A cardinal rule of postseason baseball is also a cardinal rule of drinking.
There's always a hangover.
The Angels to a man said they would move on and not be affected by any lingering resentment over the chaotic end of Game 2 the mistake, the theft, the Eddings-Pierzynski conspiracy, whatever you want to call it that left them tied in the AL Championship Series with the Chicago White Sox.
Yet those were the Angels who moved oh so s-l-o-w-l-y Friday night, like a lumbering drinker unable to shake one off.
John Lackey, gutty starter on short rest in the Yankee series, hung a few curves in the first inning and put his team in a 3-0 hole. Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero continued to remain AWOL at the plate. The Angels got four hits against Jon Garland, who faced the minimum three batters in six of his nine innings.
the fourth inning in Chicago's eventual 5-2 win, even the crowd had lost its intensity. After spending the pregame and early innings booing the hell out of umpire Doug Eddings, the home plate umpire who blew the call on the controversial strikeout, and Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the batter in question, the 44,725 at the Big A could barely muster a weak chorus of jeers for Pierzynski for his second at-bat. The Angels do not want to consider any lingering effects. They prefer to praise Chicago's pitching and rely on the "What, me worry?" attitude they've depended on for several years as they stare at a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-7 series.
"Why be concerned?" left fielder Garret Anderson said. "There's a lot of baseball left to play. We haven't pressed all year so there's no reason to start now."
"We've gone through tough times and good times and we always take the same attitude, to just keep working and playing our game," first baseman Darin Erstad said.
"Worried?" Orlando Cabrera said. OK, having been with the Red Sox last season, the Angels shortstop is probably the last player to ask about concern.
But baseball history is flush with moments where a bad umpire's call or a pivotal error or key play dooms a team regardless of what it says or does to turn the moment around.
Don Denkinger blew a call at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, and the Cardinals lost the game to Kansas City then were buried 11-0 in Game 7. The blue blew an obstruction call in the 1969 World Series and a great Orioles team lost the series in five games to the Amazing Mets. Reggie Jackson stuck his hip in front of a relay to first base, the umps don't make the obvious interference call, and the Dodgers lose Game 3 of the 1977 series and never recovered.
Willie Davis made three errors in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series and the Dodgers were swept. The Oakland A's never recovered from Kirk Gibson's Game 1 home run in 1988. Bill Buckner's gaffe gives the Mets Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the Red Sox lose in seven. Do Angels fans need to be reminded of that same year, when they were an out away from winning the ALCS only to lose Game 5 and then get buried by the Red Sox twice?
The Angels' task becomes even tougher now, because they face Freddy Garcia in Game 4 today, the former Seattle Mariners ace who has owned the Angels since he broke into the game. Garcia has a career 11-3 record and 2.66 ERA against the Angels, and a 6-1 record in games in Anaheim.
Thus far, it hasn't mattered who the Sox have put on the mound. Their three starters to date Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Garland have thrown 26.1 innings in three games and allowed just 16 hits. The hitting funk Figgins (.100 in the ALCS) and Guerrero (.083) have been in since the postseason began continues unabated.
"We have some guys who are a little soft swinging the bat right now," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Sixteen hits in the series … that's unusual for us. It says a lot for their pitching."
Garland did pitch well. Having not pitched since Oct. 1, he was worried about the bite in his sinker so he threw more fastballs and had the Angels off stride. "We were looking for softer stuff," Cabrera said. But Garland still came into the game 2-8 with a 4.91 ERA in his career against the Angels.
The strain and injuries to Angels pitching in the Yankees series, meanwhile, is starting to reveal itself. The staff has performed superbly in the face of major personnel fissures, but these things usually catch up with a team.
Jarrod Washburn's illness in the Yankees series cost him a start and left him at less than 100 percent for his Game 2 start against the White Sox. Lackey may have been back on regular rest Friday, but he did pitch on three days rest replacing Washburn in Game 4. Friday, he hung a few curves, most notably a 3-2 breaking ball to Paul Konerko that the White Sox first baseman deposited 400 feet away to left-center.
Bartolo Colon's shoulder injury has ended his season and forced rookie Ervin Santana into the rotation. He'll start Game 4 tonight. Paul Byrd will be starting Game 5 in the same situation as Lackey did Friday on regular rest but after a start that came on just three days rest.
Other numbers also conspire against the Angels. In the last 16 ALCS, the team winning Game 3 with the series tied 1-1 has gone on to win 12 times. While the Angels have dominated the White Sox in Anaheim since 1995 (39-15), the 2005 Sox are now 54-29 on the road. The White Sox bullpen, meanwhile, which didn't allow a run against the Red Sox in their division series, is well-rested, having been asked to get all of two outs in the three games.
The White Sox player who made the Angels miserable Friday, Konerko, probably caused some indigestion for Dodgers fans, too. He went 3 for 4 with his home run and three RBI.
Konerko was the 1997 Baseball American minor-league player of the year after hitting .323 with 37 home runs and 127 RBI and was considered a future cornerstone of the franchise. But the Dodgers tried to turn him into a third baseman in 1998 and were concerned about a potential degenerative hip condition.
So amidst a slow start in '98 he hit .215 with four home runs in 49 games and 144 at-bats and the chaos of the Bill Russell-Fred Claire firings, new interim G.M. Tommy Lasorda traded Konerko to Cincinnati for closer Jeff Shaw.
More than 200 home runs later, Konerko has become an all-star power-hitting first baseman who has 81 home runs in the last two seasons and a career .280 average. The Dodgers, of course, haven't had a regular, productive first baseman since Eric Karros. "He didn't get a very good look with the Dodgers," Scioscia said. Well, who does these days?
Right now, the Angels look at the White Sox and their vision is blurry. They say they're not worried, but forgive us if we advise them to sober up really quickly.