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Press Row: Heroes and goats

Heroes and goats

Heroes and goats do go back a ways, don't they?

On Monday night, the guy who was supposed to get it done for the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, didn't. And a little-known 22-year-old, Ervin Santana, stepped in from the shadows to lead the Angels to a 5-3 victory over the Yankees, closing out their Division Series and allowing the Halos to advance to the American League Championship Series against the White Sox.

Scribes covering the game seemed to favor examining Rodriguez's frustrations or Santana's heroics.

Jack Curry of the New York Times wrote:

"There was nothing Alex Rodriguez could say to change what had happened against the Los Angeles Angels and nothing he could do anymore about the five games that had just slipped in and out of his baseball career like a recurring nightmare.

"Was that the $252 million man at third base for the Yankees? Was that the player who is supposed to be one of the best in baseball? Could that have been the powerful Rodriguez slipping and sliding through another October?"

Newsday staff correspondent Anthony Rieber wrote:

"After it was over, Alex Rodriguez was as tough on himself as the Angels were on him in the American League Division Series.

"'I played great baseball all year and I played like a dog the last five days,' A-Rod said following the Yankees' 5-3 loss in last night's deciding Game 5 at Angel Stadium.

Rodriguez may win the AL MVP after his 48-homer season, but in the coming days he will likely be the most excoriated Yankee.

"Rodriguez has yet to live down the perception that he shrinks in the biggest moments, and his performance in this series will only fuel that idea.

He batted 2-for-15 (.133) with no home runs, no runs batted in, no clutch hits, no big moment."

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times picked up on the Santana angle when he wrote:

"Monday, right-hander Ervin Santana, a picture of poise on a tension-filled fall evening, replaced injured starter Bartolo Colon in the second inning. He allowed three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 remarkably calm innings to become the Angels' second rookie to win a decisive playoff game, joining John Lackey, who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series."

Joe Haakenson of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote:

"Biggest game of his life, biggest game of the Angels' season, and 22-year-old Ervin Santana stood on the mound before thousands at Angel Stadium and millions watching on television and ... smiled from ear to ear.

"The only thing standing in his way from becoming an instant Angels legend was the New York Yankees, who know a thing or two about postseason success.

"Whereas the Angels' best hitter (Vladimir Guerrero) did not drive in a run in the entire series, and their best pitcher (Bartolo Colon) did not get a victory, it was their rookie from the Dominican Republic who stared into the eyes of Yankees stars like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, etc., and laughed all the way to a 5-3 Angels victory in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, sending them to the AL Championship Series against the White Sox beginning tonight in Chicago.

"Santana took center stage when Colon had to leave the game one batter into the second inning because of an inflamed right shoulder. Colon, the leading candidate to win the Cy Young Award, has been bothered by a sore back the past few weeks, but lasted only 23 pitches before leaving the game and the Angels' season in the hands of a skinny pitcher who began the season at Double-A Arkansas.

"Santana didn't blink. About to begin the fourth inning, he ran out to the mound, looked around and flashed a big, toothy grin. Why?

"'Nobody said anything,' Santana said. 'I was just happy. That's it.'

"Santana gave up three runs and five hits in 5 innings, and most importantly got to the seventh inning with a lead to give to the bullpen."

And Joe Resnick of The Associated Press wrote:

"Ervin Santana didn't have time to get nervous.

"The Los Angeles Angels rookie, relegated to the bullpen for the AL division series because of a four-man rotation, made his postseason debut in the second inning Monday night after Bartolo Colon left with an injured shoulder.

"'We didn't have a lot of options,' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. 'We had a lot of confidence in Erv. Ervin Santana is the story for us.'

"The 22-year-old Dominican right-hander pitched 5 1/3 impressive innings in a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees that put the Angels into the AL Championship Series against the Chicago White Sox.

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"'I don't have to be nervous. It's a baseball game,' said Santana, who was 12-8 with a 4.65 ERA in 23 regular-season starts and pitched a five-hit shutout to beat the White Sox in his second big league outing. 'I've heard that question the whole season.' "

But Angels-Yankees wasn't all about Rodriguez and Santana.

Sam Borden of the New York Daily News painted a portrait of the helplessness associated with being eliminated when he wrote:

"A row of Yankees hung over the dugout railing in the ninth inning last night, chins on hands, eyes staring blankly at home plate in search of the hit that never came.

"This was how it would finish. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield all in a row, hopeless and helpless as their season slipped away.

"The ending came when Hideki Matsui grounded out at 11:45 p.m. Eastern time -- exactly 190 days, three hours and 34 minutes after it began on a cold, crisp night at the Stadium. The Yankees were on the railing then, too, watching Randy Johnson fire the first pitch of the season under a sky full of promise and potential.

"But last night there was only sorrow and sadness. As soon as the fireworks exploded and the Angels burst onto the field to celebrate their 5-3 victory in the decisive game of this AL Division Series, the Yankees turned away as if the bright lights had suddenly been shined directly into their pupils.

"Three years ago, they stayed and watched the Angels party; on this night, it hurt too much."

And George King of The New York Post had to get George Steinbrenner into the story when he wrote:

"George Steinbrenner was wrong when he said Game 5 was up to Joe Torre. Really, it was on Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Mike Mussina, and the trio wasn't up to the challenge last night at Angel Stadium, where the Yankees' season ended far short of the World Series title demanded by The Boss."

Bill Chastain 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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