first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 ANAHEIM – When the Angels clinched a wild-card berth for the 2002 playoffs, they partied like it was 1986. And, in fact, the last time the Angels had reached the playoffs was 1986. But when the Angels take the field at Angel Stadium tonight to face the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, simply being there is not enough. Between 1986 and 2002, the Angels had a 15-season playoff drought. With their playoff appearance this season, the Angels have reached the postseason in three of four seasons, giving the club the tag it had been striving for: perennial contender. “(Reaching the post-season) qualifies us to go on and finish the job we set out to do,” Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. “That’s really what it is. It takes a long time, a lot of aches and pains, ups and downs to get to the point we’re at.” The Angels beat the Yankees in six of 10 meeting this season, and in the Joe Torre era (starting in 1996), the Angels are the only team with a winning record vs. the Yankees (49-48). The Angels also beat the Yankees in the two clubs’ only postseason meeting in 2002. The Angels’ secret? Pretend it’s not the Yankees in the other dugout. “We never talk about it,” Angels first baseman Darin Erstad said. “We just go out and play just like it’s any other day, any other team. … When we play them, we don’t change our game.” The Yankees are hot, having gone 20-10 in September/October to pass the Boston Red Sox and win the AL East. The have the possible MVP in Alex Rodriguez, who hit 48 homers and drove in 130 runs. Jason Giambi (32) and Gary Sheffield (34) also hit more than 30 homers. Hideki Matsui (116) and Sheffield (123) also drove in more than 100 runs. Only Vladimir Guerrero exceeded 30 and 100 for the Angels. Facing the Yankees lineup poses a considerable challenge for the Angels’ pitchers, starting with Bartolo Colon, their Game 1 starter against Yankees starter Mike Mussina. “I think all of them are dangerous,” Colon said through an interpreter. “One thing that comes to mind, to me, they are all cleanup hitters. That’s the way I see the Yankee lineup.” It’s the way it’s supposed to be in New York, where nothing short of winning the World Series will do. “When you play for the Yankees, when you work for the Yankees, getting to the World Series is one necessary item that needs to take place,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Winning the World Series is one above that.” The Angels also go in playing well, having won 14 of 16 to finish the regular season with 95 wins, matching the Yankees. The Angels got home-field advantage because they won the season series. While any team would prefer to go into the playoffs on a roll, history shows it isn’t that important. The Angels struggled in the final week of the season in 2002, then got hot in the playoffs and won it all. Last season, the Angels finished strong, then got swept by the Red Sox in the first round. What the Angels are counting on is for their pitching staff to react the same way it did during the regular season. All five of their starters have a record of .500 or better, and they have the probable Cy Young Award winner in Colon. They have one of the best bullpens in the majors, anchored by closer Francisco Rodriguez, who had 45 saves. “I can’t say enough about the pitching,” Erstad said. “They never complained about the offense, they kept getting people out. There’s no way we’d be here without them.” Starting pitching has been the Yankees’ biggest problem, but they’ve received impressive late-season contributions from Aaron Small (10-0) and Shawn Chacon (7-3). And of course, there’s long-time Angels nemesis Randy Johnson. The Angels’ only real problem area this season has been their offense, but the bats have come alive in September/October, when the Angels averaged 4.9 runs per game. Notes: Kevin Gregg made the Angels’ roster as the 10th pitcher over left-hander Jason Christiansen. Because Ervin Santana made 103 pitches in six innings Sunday, the Angels needed someone like Gregg who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen if needed early in the series. … Former Angels pitchers Troy Percival and Chuck Finley will take part in tonight’s first-pitch ceremonies. Joe Haakenson, (626) 962-8811 last_img