Fuentes saves best for last in Game 5
Halos closer lacks control, but able to finish off Yanks
ANAHEIM -- The key to being an effective closer is having a short memory, according to Angels left-hander Brian Fuentes.
But sometimes that trait is not shared with a manager, and Mike Scioscia proved that on Thursday when he elected to intentionally walk Alex Rodriguez with two outs and nobody on with a one-run lead in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series
Scioscia remembered a similar situation in Game 2, when the Angels held a one-run lead with Fuentes on the mound facing Rodriguez in the bottom of the 11th inning at Yankee Stadium.
Fuentes blew that save when Rodriguez connected on a game-tying home run, and the Halos eventually lost in the 13th inning to fall into 2-0 ALCS hole.
So this time, Scioscia decided to put the tying run on first base with two outs. It almost backfired, as the Yankees eventually loaded the bases. But Fuentes settled down, and the Angels won, 7-6.
"In that situation, you just want to keep Alex in the park," Scioscia said. "Obviously, it got a little bit too congested at the end of the game, but, you know, we just felt it was better to take our chances with some of the lefties following [Rodriguez]."
Fuentes, despite giving up two home runs to Rodriguez in his career, didn't want to issue the intentional walk. But he understood the move with left-handed-hitters Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano due up after Rodriguez.
"I felt like I could be careful with him and pitch around him to make him swing at a bad pitch," Fuentes said. "But I understand Mike's concern with that, because he's such a hot hitter. We just played it cautiously with a left-hander on deck."
But after walking Rodriguez intentionally, Fuentes lost his control, walking Matsui and hitting Cano with a pitch.
Up came Nick Swisher, who was 0-for-4 on the night and just 2-for-16 in the series.
Bait and Swish
|Johnny Damon||None on, none out||Lineout to first base|
|Mark Teixeira||None on, one out||Flyout to right field|
|Alex Rodriguez*||None on, two outs||Intentional walk|
|Hideki Matsui**||Man on first, two outs||Walk on 3-2 count|
|Robinson Cano||First and second, two outs||Hit by pitch on 0-1 count|
|Nick Swisher||Bases loaded, two outs||Popup to short, 3-2 count|
Fuentes then got Swisher down 0-2 and it looked like Fuentes might be able to escape the jam.
"I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point," Fuentes said.
But then Fuentes threw three balls, with a foul tip -- which catcher Jeff Mathis couldn't corral -- mixed in.
"Now all of a sudden I had to think of the runners," Fuentes said. "I realized I needed a strikeout or for him to just put the ball in play. So I told myself to relax and slow my heart down and make a pitch."
Fuentes made his pitch -- a 91-mph fastball low and over the plate -- and Swisher popped it up to shortstop to end the game.
"As soon it was up I was already at home giving Mathis a hug," Fuentes said with a smile. "The ball hadn't been caught yet, but I was assuming it'd be caught and we were able to settle under it."
So while the out made Fuentes the hero, it was the opposite for Swisher.
"That situation is the biggest stage right there," Swisher said. "There's only one game going on. I wanted to come up clutch. It didn't happen.
The out ended a wild game for the Angels, who took a four-run lead early and then gave up six runs in the seventh inning before scoring three of their own to take back the lead in the seventh.
"That was an emotional roller coaster," Torii Hunter said. "It was crazy. I was pumped up, upset, everything out there. But [Fuentes] got it down, and that's all that matters. My little boys at home probably have gray hair out there, and they're 14 years old."
With the win, the Angels still have an ALCS life and have a chance to head to the World Series for the first time since 2002 by winning Games 6 and 7 in New York.
"We weren't going to get rolled over by anybody," Fuentes said. "We're still down 3-2, but we lived another day, so now we'll go to New York and try to get one there."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.