

“We know this thing can turn in a heartbeat,” Scioscia said. “Momentum in a short series turns pitch-to-pitch or inning-to-inning. For us to come out and play well in Game 3, obviously that’s important. If we win Game 3, we’ve got a different vibe in this whole series, and that’s what we want to create.”

The Angels know they need to forget about the debacle in New York and come through in a must-win ballgame. Yes, the Yankees have blown a 3-0 ALCS lead before, but that’s not a position anyone wants to face.

In the moments following Saturday night’s crushing loss, Los Angeles’ players insisted they would be able to regroup once they arrived back on friendly turf.

“I got this feeling, man,” center fielder Torii Hunter said. “We go home, it’s going to be a different scene. Definitely.”

Certainly the Angels don’t feel like they’ve been dominated by New York in the early portion of this series. Their wounds have been mostly self-inflicted, whether in the form of three errors during a 4-1 Game 1 loss or ill-timed pitches, shoddy throws and inept at-bats with runners in scoring position during the 4-3 Game 2 loss.

“I think there were a lot of positives on that field that our guys did,” Scioscia said. “Unfortunately, there were some negatives that we need to get better at if we’re going to get back in this series and win this series.”

Saturday’s game was particularly disheartening for a Los Angeles club that battled to take a 3-2 lead in the 11th when Chone Figgins snapped an 0-for-18 postseason slump with an RBI single. Needing only three outs from closer Brian Fuentes, whose 48 saves led the majors this season, the Angels instead watched in horror as the southpaw left an 0-2 fastball over the plate to Rodriguez. The Yankees slugger belted it just over the right-field fence to re-tie the game and send the crowd into pandemonium.

Hounded for his past playoff failures, Rodriguez now has clubbed three key home runs in five games this postseason.

“Alex is at that comfort zone,” teammate Johnny Damon said. “He feels like he’s a big part of our team. And that’s great. I hope he continues to swing the bat like he’s been doing so far.”

The final indignity for the Angels came in the 13th, when with runners on first and second and one out, Izturis went deep into the right-side hole of the infield to grab Melky Cabrera’s slow bouncer. Rather than take the sure out at first, Izturis tried to make a spectacular throw to second - but instead fired wide of the bag. Jerry Hairston came sprinting around third and scored the winning run as his teammates mobbed him.

“I was trying to be aggressive, but that’s the way I am,” Izturis said afterward. “I’m not afraid to be aggressive. Sadly, it cost us the game.”

And because of it, the Angels now find themselves in an especially challenging position. It’s tough enough to bounce back from a 2-0 series deficit. It’s even tougher to do it against a squad that has yet to lose this postseason and is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.

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