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Heavyweight teams trade big blows

Singer: Heavyweight teams trade big blows

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NEW YORK -- October baseball isn't for adhering to summer-long storylines, but for twisting plots like a funnel cake. The postseason is novelty, the unexpected and the unforeseen.

It is a night like Friday's in the Bronx, which began wet and ended up wonderfully wild.

Baseball games aren't scripted. But whatever the treatment was for Game 3 of the Division Series, the combatants didn't even come close to it in the Angels' ad-libbed 11-7 win over the Yankees.

According to the judges' cards, the Angels are ahead in this heavyweight bout, 2 to 1.

"Two tough teams. They're not going to quit, and neither are we," said Darin Erstad, one of three left jabs the Angels used to kayo New York's big timber.

Not that the first time the Yankees went down, they stayed down. Both teams' resiliency left an indelible impression after four hours of ebb and flow.

Oh, nothing much happened. The Angels long-balled Randy Johnson for five quick runs. The Yankees zoomed from a 5-0 deficit into a 6-5 lead before you could say "Rudolph Giuliani." The Angels got their second wind and knocked out the Yanks.

Routine, everyday stuff.

This was a game neither team should have won. Their Division Series should still be tied 1-1, with an asterisk.

The Yankees couldn't win after their Big Unit weaved the Big Egg Basket. Not a goose egg in the bunch.

Not only did the Angels dismiss him in three innings and five runs, but most of the damage was done from the left side of the plate. Against the 6-foot-10 left-hander, that's normally the dark side.

But Garret Anderson delivered the big, early blow with a three-run homer in the first. He later added a triple. Adam Kennedy had a single, Erstad a double.

Since July, Johnson had allowed a total of four hits to left-handed batters. And here were the Angels lefties, hitting for the cycle against him.

Did someone figure him out and share the secret?

"Well, it's not like we sit down and have a talk about what we're going to do," Erstad said. "The big thing against him is, you can't fall behind in the count, or he'll put you away."

The Angels couldn't win after squandering a big early-game lead and falling into a mid-game hole.

That could be a sign that this simply will not be your night. In your mind, you could throw your hands up in frustration and resignation. When you have men on first and third with none out in the fifth and your chance to put the game away vanishes on Robinson Cano's no-look double play, you might want to call it a night.

Not this night. This test of relentless wills was destined to belong to the team with the last cocked fist.

That attitude can be traced to the teams' mutual familiarity with the territory. They've literally been here before. Unlike some postseason novices who can be frazzled by the "short-series sermon," which preaches urgency attached to every act, these guys know that nothing is decided in a flash.

"The playoff experience makes you realize that momentum switches pitch to pitch, inning to inning," said Mike Scioscia, the Angels manager. "It's always swinging back and forth."

The Angels did plenty of that, swinging. They collected 19 hits, seven of them for extra bases. The only Small ball seen this night with the Angels at bat was when Aaron Small came in to pitch to them.

Yet the undeniably biggest blow came in the first. Anderson's home run soared into the right-center bleachers as such a personal affront to Johnson -- who had allowed only two prior homers to lefties all season -- that it lingered as pivotal, even after the Yankees erased the lead it had helped build.

"We faced him a couple of times earlier this year and have a good idea of what he's doing out there," Anderson said. "We took advantage of some pitches he left over the plate.

"That's what I do. I look for mistakes out over the plate. I look for mistakes, and tonight I just didn't miss them."

New York manager Joe Torre didn't need to go to the videotape to analyze his ace's problem.

"If you don't make quality pitches, you can't expect good results," Torre said. "Randy just didn't hit his spots."

The sweet spot of the Angels' Louisville Sluggers doesn't count.

By the time Johnson got his first strikeout, he was in a 3-0 hole. Before he had his second, it was 5-0.

Soon as the Yankee Stadium fans got a whiff of what was developing, they fulfilled Johnson's wish by expressing their emotions loudly, though in this instance the emotion was disgust.

A couple of hours after Johnson's night was through, so was the game.

The Angels came sprightly off the field and up the tunnel into their clubhouse, where soon they would be saying all the diplomatic and correct things about being fortunate to chase a great pitcher, about this series being far from over, about how great the Yankees and their city are.

But before their guard went up, they briefly bared their true emotions, and the true magnitude of invading the Bronx and taking this win.

As the notes of Liza Minelli's "New York, New York" -- the "B" side of Frank Sinatra's version, the dirge indicating a Yankees loss -- serenaded the exiting crowd, one by one the Angels burst into their locker room, screaming at the top of their lungs, "Turn that bleep up!"

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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