Notes: Mystique? What mystique?
Scioscia believes there's no Yankees aura, just good ballclubs
NEW YORK -- The Yankees mystique is heralded as a game-changing force, one that burns itself into the psyche of opposing teams and their players, weighing on their minds with the heft of 26 World Series championships and rattling them with the voices of 50,000 screaming fans at storied Yankee Stadium.
But the Angels think they have it figured out.
"We talked about the Yankee mystique last week," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday, on the eve of Game 3 of the best-of-five American League Division Series. "In our mind, the Yankee mystique is: They play the game right, they play it well and they are talented. That's the challenge -- not coming into the Stadium."
Scioscia extrapolated his theory, saying that the challenge is for his team to play well, because if it does that, it'll have a greater chance to win.
Scioscia said that the Angels love to play at Yankee Stadium, because the atmosphere is always electric, and the statistics back him up. The Angels split six games at the Stadium in 2005 as they took six of 10 games from the Yankees overall.
The Angels were the only one of the Yankees' three potential AL playoff opponents to finish with a winning record against them. The White Sox and Yankees split six games, while New York took 10 of 19 games against the Red Sox.
"As far as beating the Yankees, it's those nine guys on the field, and that's what we focus on," Scioscia said. "It's not easy -- they are a talented club. When you play them, you know that you have to come in here and bring your game, and our guys have been able to do that."
Lineup, left lacking: Scioscia admitted Randy Johnson's status as a "special lefty" meant that personnel changes would be in order as the manager composed his Game 3 lineup. However, he cautioned that nothing radical was in order, saying that center fielder Steve Finley's absence is the only expected one in Friday's starting nine.
"We have to really keep defensive continuity," Scioscia said. "[Adam] Kennedy and [Darin] Erstad might be the best right side of the infield in our league, and it's going to be important for us to keep them out there, especially with Paul [Byrd] pitching."
Watered-down rotation: Scioscia dismissed thoughts of Bartolo Colon pitching on short rest in Game 4, saying that it was less likely after Colon's minor back problems in September.
"We've got some guys throwing the ball very well, and to have maybe a diluted Bartolo would not be what we're looking for," said Scioscia, who has announced left-hander Jarrod Washburn as his Game 4 starter on Saturday afternoon.
He pointed out that if Friday's game were rained out (rain is in the forescast for New York), he might reconsider Colon as a Game 4 starter. A rainout would line Colon up to start Game 4 on regular rest on Sunday.
Rivera's revenge: Juan Rivera hit a solo home run in the fifth inning Wednesday, breaking up Chien-Ming Wang's shutout bid. Then, in the seventh, Rivera beat out a grounder to short with a headfirst dive. The leadoff single keyed the Angels' two-run, game-winning rally.
One could surmise that Rivera, who played for the Yankees during parts of the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, exacted some measure of revenge against the team that traded him to the Expos before the 2004 season. But Scioscia dispelled the notion Thursday.
"Maybe when you accomplish something [against a former team], it's an extra feather in your cap," Scioscia said. "But you don't need that kind of motivation when you're playing in a playoff scenario, and Juan certainly doesn't."
Scioscia also said that Rivera was fine after making the headfirst slide, adding that Rivera would be ready to play in Friday's Game 3. Scioscia pointed out that the Angels had planned to pinch-run for Rivera if he reached base in the seventh inning Wednesday, which he did, even before the slide.
Luck this: Though the Angels twice broke through Thursday for scoring rallies after Yankees errors, Scioscia dismissed any thought that luck defined the Angels' 5-3 victory.
"I think if you're playing at a high enough level, you should absorb the bad breaks," Scioscia said. "You're going to create situations for yourself and sometimes you'll get breaks. I don't look at last night's game as a game of breaks, other than they opened the door with a couple of miscues that helped us. I thought we played good fundamental baseball and we beat a good team."
Vlad the Invisible? Vladimir Guerrero has only one home run since Sept. 15 (52 at-bats), but Scioscia isn't worried about his right fielder's hitting.
"Vlad's an outstanding hitter, but at times he's had to take what pitchers are giving him," Scioscia said. "His RBIs have been fine. ... There's been a number of times when he's shot the ball to the right side with runners in scoring position to get a run in, and that's how Vlad plays the game."
Protection: Bengie Molina delivered two RBIs from the five hole Wednesday and the catcher will continue to bat in that spot in the order to protect Guerrero with Erstad sixth.
Molina has two homers in the series to lead all players.
Numbers: Wednesday's was the 11th comeback playoff win out of their last 15 for the Angels. ... The win snapped a four-game postseason losing streak. ... Erstad has hit safely in 20 of 21 career postseason games. ... Rivera hit his first career postseason homer. ... Orlando Cabrera is hitting .351 with seven RBIs against the Yankees in the postseason.
Ben Couch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.