Momentum can be a fickle. It’s intangible. It’s mysterious. And sometimes, it shows up at the strangest times. You’d never think a manager headed back to his home ball park leading 3-2 would be dodging questions about momentum; and you’d never think a manager going on the road down 3-2 would be so thrilled to talk about it, but in the case of the Yankees vs. Angels series, they are.
In Friday’s conference call, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called momentum important. “There’s momentum you can carry as you win some good games against good teams,” he said. “We’re going to definitely have to carry that into Game 6.”
After the Angels gripping 7-6 victory in Game 5, one would expect the mystical force to be on their side, and Joe Girardi didn’t disagree. “I’m sure the Angels feel very good about their chances,” he said. But, about his own team’s momentum, he could only remind reporters that the Yankees still lead the series. “We’re up three games to two. We’re in our home ballpark where we’ve played very well.”
Girardi isn’t taking the Angels momentum lightly, and considering Scioscia’s post-season history, it’s for good reason. The Angels trailed 3-2 in the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants, but came back to win, despite being down 5-0 in Game 6. In Friday’s conference call, the Angels manager pointed out that in ’02, the Angels fought back in front of their home crowd instead of on the road, as will be the case this year. “I don’t know if it really has a huge impact if we’re coming back home for 6 and 7 or doing it on the road,” Scioscia said. “The challenge is very real and it’s a challenge we can meet.”
But the ’02 comeback isn’t the only momentum swing of Scioscia’s career. In this year’s playoffs, the Angels trailed in the 8th against Boston in Game 3 with Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. The Angels ended up beating the Sox closer to take the series. Scioscia talked about the significance of that comeback leading into this series. “It certainly gave us, I think, a good feeling and a lot of momentum,” Scioscia said. “Trying to rebuild that momentum in a new series is something that – it’s been a little bit of a challenge so far, but I think we’re playing better baseball now.”
Better baseball is exactly what the Yankees manager will need from his bullpen, who squandered a two run lead in the 8th inning of Game 5. Set-up man Phil Hughes took the loss, but Girardi said his confidence is “very high” in Hughes and the rest of the bullpen. “We’ve had struggles during the year in our bullpen and guys have bounced back,” Girardi said.
He may be confidant, but Girardi didn’t feel much like talking about Hughes pitch to Vladimir Guerrero, which Guerrero hit to score Erick Aybar to tie the game, Joe simply said it was “location.”
So, it seems intangibles like confidence and momentum will play a major role in Saturday night’s Game 6. One thing neither manager wanted to think about: rain. Girardi would only say that nothing would change if Game 6 is a no-go. Scioscia was tight lipped as well, only revealing that the Angel staff has talked about many different scenarios. The weather likely won’t affect Game 6 starters, but could allow for a Lackey-Sabathia Game 7.
OTHER NEWS FROM THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK
(THE BIZ OF FOOTBALL)
(THE BIZ OF HOCKEY)
(THE BIZ OF BASKETBALL)
Matthew Coller is staff member of the Business of Sports Network and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseballl on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook