The snare appeared closed late in Game 4, when their thunderbolts were already in storage and that Los Angeles bullpen appeared on the scene to do the same to the whole team.
Shawn Chacon's stoically tenacious effort seemed doomed to be remembered only for heightening the end's frustration. Into the sixth, the Yankees were still down, 2-0, to John Lackey's one-hitter, angling hopelessly as his curveballs rolled off the table.
Then a team that is supposed to be too old stopped acting its age and refused for Chacon's guts to have been spilled in vain.
"Shawn Chacon was unbelievable," said Jorge Posada, his catcher. "We had to use the chance Chacon gave us. He pitched brilliantly. He gave us a chance to win."
Posada was principal among the gray Yankees who ran with that chance -- literally. In the two-run seventh that declared that there would be a tomorrow, and it wouldn't be just a Blue Monday, he ordered 34-year-old legs battered by years of squatting to "sprint" from first to third on the game-tying single.
Then he commanded those same legs to "sprint" home for the winning run on a little chopper hit right behind him.
"I'm not fast," said Posada, needlessly, of his daring run as third baseman Chone Figgins fielded Derek Jeter's ball, "but I'm going on contact there. The ball was on the ground, and that gave me a chance to go there.
"I just went for the plate, and the ball got away from Bengie [Molina, the Angels' catcher]."
Molina's sweep tag after short-hopping Figgins' throw may have coincided with Posada's foot coming down on the plate. Angels manager Mike Scioscia briefly argued plate umpire Alfonso Marquez's call.
But the validity of the call on the bang-bang play was almost irrelevant -- in a symbolic sense, not a scoreboard sense -- to Posada's willingness to try it.
Summing up the physical state in which most postseason warriors find themselves, Posada said, "If it doesn't hurt, you haven't played during the season. Adrenaline really takes over."
Posada (Game 2) owns one of three homers in this Series by the Yanks, whose big-blow offense has been quieted by the Angels, who thus have had a chance to profit with their own brand of creative ball.
By Sunday, the Yankees figured out another way, too. Their first run reached base on a walk (Rodriguez in the sixth) and their second on an infield single (Robinson Cano in the seventh), then Posada also walked his way on base before scoring on the 70-foot chopper.
"Here is your small ball," the Bombers-turned-scratchers seemed to be saying to the Angels.
Their three runs were so small, they could have been manufactured by Santa's elves.
"I know there have been some questions about guys not hitting," said New York manager Joe Torre, "but you have to give credit to their pitching."
Sunday, both teams' staffs got credit.
But only the Yankees got the victory.
Sunday, this turned into the postseason that wouldn't die. The Atlanta Braves clung to their postseason life for 18 breathless innings, then the Yankees extended theirs.
Hearing that they may be old was getting too old. Some skeptics made them out to be a team of retirees from the Sunny Hills Rest Home, ready for milk and cookies.
But there was 39-year-old Al Leiter appearing to get Darin Erstad to bounce into an inning-ending double play, and a few minutes later, there was 40-year-old Ruben Sierra delivering a pinch-single for the tying run.
So before getting their milk and cookies, the Yankees enjoyed at least one more night as grumpy old men. Sierra observed a birthday Friday and thus far is hitting .500 as a 40-year-old.
"We saw last year what 25 men mean, what the Red Sox did," Rodriguez said. "The same thing is going for us. We know that every guy on this team is capable of winning a game for us. That is what's happened all summer, and it happened tonight."
So we are in for at least one more night of happenings. Which could also mean two more innings of the very happening Mariano Rivera.
After getting six outs Sunday night, Mo indicated, sure, he'll be ready for six more in 24 hours.
"If I have to go two, I will go two," Rivera said. "I can't stop."
Well, don't expect Torre to stop him. He runs a game for seven innings, waves for Mo, and takes the rest of the night off.
"At that point in time," Torre said, "you stop managing."
Not to imply that Torre has great confidence in Rivera, even with two innings to cross to victory, but simultaneous to "Enter Sandman," he put Bernie Williams in center.
The significance there was that Williams' night had begun as the DH, an accessory the Yankees thus lost.
So the New York manager was betting against a Los Angeles tying rally forcing him to play on shorthanded -- with a lead of all of one run.
Betting? Hey, it was Mariano Rivera, the surest thing in October next to earlier sunsets. Even in Las Vegas, it would have been off the board.