Somehow, the pieces never seemed to fit


first_imgANAHEIM – It was just so perfect, so bitterly perfect. Same players, same pleading, same frustrating, disappointing result. The same way the Angels’ postseason demise began, it ended on a rainy Sunday night at Angel Stadium. The moments mirrored each other, framing a lot of substandard play by the Angels in an irony they wanted no part of but ultimately could not avoid. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week In the end, it was the Angels who were clearly outplayed by the unlikely Chicago White Sox, who battled back once again for a 6-3 victory that captured the American League Championship Series. The White Sox and their four complete-game pitchers, their more clutch hitters and all their unmemorable history, who will now try to win their first World Series since their infamous 1917 title. “They beat us,” said Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy. And maybe it was that simple, the Angels never really being able to play their game, the White Sox making AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero simply disappear, keeping stolen-base leader Chone Figgins off the bases, taking the breaks that came their way and making the most of them. “They outplayed us and deserve to move on,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. center_img Nothing ever really worked for the Angels in this series the way they had it planned. The only game they won – the opener in Chicago, after beating the Yankees the night before in Anaheim and flying all night – was the one they probably should have lost. Otherwise their offense sputtered, the best plans failed to deliver. Even Sunday after they had rallied with a pair of runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, the pieces didn’t quite fit, like they always had. Scioscia went to his normally reliable bullpen plan – Scot Shields, Kelvim Escobar and Francisco Rodriguez – and it couldn’t hold the lead. “After we scored the two runs and turned the lead to Kelvim and Frankie, we were feeling pretty good,” Kennedy said. “We just couldn’t hold onto it and they still came back.” The series turned on them on the blown umpire’s call in Game 2 when Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski missed a strike three from Escobar and was awarded first base because the ball had supposedly hit the dirt. “They came out of that fired up,” said Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. “It sparked them and they just kept it going.” The Angels hoped they had turned the series back their way in Game 4 taking a 3-2 lead, but a dispute eerily similar to the one in Game 2 again went against them. It involved the same players. The pesky Pierzynski, Escobar on the mound, Scioscia pleading his case in vain, Joe Crede delivering in the clutch. The lone difference this time being, the umpires got it right. It began when Pierzynski hit a one-hopper off Escobar’s fanny. Escobar retrieved the ball as Pierzynski ran up the line. But Escobar, who had already given up a solo homer to Crede, fielded the ball in his right hand and tagged Pierzynski with his empty glove. Initially, first-base umpire Randy Marsh singled an out, but a quick huddle correctly awarded Pierzynski first. Scioscia sprinted from the dugout to protest, losing yet another dispute. “They got the call right,” Scioscia said. Rodriguez, their stopper, replaced Escobar with two outs and thought he had Crede struck out on a nasty 1-2 curve. “I thought I had it,” Rodriguez said. “I almost started to walk away. I asked the umpire and he said it was a little high. What are you going to do? “After that, I still didn’t make the pitch I needed.” Crede’s infield hit singled in the go-ahead run. Fittingly, the Angels never mounted another charge against Jose Contreras. They went meekly, the final 15 Angels going down in order as Contreras pitched the White Sox fourth consecutive complete game. “I’ve never seen four horses like that come out of the gate and pitch so well,” Scioscia said. “You have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and that group.” The White Sox starters reduced Guerrero to a very bad singles hitter. Maybe he took shooting for the moon in that cola commercial a tad too seriously; come to think of it, it didn’t bode well for Alex Rodriguez, either. Guerrero batted .050 in the series (1 for 20), never collecting an extra-base hit, never hitting the ball out of the infield. His lone RBI came on an fielder’s choice. “Today he had a great batting practice,” Hatcher said. “It just never clicked for him.” The offense that has been so inconsistent during the regular season but showed such promise in defeated the Yankees in the divisional series, simply melted away. As a team, the Angels batted just .175 in the five games. “We just couldn’t get anything going,” Hatcher said. ` A wonderful Angels season had come to a final, disappointing end. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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