NEW YORK - Angels shortstop Erick Aybar wore a mask that covered his head, ears and neck on Friday.
It was the coldest game the Dominican Republic native ever played.
The American League Championship Series kicked off with a 46-degree first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Even hardcore New Yorkers were bundled up in scarves, mittens, earmuffs and winter jackets. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano donned a mask that covered everything but his eyes, mouth and nose.
There was no mask, however, that could hide the Angels' deficiencies in the field.
They made three errors and another costly mental mistake on a ball that dropped between Chone Figgins and Aybar.
Cold weather can't be blamed for the comedy of errors that made up the Angels' shoddy defense as the Yankees took control of the series with a 4-1 victory.
The Angels weren't undone by the cold. They were undone by their mistakes.
"We haven't seen our guys crack the door open for a team like we did in a long time," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And the Yankees are going to take advantage of that, and they did."
The offense went cold as well, although C.C. Sabathia was responsible for holding the Angels to one run on four hits in eight innings. He was brilliant. He located his fastball and changeup so well that he allowed only five baserunners. The Angels had only six baserunners in the game.
Defense and speedy baserunning are strengths for the Angels, but they couldn't do what they did best. And it cost them dearly.
In the first inning, Figgins said he yelled "Aybar" early during the popup play on a ball hit by Hideki Matsui. Aybar said he didn't hear anything. Figgins said noise was a factor. Aybar said noise wasn't a factor. Aybar blamed poor communication on the miscue, and you can understand why, can't you?
Both players backed off, the ball dropped and Johnny Damon scored the second run of the inning. A Juan Rivera throwing error allowed Damon to second in that inning. The Yankees led 2-0.
"I couldn't believe that happened," Torii Hunter said of the ball that dropped between Aybar and Figgins.
Angels starter John Lackey screamed in disgust and crouched to his knees. It was as if he knew that would be the difference. Lackey was justified. It was inexcusable. Of course, Lackey later made an error on a pickoff attempt at first base throwing just wide in the sixth inning and it allowed Melky Cabrera to advance to second. He later scored in the inning.
Hunter made an error as well, letting a grounder hit by Derek Jeter to ricochet off the heel of his glove in the sixth. But the mental error by Figgins and Aybar, who were a combined 0-for-8 at the plate, was the most glaring.
"If it gets caught, I thought I did a good job pitching out of that inning, only giving up one run." Lackey said. "It didn't happen. I threw up a couple more zeroes to try to get us back in the game, but you've got to give CC all the credit."
On this chilly night, CC stood for Cool Customer. Sabathia was in control from the start with a powerful fastball and equally effective changeup. Sabathia was grateful for his time in Cleveland, and it's not often those words are uttered, because he learned how to pitch in cold weather.
Joe Girardi set up his three-man playoff rotation for Sabathia to possibly pitch three games, and that could mean disaster for the Angels.
One fan held a sign that said, "make this house a home." The Angels certainly didn't seem comfortable in the house $1.5 billion built.
The Angels built their team around pitching, defense and effective baserunning.
They say two out of three ain't bad, but the Angels didn't really do anything commendable. In 52/3 innings, Lackey allowed nine hits and four runs but only two of those runs were earned.
Rain wasn't even a problem, although it could be for today's Game 2. Light rain showers fell as the game started Friday, but heavy rain never materialized. Lackey promised he wouldn't be thinking about the cold, and the tough guy from Texas wasn't kidding. He didn't even wear red sleeves under his uniform like the rest of his teammates. As he walked from the bullpen to the Angels' dugout after his warmup session, he had a towel slung over his right shoulder, and he carried his jacket with the other arm.
Yankees fans booed him, but he certainly deserved props for that gesture. The wind was blowing in and Sabathia's baggy pants were flapping in the breeze.
In the seventh inning, Yankees fans stood and chanted "CC! CC!" with two outs. He responded by striking out pinch hitter Mike Napoli, and he threw a wicked jab in the cold air.
The Angels were left bewildered, clinging to optimism that their stingy defense returns today.
"Nobody's panicking," Figgins said. "That's the best part about it."
A silver lining in a dark cloud.