ANAHEIM, Calif. - After 261 minutes, 14 pitchers, six homers and several big blunders all led to a winning hit by a backup catcher, the Los Angeles Angels finally handed the New York Yankees their first postseason loss in this cuckoo AL championship series.
Jeff Mathis hit a two-out double in the 11th inning to drive home the winning run and the Angels survived a second straight extra-inning thriller, beating the Yankees 5-4 yesterday and trimming New York's ALCS lead to 2-1.
Part-time infielder Howie Kendrick homered and tripled before singling with two outs in the 11th. Mathis followed with his drive up against the left-field wall, and Kendrick slid home well ahead of a desperate throw.
Mathis, a .211 hitter in the regular season, came up with his third late-inning, extra-base hit of this outlandish series, just two days after the clubs' 310-minute, 13-inning icy epic in Game 2.
"Obviously, it's the biggest hit of my life," Mathis said. "For Howie to have the at-bat he did right there, and to get on base and put one in the gap to win the game, it's a pretty good feeling."
Game 4 is tonight, with CC Sabathia pitching on three days' rest against Angels newcomer Scott Kazmir. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday.
Vladimir Guerrero also homered as the Angels overcame a 3-0 deficit and four solo homers by the Yankees' stars, including Jorge Posada's tying shot in the eighth. Bobby Abreu made a big baserunning mistake, Joba Chamberlain flopped, and Mariano Rivera made a gutsy stand with the bases loaded in the 10th before Kendrick and Mathis made it all academic.
"Man, that was one of the craziest games," said Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who lamented his 1-for-5 effort. "It was an emotional roller coaster, man. We were up, we were down. I've got a headache right now, but it was a lot of fun. Both teams were battling and we came through in the end. As long as you have innings and outs left, you've got a chance to make something happen."
For the second straight game, the Angels and Yankees played into tense extra innings, stretching nerves and bullpens still frayed from Saturday's marathon New York victory at Yankee Stadium.
"This is the type of series we expected it to be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't really stretch out any of our pitchers too far today out of the bullpen, so I believe our guys will be fine tomorrow."
Los Angeles wasted a golden opportunity in the 10th after putting runners at the corners with nobody out against Rivera, but the ace closer came through yet again, getting Hunter and Guerrero with the bases loaded.
Fans gathered across the country at Yankee Stadium erupted in cheers when Rivera retired the side - but the Angels came through in the 11th after winner Ervin Santana retired the Yankees.
The winning run came quickly after David Robertson retired the first two Angels in the 11th before giving way to Alfredo Aceves, the Yankees' eighth pitcher. Kendrick singled and Mathis followed with a drive to left-center, hit far too deep to allow a play on the speedy Kendrick.
Mathis, the Angels' surprising slugger, entered Game 3 in the eighth and hit a leadoff double in the 10th.
Playing in balmy Orange County temperatures after a frigid weekend in the Bronx, the Yankees had a 3-0 lead midway through the fifth on homers by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon.
Andy Pettitte also appeared to be cruising toward his record 16th career postseason victory, which would have put New York one win from its first World Series in six years.
Instead, Kendrick hit a fifth-inning homer, Guerrero tied it with a two-run shot in the sixth, and Kendrick tripled off Chamberlain before scoring on Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly in the seventh to put the Angels ahead 4-3.
But Posada tied it again in the eighth with a shot to center off Kevin Jepsen. Jeter stranded two runners to end New York's eighth, and Los Angeles' Abreu was tagged out moments later while retreating to second base after his long double to center.
Only three teams have blown a 2-0 lead in a league championship series, but the 2004 Yankees are in that trio.
After taking a 3-0 lead against Boston that infamous fall, the Yankees lost 13 of their next 17 postseason games before winning their first five this year.