A winter of uncertainty ahead with one-fourth of the roster eligible for free agency, the Angels packed their bags on Sunday night and graciously commended their conquerors, the Yankees, who move on to engage the Phillies in the World Series in the afterglow of a 5-2 triumph in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
"We had to overcome a lot of obstacles this season, and we have nothing to hang our heads about," Torii Hunter said. "We had a great season, and I wish the Yankees luck in the World Series. They've got some of my favorite players over there, and I'll be rooting for them. Why not? I'm an American League guy."
The Angels' postseason run came grinding to a halt at Yankee Stadium, where experience and poise separated the AL champion Yankees from the West Coast aspirants.
"The best teacher in any sport or in life is experience," said Joe Saunders, outpitched in the finale by venerable Andy Pettitte. "You can't teach experience. We have a lot of things to build on here."
Pettitte, establishing a record with his 16th postseason win, held the Angels in check for 6 1/3 innings, and the great Mariano Rivera finished the job with two innings to send the Bronx Bombers into their 40th World Series and first since 2003.
A potential slugfest with the Phillies unfolds on Wednesday in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees will gun for their 27th World Series championship.
"They played an incredible series," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They outplayed us, and they deserved to win.
|"It's a bummer we came up short, but any time you get this deep in the playoffs, you're going to run into a great team. Those guys have a great ballclub."|
|-- Jered Weaver|
"So although this stings right now, what our guys accomplished is very, very important. We are going to take that forward and hopefully get better."
Vladimir Guerrero's two-out RBI single got the Angels to within a run at 3-2 in the eighth against Rivera, before the master of the ninth inning slammed the door.
Guerrero, one of six potential free agents on Los Angeles' 25-man roster, drove in Chone Figgins, who'd led off the inning with a single. It was the first postseason earned run allowed by Rivera in his home park since the 2000 World Series against the Mets.
But the Angels' defense unraveled in the eighth, with errors by second baseman Howard Kendrick and pitcher Scott Kazmir on bunt plays leading to two New York insurance runs before Jered Weaver left the bases loaded by striking out Jorge Posada.
"It's a bummer we came up short," said Weaver, a pillar of strength all season in the rotation, "but any time you get this deep in the playoffs, you're going to run into a great team. Those guys have a great ballclub.
"We had some chances to turn it around. It very easily could have been 3-2 in our favor coming into this game, but the chips didn't fall the way we wanted them to."
Champions of the AL West for the third year running, the Angels swept nemesis Boston in the AL Division Series but were unable to solve the Yankees, losing all three of the games in the Bronx while taking two of three in Anaheim.
"I think the biggest difference is we had players play big in the series," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, highlighting the contributions of CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Rivera. "Our starting pitching has been outstanding throughout. Our bullpen has been pretty good throughout. Guys have gotten big hits.
"This was an extremely tough series on us. Mike Scioscia is a manager I've always looked up to and had a chance to play against him when I was younger. The job he does with this team, the Angels, makes it extremely tough on you every day. And we feel fortunate we got a chance to go to the World Series."
Pettitte, making his 38th career postseason start, showed all the right stuff, as Saunders searched for his control in his third postseason outing.
The Angels assumed a lead in the third when blazing Jeff Mathis doubled and scored on Bobby Abreu's two-out single. But Pettitte settled into a groove as Saunders struggled to find his.
Flirting with trouble from the outset -- stranding five runners through three innings -- Saunders finally went too far in the fourth. He lost Robinson Cano leading off and walked him on a full count, then watched slumping Nick Swisher slap a single through the left side.
Melky Cabrera bunted the runners along, and Derek Jeter's eight-pitch walk loaded the bases. Johnny Damon went with a 2-1 fastball and sent it to left-center for a two-run single. An infield hit on a roller by Mark Teixeira loaded the bases, and here came Rodriguez with his five homers this postseason.
Scioscia elected to stick with Saunders, who fell behind Rodriguez, 2-0, got a strike with a fastball, then went to 3-1 before walking him to force in a run with a fastball that Saunders felt caught the inside corner.
His night over, Saunders gave way to veteran lefty Darren Oliver, who kept the Angels in the game when he got Posada to ground into a double play started by Kendrick at second and turned by shortstop Erick Aybar.
Saunders, lasting only 3 1/3 innings, was charged with three earned runs on seven hits and five walks. He'd pitched effectively in Game 2 in the same park, giving up only two earned runs across seven innings.
"It was a battle with command," Saunders said. "I fell behind a lot of guys, and they found a hole or two. Three inches to the right or left and we're out of jams."
The Angels had taken the lead when Mathis stroked his fifth double of the series in 14 at-bats, moving up on Figgins' infield out and scoring when Abreu slammed a two-out single to right.
Taking command after Abreu's RBI single, Pettitte struck out three of the next four hitters and sailed into the sixth, when Hunter beat out an infield roller with two away and Guerrero dumped a pitch inches off the ground into right for a double.
Pettitte escaped that frame when he knocked down Kendry Morales' sharp ground ball and threw him out at first.
Oliver shut down the Yanks on one hit across 2 2/3 innings, and Ervin Santana picked up for him in the seventh before turning it over to Kazmir, another starter working out of the bullpen.
Kazmir airmailed a throw to first down the right-field line to allow one run to score on Cabrera's bunt after Kendrick had mishandled a throw on another sacrifice. The final run came on a towering sacrifice fly by Teixeira, the former Angels slugger who anchored the Yankees' defense at first.
Guerrero had three of the Angels' nine hits, finishing the series with a .370 average. He led the club with 10 hits in the six games against the Yankees.
Guerrero, who batted .378 in nine postseason games, is eligible for free agency after the World Series, along with Figgins, John Lackey, Oliver, Abreu, Kelvim Escobar and Robb Quinlan.
"I'd like to be back," Guerrero said through Jose Mota's translation. "As of right now, I don't know anything. We'll see what happens."