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Sorry, Disneyland. The best roller coaster ride in Orange County on Monday was at Angel Stadium.
Six homers by the Angels and Yankees. A late lead change. Extra innings — again. A winning hit by a backup catcher who batted .211 this season.
Now that's a ride — and for Jeff Mathis, the AL championship series was the happiest place on Earth.
Mathis drove home Howie Kendrick with a two-out double in the 11th inning, and the Angels survived a second straight thriller, beating New York 5-4 Monday to trim the Yankees' series lead to 2-1.
The Yankees' first loss of the postseason might have stunned some people. New York had a three-run lead in the fifth inning with Andy Pettitte on the mound, looking to stand alone as baseball's winningest postseason pitcher.
Instead, Kendrick and Vladimir Guerrero erased the lead with homers — and the real fun in this 261-minute epic hadn't even really begun.
"Anyone who thought we were going to breeze through a series with the Angels is crazy," said New York's Mark Teixeira, the former Angels slugger who made several strong defensive plays. "This is a great team, and they came to play today."
Kendrick, himself a part-time infielder, homered and tripled before singling with two outs in the 11th off rookie Alfredo Aceves. Mathis followed with his drive up against the left-field wall, and Kendrick slid home well ahead of a desperate throw, setting off an on-field celebration of the backups' bonanza.
Mathis came up with his third late-inning, extra-base hit of this outlandish series, just two days after New York's frigid 310-minute, 13-inning victory in Game 2.
"Obviously, it's the biggest hit of my life," Mathis said. "For Howie to have the at-bat he did right there, and to get on base and put one in the gap to win the game, it's a pretty good feeling."
Game 4 is Tuesday night, with CC Sabathia pitching on three days' rest against Angels newcomer Scott Kazmir. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday.
The last time a postseason series went to extra innings in back-to-back games, the New York Yankees were in the middle of their infamous 2004 collapse against Boston. Only three teams have blown a 2-0 lead in a league championship series, but the 2004 Yankees are in that trio: After taking a 3-0 lead against Boston that infamous fall, the Yankees lost 13 of their next 17 postseason games before winning their first five this year.
"You wouldn't think Jeff Mathis would be the guy that beats us, but top to bottom, they're a good lineup," said Yankees reliever Phil Hughes, who got five outs and finished the ninth.
If the Angels had any lingering doubts about their ability to match up with the big-money Yankees after two discouraging losses in the chilly Bronx, those worries melted during their comeback in the balmy Orange County sun.
"Man, that was one of the craziest games," said Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who lamented his 1-for-5 effort. "We were up, we were down. I've got a headache right now, but it was a lot of fun. Both teams were battling and we came through in the end. As long as you have innings and outs left, you've got a chance to make something happen."
The Angels overcame a 3-0 deficit and four solo homers by the Yankees' stars, including Jorge Posada's tying shot in the eighth. Bobby Abreu made a big baserunning mistake, Joba Chamberlain flopped, and Mariano Rivera made a gutsy stand with the bases loaded in the 10th before Kendrick and Mathis made it all academic with two quick hits against Aceves, the Yankees' eighth pitcher.
"This is the type of series we expected it to be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't really stretch out any of our pitchers too far today out of the bullpen, so I believe our guys will be fine tomorrow."
The Angels ended their six-game ALCS losing streak. The Yankees had been 5-0 in this postseason, starting with a sweep over Minnesota.
The Yankees had a 3-0 lead midway through the fifth on homers by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon. Pettitte also appeared to be cruising toward his record 16th career postseason victory, which would have put New York one win from its first World Series in six years.
But the Yankees went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position for the second consecutive game and are 3 for 28 in those situations during the series. New York was 1 for 15 with runners on base in Game 3.
Kendrick hit a fifth-inning homer, Guerrero tied it with a two-run shot in the sixth, and Kendrick tripled off Chamberlain before scoring on Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly in the seventh to put the Angels ahead 4-3.
But Posada tied it again in the eighth with a shot to center off Kevin Jepsen. Jeter stranded two runners to end New York's eighth, and Los Angeles' Abreu was tagged out moments later while retreating to second base after his long double to center.
Los Angeles wasted a golden opportunity in the 10th after putting runners at the corners with nobody out against Rivera, but the ace closer came through yet again, getting Hunter and Guerrero with the bases loaded.
"There was a lot of great baseball on that field this afternoon," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There were a lot of twists and turns, and both teams played a terrific game. We just got it done at the end."
This program aired on October 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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