Angels 11, Yankees 7
In a matter of a few long hours Friday, Randy Johnson went from a warm rain to a hot shower to a cold, cold truth that there was no getting around. If the time span from Johnson's early, ignominious exit from Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium to the completion of the New York Yankees' unsightly 11-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels seemed like an eternity on television, imagine what it was like for Johnson, as he waited and waited, alone, for the game to end and the questions to begin.
There were many, and they will be there for a long time. Never mind that the Yankees overcame the 5-0 hole Johnson dug for them in the first four innings, taking a 6-5 lead in the sixth. And never mind that the Yankees' bullpen was as ineffective as Johnson, allowing the Angels to run away with the game and take a two-games-to-one lead in this best-of-five series.
The cold truth for Johnson, the 42-year-old legend who was acquired this winter specifically to win this game and about three or four more this month, is that he was a colossal failure in his first postseason start in pinstripes, getting chased two batters into the fourth, having given up nine hits and five earned runs.
The Angels can clinch the series Saturday afternoon, although the soft rain that fell for much of Friday night's game is expected to become a full-fledged downpour by then.
"I was counting on myself to go out and pitch a quality ballgame," Johnson said, in calm, gracious tones. "Hopefully I'll have another chance to redeem myself."
In what became a battle of bullpens, the Angels' deeper, more reliable one prevailed, with Scot Shields earning the win with two critical shutout innings. While the Yankees' mid-game comeback let Johnson off the hook for the loss, their bullpen was torched for six more runs -- as the Angels, known as one of the league's most accomplished practitioners of "small ball," played big ball instead
Angels left fielder Garret Anderson had four hits, including a silence-inducing three-run homer off Johnson in the first inning, to lead an offensive attack that amassed 19 hits off six Yankees pitchers. Leadoff man-designated pest Chone Figgins drove in what turned out to be the winning run in the sixth and also made the defensive play of the game, cutting down the Yankees' fourth-inning rally with a diving catch in center field.
After a slow start to his first year in the Bronx, Johnson had been all the Yankees had hoped for, going 5-0 against the hated Boston Red Sox and posting a 4-0 mark in September, as the Yankees scrapped and clawed just to make the playoffs.
But all those good deeds seemed to have been forgotten by end of Johnson's first inning, with the Angels already out to a 3-0 lead on a pair of sharp singles and Anderson's blast to right-center -- and Johnson made the trip back to the dugout at inning's end accompanied by a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd of 56,277.
The scene was repeated following the top of the third, when Bengie Molina's two-run homer made it 5-0. Only this time, the boos were much louder and Johnson's gait even slower.
Johnson would survive for just two more batters. Back-to-back hits to lead off the fourth -- rockets, just like all the rest -- ended his night, as the crowd stood and spewed a mixture of sarcastic cheers and venomous boos, which continued as Johnson made his way again to the dugout.
"If I had paid for a ticket to see me pitch, I would've booed, too," Johnson said. "They've come to expect more out of me."
The Yankees' season held endless possibilities in April, but it is safe to say that none of them included Johnson being unceremoniously yanked in the fourth inning of a postseason start in favor of Aaron Small. Any sane person, confronted with such a scenario in April, could have only one valid response: Who's Aaron Small?
The irony Friday could not have been more profound: In a game the Yankees thought they would win behind their $16 million ace, he needed to be bailed out by a 33-year-old journeyman pitcher making less than one one-hundredth of that.
It was Small, a perfect 10-0 during the regular season, who gave up the Angels' go-ahead runs in the sixth, and it was he, not Johnson, who was tagged with the loss.
But given the choice of living the rest of this dark night in Small's skin, or in Johnson's, money and fame aside, which would you choose?