History Lesson -- Game 2 of the 2002 ALDS

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Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a series. You can view Part 1 HERE.

Post season stalwart Andy Pettitte started Game Two for the Yankees, but true to the spirit of Washburn’s assertions the night before, the Angels pounced out of the gate looking to do some early damage and prove to the Yankees (and to the other teams who had made it to the postseason) that it would be unwise to take this Angel team lightly. In their first three innings of work, the Halo lineup pounded out two home runs and dropped down six singles en route to establishing a 4-0 Anaheim lead, forcing Yankee manager Joe Torre to forgo Pettitte and fetch Orlando Hernandez out of the bullpen to start off the fourth inning.

While a four-run lead was something Angel fans could pin their hopes on, the Yankee bats did not give up, and New York squeezed three runs out of Angel starting pitcher Kevin Appier, who wobbled across a tightrope for five stressful innings. Appier passed the baton over to Francisco Rodriguez, but the Venezuelan phenomenon gave up the lead in the sixth when Alfonso Soriano belted a two-run bomb for the first runs surrendered by Rodriguez in the Major Leagues since having been called up to The Show seventeen days before. The young Angel pitcher surely showed his mettle, though, by returning to the mound for the seventh inning and mowing down the dangerous numbers three through five hitters in the Yankee lineup with a mere eleven pitches.

By the eighth inning, with time running out on them, the Halos trailed the Yankees 5-4 and were in serious danger of falling behind in this series two games to none.

The eighth couldn’t have started off any better for the Angels, however, as Troy Glaus and then Garret Anderson began things with a couple of bangs by hitting back-to-back home runs off of Orlando Hernandez. For the second night in a row, the Angels had shocked New York by wresting the lead from the mighty Yankees in the eighth inning, and the Halo hitters were not done, either, as they would add one more run before yielding the top half of the eighth over to the Yankee offense.

When the Yankees finally came to bat in their portion of the eighth inning, they were looking up at a 7-5 Angel lead, but in the late night chill of October baseball in Yankee Stadium, with the banks of lights glaring down on the field, and with over 56,000 fans channeling their desperate will to win onto the players in pinstripes, it ain’t over, as the great Yogi Berra used to say, until it’s over.

Thirty-two-year-old Ben Weber took the mound looking to hold on to the lead for the Angels, all six-foot-four of him, with his face hidden behind gangly sports goggles and a thin beard, and with a delivery so herky-jerky, the batters had to concentrate even harder to keep their eye on the release of the ball. He was the reliever Scioscia had used the most that season, for 63 games, and Weber used that confidence to induce a groundout from the first batter he faced, Jorge Posada. The next batter hit a single, but then the next batter after that, Raul Mondesi, hit a one-hop comebacker to the mound that looked like it might be an inning-ending double play. Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein converged to attempt the twin-killing, but Weber instinctively reached his pitching hand out to snare the ball, a ball that came in much too hot to handle, and the result was that the play ended with Yankee runners now standing safely on first and second bases.

Scioscia and the trainer came jogging out to the mound to check on Weber, and they soon came to realize that Weber’s hand was too sore to continue pitching, especially with so much riding on what would happen next. Troy Percival had been the only pitcher warming up that eighth inning, but Scioscia, however, decided to call on Brendan Donnelly instead. Percival had actually started to exit the bullpen as he logically assumed that he would be the next to take the hill, but the bullpen coach had to call him back. Percival could be seen on the television broadcast shrugging his shoulders as it sunk in that he had not gotten the call.

Since Donnelly took the hill due to a pitcher injury, he, of course, was allowed to throw as many warm-up pitches as he needed to get ready to face to the next batter (pinch hitter John Vander Wal), with the tying runners on base, and with the memory of the three-run homer he had given up in the eighth inning to Bernie Williams the night before seared into his mind.

Donnelly later confided to reporters that he didn’t go to sleep until five o’clock in the morning after having given up the Williams home run. "I watched television," he explained, "and kept replaying the home run in my mind. I finally came to the conclusion that he just beat me. I would have paid to get into tonight’s game. I wanted to come right back. I wanted redemption."

Once play resumed, it took Donnelly six tough pitches, but he got his sweet redemption as Vander Wal took a called strike three on a 2-2 pitch. That left the Yankees with just one out left to take advantage of their two runners on base, and they had the perfect man to be batting in this situation up next -- Alfonso Soriano, who not only led the league in base hits that year, but also blasted out an impressive 39 home runs.

Scioscia was once again forced to grapple with the decision to call Percival in early to clean up a sticky situation in the eighth inning or not. The skipper decided not to in Game One, and the Angels lost the game. Scioscia confessed to reporters that he had spent eight hours tossing and turning that night listening to the arguments bantering ceaselessly back and forth in his mind. For this game, however, Scioscia chose to make the call for his closer.

Percival spat out his swig of coffee and came charging out of the bullpen to take his rightful spot on the mound for this crucial situation ("If we’re going to win, lose, or draw, I want to be the one doing it" Percival stated later). With fifty-six thousand New Yorkers on their feet, cheering and pleading for their team, Percival squinted in for the sign from Molina, and with the first pitch, Percival drilled Soriano to load the bases. "I didn’t want to hit him," Percy explained in the clubhouse after the game. "I wanted to back him off the plate. I will apologize for that."

In the meantime, that brought up none other than the captain of the Yankees, Derek Jeter, to the plate, and Jeter was having a scorching hot series so far. He had reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances in Game One, with one of his hits being a home run, and in this game he was already three-for-four with yet another home run coming off of his bat. Percival was absolutely up for the challenge, however. He worked the count to 1-2 before firing off a 98 MPH fastball to the upper, outside corner that Jeter watched go by. As he did, home plate umpire Doug Eddings barked out a strike three call, and Jeter couldn’t believe it. Percival pumped his fist and bounded off of the mound as the Angel defenders ran excitedly back to the dugout. Jeter remained at home plate and had an extended conversation with Eddings.

"It was a ball," a stone-faced Jeter informed the reporters in the clubhouse afterwards. He then admitted that his conversation after the strikeout with Eddings was pointless. "He’s not going to call the other team back on the field."

Jeff Weaver, future Angel Jered Weaver’s older brother, came out to work the ninth for the Yankees and gave up one more run to extend the Angels' lead to 8-5, but then Percival gave up three singles in his half of the ninth, giving up a run of his own before bearing down and getting the final two outs, a Nick Johnson swinging strikeout and a Mondesi pop up to the left side of the infield that David Eckstein called for and put the squeeze on to secure the 8-6 Angel victory.

The Angels were going to fly back to California having taken one of the two opening games at perhaps the most intimidating stadium in all of sports. They were coming back with the split that they so desperately needed, and would now host the Yanks for two home games in Anaheim, California, in front of frenzied masses of rabid, sun-drenched Angel fans, the oldest of whom hadn’t experienced a home playoff game since 1986.

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