Originally created 10/10/05

Yankees force Game 5



NEW YORK - Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees are still around - by the slimmest of margins.

Slow-footed catcher Jorge Posada barely beat the tag for the go-ahead run on Jeter's seventh-inning bouncer, and the New York Yankees scratched out a 3-2 victory Sunday night over the Los Angeles Angels to force a decisive fifth game in California.

Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra came through with a tying single and, with Yankee Stadium rocking, Rivera retired Vladimir Guerrero for the final out to finish off a two-inning save as the Yankees evened the best-of-five AL playoff series at two games apiece.

After a rainout Saturday postponed Game 4, the teams must now fly cross-country overnight to play Monday in Anaheim at 8:15 p.m. EDT. Both scheduled pitchers were already waiting out West - Game 1 winner Mike Mussina and Angels ace Bartolo Colon.

Thanks to yet another New York comeback, this first-round series is the only one to go the distance in 2005. The winner Monday faces the Chicago White Sox in the AL championship series.

It also means 37-year-old Bernie Williams has at least one more game left with the Yankees. He can become a free agent after this season - his 15th in New York.

Trying to knock New York out of the playoffs for the second time in four seasons, the Angels built a 2-1 series lead on airtight defense and a deep bullpen.

This time, both betrayed them.

With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Robinson Cano reached on an infield single to start the seventh and Posada drew a one-out walk from losing pitcher Scot Shields.

Sierra, batting for No. 9 hitter Bubba Crosby, grounded a sharp single to right and Cano scored standing up despite a strong throw from Guerrero, leaving runners at the corners.

Jeter, at the center of so many big moments for the Yankees, topped a slow bouncer to third, forcing Chone Figgins to charge the ball.

Figgins, who made a couple of outstanding defensive plays earlier in the series, bounced a wide throw to the plate, and the slow-footed Posada barely beat it without a slide. Catcher Bengie Molina argued the call, as did Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

Winning pitcher Al Leiter got Darin Erstad to ground into an inning-ending double play in the seventh. With the season on the line, Rivera got six outs for his record 34th career postseason save and second of the series.

Acquired from Colorado for a pair of minor league pitchers in late July, Shawn Chacon was one of the fill-in starters who helped save the Yankees down the stretch - and he delivered again in his playoff debut.

While Chacon went 10 days between starts, Los Angeles' John Lackey was pitching on only three days' rest. After a no-decision in Game 2, he was told Sunday morning that he would need to step in for scheduled starter Jarrod Washburn, scratched because of a throat infection and fever.

As a rookie, Lackey started and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against San Francisco on short rest, and his cap was sent to the Hall of Fame.

He delivered another gutsy performance before 56,226 raucous fans.

After rain fell all weekend in the Big Apple, Game 4 was played under a clear sky on a crisp, 61-degree night.

Chacon retired his first nine batters, striking out four, and Guerrero's infield single with two outs in the fourth was the Angels' first hit.

Lackey had the Yankees off balance, too: Alex Rodriguez's bat slipped out of his hands and sailed into the seats about halfway down the left-field line after he swung and missed in the third. The right-hander held New York hitless until Posada's two-out double in the fifth.

Chacon finally faltered in the sixth. Juan Rivera drew a leadoff walk on four pitches and advanced to second on Steve Finley's sacrifice.

With two outs, Figgins, who started the series 0-for-11, lined an RBI double into the right-field corner, and Orlando Cabrera hit the next pitch to right-center for consecutive doubles and a 2-0 lead.

Sheffield's two-out RBI single cut it to 2-1 in the bottom half, and Scioscia handed the rest of the game to his normally steady bullpen. Shields retired Hideki Matsui to end the inning.

Lackey lasted 5 2-3 innings - just as he did for a no-decision in Game 2 - and allowed only two hits. He struck out six and walked four.

Chacon gave up two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Williams, baseball's career leader in postseason homers (22) and RBIs (80), received a standing ovation before each trip to the plate, with the crowd chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" He finished 0-for-4.

Notes: Williams took over in center field in the eighth, leaving the Yankees without a DH. Rivera took the No. 3 spot in the lineup.... Molina was in the starting lineup - he left Game 3 on Friday night after being hit on the left elbow by Tom Gordon's pitch.... Sierra was 4-for-23 with three RBIs as a pinch-hitter during the regular season.... Posada pumped his first after throwing out a pair of runners at second base in the fourth.... Chacon did get two outs in relief during the regular-season finale on Oct. 2.