The New York Yankees took a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS in the early hours of this morning. Their 4-3 thirteen-inning victory dashed my hopes that the Angels could follow the Dodgers’ lead and level the series at 1-1; however there’s no sense of disappointment on my part. As a neutral, I want to see the two series go to as many games as possible, but I’d take a shorter series if the games are as action-packed as this one was.
Game Two of the ALCS started at just before 1 a.m. British time and I have to admit that I didn’t have the energy to stay up and watch it. That decision was probably for the best as the game lasted for five hours and ten minutes, yet I’m sure I would have had little trouble staying awake for the duration had I decided to ‘just watch the first couple of innings’. Instead, I relied on MLB.com this morning to allow me to catch up on everything that happened.
One of the strengths of MLB.com is that there are lots of different ways in which you can do this. You can read the game reports from the perspectives of both teams involved, you can re-trace the game via Gameday, you can watch 30/40 second clips of the key moments or a neat little four-minute highlights package via the Daily Recap. As an MLB.TV subscriber, I could even go back and watch the full five hours of footage if I had the spare time to do so. However, whenever I want to get a true sense of the way a game panned out and I don’t have the time to watch the whole thing back again, I always opt for the Condensed Game video.
Condensed Games are available to watch for free by going to the ‘Media Center’ page and clicking on the relevant link. If you haven’t watched any Condensed Games before, this is a perfect opportunity for you to see why they are so invaluable, particularly to baseball fans outside the States who can find it difficult to watch the whole game live due to the time difference. This five-hour epic is reduced to twenty-three minutes in which every hit, out and other important plays are cut together. The commentary is taken out of the audio feed to make it easier to edit the footage. It doesn’t detract much from the drama of the game, I quite enjoy just listening to the crowd’s reaction in fact, and you can always go on and watch the highlight clips if you are keen to hear how the big plays were called.
It’s not the same as sitting through the whole contest, but it’s the next best thing if you want to get a good sense of how the game ebbed and flowed from one at-bat to the next. In the case of the Angels-Yankees game, what really came across for me was how many good defensive plays there were. That’s probably the last thing you would think if you just saw the highlights.
Maicer Izturis’ error allowed Jerry Hairston Jr. to sprint around from second base to score the game-winning run and that was one of five errors committed by the two teams combined, including a pair by Robinson Cano. Erick Aybar, Izturis’ middle infield partner, also committed an unofficial error when he failed to touch second base on an attempted double-play. The umpire correctly called Derek Jeter safe, although Aybar could perhaps justifiably feel a little hard done by as that sort of play is virtually always given as an out by umpires. When a fielder is turning a double-play and is in the vicinity of the base, the umpire will normally give them a little leeway so that the fielder isn’t always left standing on the bag and subsequently being clattered by the on-rushing baserunner. You can’t rely on an umpire to give you the benefit of the doubt though, as the Angels found out.
Mistakes always stand out, but they shouldn’t overshadow the good fielding that was also on show. Mark Teixeira made two excellent plays stretching at first base, Johnny Damon robbed Chone Figgins of a lead-off hit in the ninth inning with a diving catch and Cano partly atoned for his errors by making a nice running catch on a pop-fly in centre field. Meanwhile the Angels turned three important double plays. Double plays always seem to me to be somewhat overlooked from the fielding side. The attention normally falls on the negative aspect of the batter who hit into the twin-killing and Major Leaguers often make turning double plays look as easy as 1-2-3 (or 1-6-3, 3-6-1 and 4-6-3 in the Angels’ case). The coordination and sheer athletic skill required to complete double plays at the speed found in MLB shouldn’t be taken for granted: so long as it’s not your own team hitting into it, there are few more impressive sights in any sport than a perfectly turned DP.
The Angels’ skill at turning the double play ultimately was their undoing against the Yankees. Izturis should have gone for the sure-out at first and in pushing for two, he threw the ball away. The Angels’ uncharacteristic defensive miscues in the first two games and the sixteen runners they left stranded in game two have put them in a difficult 0-2 position heading back to Los Angeles. At least they should enjoy the weather more back home. As for the Yankees, they are now 5-0 in the postseason and have the look of a team destined to win it all. Their many veterans know all too well that things can change quickly in baseball, so they won’t be thinking about ring designs just yet.
Game Three of the ALCS begins at the much more convenient time of 21.13 BST on Monday. If it is another five-hour classic then we won’t be finished until gone 2 a.m., so there could be some bleary-eyed baseball fans heading into work on Tuesday morning. Before that, we have the third game of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Phillies. First pitch is set for 01.07 tonight/Monday morning.