Halos staying positive despite deficit
Lackey squaring off vs. Burnett with LA's season on line
ANAHEIM -- They know what they are up against, trailing the Yankees 3-1 in this American League Championship Series. But even on the brink of elimination, the Angels see no reason to back away from a challenge, steep as it might be.
"We've got a mountain to climb," said Angels center fielder Torii Hunter. "We've just got to know we have to go out there [Thursday] and try to get that win. It's a must-win. It's not like we've got games left. We can't go out there and let these guys win. If they do, it's over with. We're going to come with a different mindset and try to have some fun and get the job done."
Wednesday was an off-day for the Angels, a chance of sorts to regroup in advance of what will easily be their biggest game of 2009.
"We've just got to keep battling with those guys, and I think we can get it done," said Hunter. "We just keep battling and don't give up, and we've still got some breath left. They're up, 3-1. Seems like it's impossible, but it's not. We've won three in a row before during the season. I know it's the postseason, but it can be done."
Hunter hit on a key point. It can be done. It has been done.
Since the LCS adopted the best-of-seven format in 1985, 22 of the 28 teams that have held a 3-1 lead have gone to the World Series.
The Angels will try to join the 1985 Royals, '85 Cardinals, '86 Red Sox, '96 Braves and the 2004 and '07 Red Sox as teams that have overcome 3-1 deficits in LCS play and advanced to the World Series.
Including their Division Series sweep over the Red Sox, the Angels have produced 17 winning streaks this season of three games or more. Now, they need a big 18th to get them in the World Series.
"We have one more game to fight back and see if we can get back in this thing," said Angels third baseman Chone Figgins. "We're obviously facing the best of the best. They're playing great right now."
One thing the Angels want to do is play as tension-free as they can in Game 5, when they will have their ace on the mound and the home crowd at their back for one last time in this series.
"We don't have any pressure," said Hunter. "We're down 3-1. There's no pressure. We're just going to go out there and play, do what we have to do and play the game the right way, hopefully. We do that, I think we have a chance to get that game, hopefully. The pressure is not on us."
As reporters filtered into the clubhouse following Tuesday's game, Angels first-base coach Alfredo Griffin said several times to no one in particular, "We're going to win three in a row. Write it down."
PERFECTLY TIMED STREAK
|Series||After Gm 4||Gm 5||Gm 6||Gm 7|
|'07 ALCS||CLE, 3-1||BOS, 7-1||BOS, 12-2||BOS, 11-2|
|'04 ALCS||NYY, 3-1||BOS, 5-4||BOS, 4-2||BOS, 10-3|
|'03 NLCS||CHC, 3-1||FLA, 4-0||FLA, 8-3||FLA, 9-6|
|'96 NLCS||STL, 3-1||ATL, 14-0||ATL, 3-1||ATL, 15-0|
|'86 ALCS||CAL, 3-1||BOS, 7-6||BOS, 10-4||BOS, 8-1|
|'85 ALCS||TOR, 3-1||KC, 2-0||KC, 5-3||KC, 6-2|
If such an improbable scenario becomes a reality, the first chapter will have to be authored by John Lackey, the ace of the Angels. He will start Game 5, opposite New York righty A.J. Burnett.
"Lackey, he's a bulldog," said Hunter. "If there's anyone I'm comfortable with, it's definitely Lackey. We've got to try to get some runs for him and play some defense behind him."
And find a way to get some hits off Burnett, who has electric stuff.
"We just have to win the game no matter what. Win the game, go to New York," said Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu.
While the Angels desperately need Lackey to step up, they also need to get some hits. Aside from Game 3, the Los Angeles bats have been near silent in the series.
Figgins and Abreu, the Halos' 1-2 punch at the top, both have batting averages of .125. Hunter is hitting .235. Juan Rivera is at .118. Kendry Morales is hitting .125.
Where have all the hits gone?
"They are keeping the ball out of the hitting zone," said Figgins. "That's what the pitchers try to do. Their objective is to keep me off base. Right now, they're doing it. They know they have to keep doing it, because I'm going to come out fighting always."
But it's gotten to the point where the Angels can no longer just fight the good fight. They need to get results, or Game 5 will be their last this season.
For what would be the first time in this series, Angels manager Mike Scioscia wants his team to come out flying and put the Yankees on their heels.
"We need to come out there and gain some momentum," Scioscia said. "I don't think we've had a lead early in the ballgame yet this series. If we can start to play that type of game, this can change in a hurry. Our guys are confident. There is nobody in that clubhouse that's down. We know what's in front of us. We know where we have to get to, and there's a terrific challenge for us."
"I don't think there is anything about a short series when you're definitely out of it until you lose four games. Our guys know that. We'll have a good workout tomorrow. We'll come out here and hopefully play better and get some early runs."
Then there are the Yankees, who will, at all costs, try to avoid a repeat of what happened five years ago, when they blew a 3-0 ALCS lead to the Red Sox.
"We didn't come out to win three games in a series and be happy about it," said Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon. "We'll be happy if we get that fourth win. That's why we're here practicing today and we're going to go out and have a great practice. There's no going to be going through the motions or anything. We still have a job to do. Hopefully it happens [in Game 5]. If not, hopefully it happens soon after."
Are the Angels frustrated?
"When you're down 3-1, I wouldn't say frustrated," said Hunter, adding that he is more angry than frustrated. "We know baseball. It can turn around at any time."
They hope the Rally Monkey spends Game 5 dancing with excitement.
"We joke about the Rally Monkey all the time, but it's just us," said Hunter. "We've got to go out there and play our game and have faith in ourselves and not the Rally Monkey. We just have to know that we can get it done. It's not impossible. We just have to see what happens Thursday."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.