ANAHEIM, Calif. – Chone Figgins and the Los Angeles Angels know they’re heading straight into more than one kind of storm, and they can’t wait to get wet.
Heavy showers forecast for New York threaten to wash out Game 6 of the AL championship series tonight, yet that’s a minor drizzle compared to the high-pressure system the Angels created for both themselves and the Yankees by extending the ALCS to the weekend.
Rejuvenated by a ramshackle win in Game 5 that cut the Yankees’ series lead to 3-2, the Angels still face long odds to make the seldom-seen comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against their star-studded opponents. Yet Figgins still senses a team-wide confidence that the Angels can rain on the Yankees’ 27th championship parade.
“It doesn’t get any better than this, especially going into that ballpark,” said Figgins, the Angels’ leadoff hitter. “It’s going to be another crazy game, I can tell you that. You go back and just enjoy it. The pressure is on both teams.”
The Yankees arrived back in New York early Friday morning and held an “optional” workout – “In the playoffs, it’s not optional,” catcher Jorge Posada said with a grin — under an overcast sky in the Bronx that afternoon. A chilly wind rippled the flags that line the top of the stadium and jostled the ceremonial red-white-and-blue bunting along each deck.
It was a much different scene than the picturesque weather they had in Southern California, and they still were thrilled to be back.
“Our guys feel very good when we walk in this ballpark,” manager Joe Girardi said.
The Angels were grateful to show up to work Friday in suits instead of sweats, holding a brief workout before flying to New York.
Figgins and his teammates all packed the cold-weather gear that did little good in their last trip to Yankee Stadium, when they lost the series’ first two games with poor hitting and sloppy defense. The Angels’ defense and pitching mostly got back to normal in Anaheim, but their hitting didn’t improve until Game 5, when they scored seven runs after mustering just 10 in the entire series beforehand.
“They are the favorites, but after this one, we’ve got obviously a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum,” said Joe Saunders, the Angels’ Game 6 starter. “It’s going to be the usual Yankee hostile environment. It’s going to be a lot of fun. They’re going to be all over us.”
The Yankees had a major league-best 57-24 record at their new home this season, including a 36-10 mark since June 30. They lost consecutive home games only once in that stretch.
New York has won each of its four playoff games in the Bronx, outscoring the Twins and Angels 19-9 in its $1.5 billion ballpark.
“We feel comfortable here and we just want to keep going out there and playing good baseball,” outfielder Nick Swisher said.
It will be hard for anyone to be comfortable if the forecast is accurate. If Saunders has to wait a day to pitch, it could create another possibility in the series – one that might make the Yankees push even harder for a closeout victory.
If Game 6 is postponed, manager Mike Scioscia says the Angels would consider bringing back ace John Lackey on three days’ rest to pitch a potential Game 7 as a counter to Yankees stalwart CC Sabathia, who already has shut down the Angels twice in the series.
“Yes, we’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios,” Scioscia said before the Angels’ flight. “We’re going to let this thing unfold a little bit and see how the weekend goes. If there is an opportunity to look at bringing a guy like John back, it’s something we certainly would consider.”
Jered Weaver, who pitched an outstanding eighth inning of relief in Game 5, is the scheduled starter for Game 7 – but Lackey is an attractive alternative.