Angels look to beat Yankees again

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Forget the Red Sox. The toughest opponent for the New York Yankees in the past 10 years has been the Angels, whether they be known as California, Anaheim or Los Angeles.

“They don’t beat your brains out,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “They just make it tough for you to get them out. What they’ve done under Mike Scioscia is develop a bullpen that you can get in a lot of trouble with.”

The Angels, who play New York in their home opener Friday, are the only AL team with a winning record against the Yankees since Torre became their manager in 1996 – they’re 49-48 during the regular season, including 6-4 last year.

In addition, they eliminated the Yankees from the postseason in 2002, when they won their only World Series, and again last year, when they lost to the Chicago White Sox in the AL championship series.

“If we beat them, it still doesn’t make up for what happened last year,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “They’ve got great defense and a bullpen that’s one of the best. They do all the little things. I think they’re a pest for everybody. Yeah, we’ve had some rough elimination games there. You remember them, but you don’t really think about them while you’re playing. We’ve been eliminated in other places.”

Jeter and teammate Alex Rodriguez have been eliminated twice at Angel Stadium in the past six months – from the AL division series last October, and from the World Baseball Classic as members of the United States team last month.

New York’s Shawn Chacon will face Kelvim Escobar in the first outing of the season for both right-handers.

“It’s something special. It’s an honor to pitch the home opener, especially against the Yankees,” Escobar said. “They’re always good. Every year, they’ve got a great lineup. They are great hitters, but you can’t give them too much credit. What makes that lineup different is anyone can hurt you. That’s what makes them different from other teams.”

Scioscia, starting his seventh year as the Angels’ manager, said opening days anywhere are special.

“It’s just a new beginning for baseball,” he said. “You still get the butterflies.”

The fact that the Yankees are the opponents perhaps makes it even more special.

“Anytime the Yankees are around, it seems like it’s a more special environment,” Scioscia said. “We’ve had some big games with the Yankees recently.”

And they’ve won them.

“I don’t think we’re intimidated by any team,” Scioscia said. “Any team that’s good doesn’t get intimidated. We come to play our game, whether we are playing the Yankees, Boston, or a team that might be struggling with its record.

“You can’t get caught up in the mystique or the talent of an organization.”

The Angels and Yankees both bring 1-2 records into the three-game series. Los Angeles opened the season at Seattle, while New York played at Oakland.

Tim Salmon will be a part of his 14th home opener with the Angels. The 37-year-old outfielder-designated hitter sat out last season while recovering from knee and shoulder operations, and came to spring training as a non-roster player.

Salmon had a double and two homers in six at-bats in the Seattle series.

“I think when you play a long time, you kind of take it for granted. But after all I went through to come back, it will be special,” he said of this home opener. “Maybe I will take it in a little bit more, kind of like my first experience in the postseason.”

That was in 2002, when the Angels beat the Yankees, Twins and Giants to win the World Series.

“Anytime you play the Yankees, it’s always a little more festive,” Salmon said. “It’s a different atmosphere. It’s a playoff atmosphere.”

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