Coming through under pressure once again, Rodriguez hit a tying homer in the 11th inning and the New York Yankees edged the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Saturday night on Maicer Izturis’ throwing error in the 13th for a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.
“Wow, what a game,” Rodriguez said.
After the rain came and went on another chilly night, New York pulled out its latest late-inning thriller and remained unbeaten in this year’s playoffs. The game ended at 1:07 a.m. when Izturis threw away Melky Cabrera’s grounder to second base.
Pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. opened the 13th with a single off losing pitcher Ervin Santana in his first postseason at-bat. Brett Gardner sacrificed and Robinson Cano was intentionally walked as the crowd chanted “Melky! Melky!”
Cabrera hit a bouncer in the hole between first and second, and Izturis curiously tried to throw back across his body to get the force at second. The low throw skipped past shortstop Erick Aybar and rolled behind third, where Chone Figgins tried to pick it up.
Figgins fumbled the ball and Hairston, who had slowed up, sped home and slid in with the winning run. It marked another sloppy performance by the Angels, and finished a game that lasted 5 hours, 10 minutes.
“Izzy just tried to do too much,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “You’re not going to turn two.”
The Yankees poured out of the dugout to celebrate, knocking over Hairston behind the plate.
Moments later, he took a whipped cream pie in the face from starter A.J. Burnett, which has become a fan-favorite tradition for the Yankees after walk-off wins this year.
They led the majors with 15 such victories and have added two in the playoffs – the Yankees are 5-0, including a first-round sweep of Minnesota in which Rodriguez went 5-for-11 with two home runs and six RBIs.
“I’m doing what I’ve done all year – try to stay in the moment and really enjoy the moment,” he said. “I had a blast out there today.”
Rodriguez saved New York in this victory, hitting a leadoff shot against major league saves leader Brian Fuentes to keep the game going. He had a chance to win it in the 12th, but flied out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
“As soon as he tied it, we knew we were going to win this game,” Hairston said. “We don’t give up. We really don’t.”
After a travel day, the best-of-seven series shifts to Anaheim, Calif., for Game 3 on Monday. Jered Weaver is scheduled to pitch for the Angels against Andy Pettitte, with a forecast of 73 degrees and partly cloudy skies.
The warm weather will allow players to ditch the ski masks and hoods some have sported under their baseball caps in New York. It was 47 degrees at gametime, 2 degrees warmer than Friday night, with 15 mph winds gusting to 23 mph.
Most fans were still around for the finish, though many were huddled in bright ponchos under the overhangs. It was the longest postseason game by innings since Houston beat Atlanta 7-6 in 18 innings on Oct. 9, 2005.
The Angels, normally sound on fundamentals, have been betrayed by their defense in this series. They made three errors during a 4-1 loss in the opener and let an infield popup drop for an embarrassing RBI single.
With rain falling as the clock ticked past midnight, Figgins gave Los Angeles a short-lived 3-2 lead with an RBI single in the 11th off Alfredo Aceves – his first hit in 19 at-bats this postseason.
Fuentes came on to try and close it out, but Rodriguez led off and lined an 0-2 pitch into the front-row of right-field seats, sending the crowd of 49,922 into a frenzy.
“I certainly wasn’t sure,” Rodriguez said. “I was fortunate to get enough of it.”
It was the third homer this postseason for Rodriguez, putting October failures of the past behind him. He hit a tying shot in the ninth inning of Game 2 in the first round against the Twins, and another tying drive late in Game 3.
The three-time MVP has at least one hit and one RBI in every playoff game this year.
David Robertson, the eighth New York pitcher, earned his second win of the playoffs. He struck out Gary Matthews Jr. with two on to end the top of the 12th, then retired Vladimir Guerrero with runners at second and third to complete the 13th.
“This game was exciting from start to finish,” Hairston said. “The energy in the stadium was unbelievable. I just wanted to make sure I was ready in case my name was called.”
The Angels stranded 16 and went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees, who have won 35 of their last 43 home games, have taken advantage of mistakes by the Twins and Angels throughout this postseason.
Needing a solid outing on the mound, the Angels got one from 16-game winner Joe Saunders in his second career postseason start. The left-hander fell behind 2-0 in the third, then stymied the Yankees the rest of the way.
Burnett also was effective, allowing two runs and three hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The Angels’ little speedsters got them going. Izturis hit a leadoff double and scored on Aybar’s one-out single. Aybar swiped second for Los Angeles’ first stolen base of the series and scored on Burnett’s second wild pitch of the inning.
The half-inning included seven face-to-face chats between Burnett and catcher Jose Molina.
New York jumped ahead in the second against Saunders, pitching for the first time in 13 days. Nick Swisher drew a two-out walk and scored easily when Cano laced an 0-2 breaking ball to right-center for a triple.
In the third, Jeter drove a 2-0 pitch to the opposite field, about four rows beyond the short porch in right.
It was his second homer of these playoffs and No. 19 of his postseason career, breaking a tie with Yankees Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for third place behind ex-teammate Bernie Williams (22) and Manny Ramirez (29).
The Angels have lost six straight ALCS games, going back to 2005 against the Chicago White Sox.