Unfortunately for the Yankees, bad A.J. Burnett showed up in the bottom of the 1st inning tonight, yielding 4 runs on 4 hits before recording his first out of the game. Equally unfortunate was that John Lackey was on his game, making four runs seem like an impossible hill to climb. The Yankees would mount a surprising comeback, but the bullpen couldn't hold it as the Angels beat the Yankees 7-6, shrinking the Yankees' series lead to three games to two.
Burnett ended up mostly settling down (until the 7th), but his final line was the worst the Yankees have received from their starters in the 2009 postseason (6 IP, 8H, 6R, 3BB and 3K), and not at all what the team needed from its number-two starter. If there's any silver lining, perhaps the ridiculous Jose Molina experiment can finally end? The Yankees actually got to the Angels in the top of the 7th, scoring a highly unexpected 6 runs off Lackey and relievers Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen. Unfortunately it was all for naught, as Joe Girardi managed the Yankees out of a victory for the second time in four days. Sticking with Burnett for the bottom of the 7th, A.J. subsequently gave up an inexplicable third hit of the night to Jeff Mathis, who has apparently completely forgotten that he's Jeff Mathis and has been hitting like the misguided love child of Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer.
The next sequence of events was mind-boggling. With the tying run at the plate, a two-run lead in the 7th inning, a fully rested bullpen and the chance to close the series out 4-1, why on earth would you not go with your best relievers, i.e. Phil Hughes and/or David Robertson? Girardi decided to stick with Burnett, and Burnett rewarded Girardi by walking Erick Aybar, the number nine hitter. At this point Girardi decided to go with Damaso Marte to face Chone Figgins, who predictably bunted the runners over. Marte induced a groundout from Abreu, but it still plated a run, trimming the lead to 6-5. Girardi finally went to Phil Hughes, who unfortunately continued his shaky postseason pitching, walking Torii Hunter and then giving up consecutive RBI base hits to Vladimir Guerrero and Kendry Morales. Hughes finally got Maicer Izturis to ground out to end the inning, but the damage was done, and less than an inning after improbably taking a 6-4 lead, the Yankees exited the 7th inning trailing 7-6.
The bats went meekly in the top of the 8th, while the Angels threatened to plate more in the bottom half of the inning against a still-erratic Joba Chamberlain, until Mariano Rivera came in and once again put the fire out.
The Yankees had the heart of the order up in the top of the 9th, but couldn't get anything going despite loading the bases with two outs. Series goat Nick Swisher popped out on a full count to end the threat, and the Yankees ultimately lost an absurd roller-coaster of a game, forcing the series to go to a sixth game back in the Bronx on Saturday night.
Lost amid the disastrous bullpen management and putrid pitching of the 7th inning was Mark Teixeira coming through with a huge three-run double in the top of the 7th, bringing the Yankees to within one. Scioscia then intentionally walked A-Rod once again, which came back to bite him as Hideki Matsui then drove Teixeira home on a big RBI single. Robinson Cano followed with an even bigger RBI triple that plated both A-Rod and Matsui (from first base!), giving the Yankees the lead. Ensuing batter Nick Swisher of course couldn't add to the lead, continuing his brutal stretch of non-hitting.
In a game the Yankees really had no business winning, they incredibly managed to claw all the way back and take the lead, only to give it right back. The fact that the Yankees led in both games they've lost in this series is gut-wrenching, and underscores Girardi's ineffective and disappointing bullpen management, as well as the ineffective and disappointing bullpen outside of Mariano Rivera. In any event, a tip of the cap to the Angels, who played a heck of a game and who wouldn't be beat on a night where a six-run inning might have demoralized a lesser team.