NEW YORK (AP) – The Big Unit was a bust when the Yankees needed him most, and Chone Figgins’ clutch plays pushed the Los Angeles Angels within one win of the AL championship series.

Figgins made another sparkling grab on defense and hit a tiebreaking single, and Garret Anderson had four hits and five RBIs to lead the Angels over the New York Yankees 11-7 Friday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five playoff series.

The Angels, who set their postseason record with 19 hits, can close out the series Saturday and advance to face the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS. Los Angeles lefty Jarrod Washburn is scheduled to face New York’s Shawn Chacon in Game 4.

Bengie Molina homered for the third straight game and Anderson hit a three-run shot through the raindrops as Los Angeles went ahead 5-0 and chased Randy Johnson in the fourth. His playoff debut for the Yankees was a dud, the shortest of his 15 postseason starts.

Sparked by Hideki Matsui’s leadoff homer in the fourth, New York came back against Paul Byrd and the Angels’ bullpen to go ahead 6-5 in the fifth only to quickly fall behind again as Aaron Small and Tom Gordon failed to come through.

New York, with a record payroll of $203 million, must win two straight in order to continue its quest for its first World Series title since 2000. If the Yankees fail, owner George Steinbrenner could order a shake up.

Small, 10-0 during the regular season, entered with runners at the corners in the fourth and got a strikeout and double-play grounder, then threw a 1-2-3 fifth. But he wound up losing for the first time since New York brought him up in mid-July.

Former Yankee Juan Rivera doubled with one out in the sixth, and Darin Erstad singled to tie it 6-all.

After pinch-hitter Steve Finley struck out, Adam Kennedy blooped a single to short center to move Erstad to third. Figgins, 0-for-11 in the series, stroked a single to right-center that drove in the go-ahead run.

Anderson added a run-scoring single in the seventh off Tom Gordon after Molina was hit on the left elbow by a pitch and forced from the game. Finley squeezed in an unearned run following an error by second baseman Robinson Cano, who came off the bag to take third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s soft throw on a grounder, and Jose Molina and Anderson singled home runs in the eighth off Scott Proctor.

Scot Shields, the Angels’ third pitcher, struck out four in two innings for the win, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Cano flied out.

Kelvin Escobar allowed Derek Jeter’s leadoff homer in the eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez finished a game that lasted exactly 4 hours.

While rain was in the forecast and fell intermittently, the game was never halted. More wet weather is expected Saturday.

Johnson was 6-0 over his prior eight starts since Aug. 21 but left numerous pitches up and quickly got into trouble.

Anderson had been 3-for-18 against the 42-year-old left-hander, who gave up career-high 32 homers during the regular season but just one to a left-handed hitter, Toronto’s Eric Hinske on April 29. Johnson had held lefties to an .074 average (4-for-54) with one extra-base hit since July 26 before Anderson reached down and drove a 1-1 pitch into the right-field bleachers.

Los Angeles made it 5-0 in the third when Orlando Cabrera doubled with one out and Molina, who had 15 home runs during the regular season, came up with two outs and sent a high pitch into the left-field seats.

Johnson stood in front of the mound, hands on hips, and a few moments later fans in the right-field bleachers began chanting: “Aaron Small,” hoping a reliever would be brought in. An inning later, they got what they wanted.

Johnson gave up consecutive hits to open the fourth, and that was enough for New York manager Joe Torre, who pulled his ace after 62 pitches. The crowd of 56,277 booed loudly – Johnson had said Thursday that Diamondbacks’ fans in Arizona made more noise during his starts than the Yankees supporters.

During the pitching change, rain briefly started to fall more heavily, prompting the crowd to cheer.

Small struck out Kennedy and got the speedy Figgins to ground into a double play, with Cano going to his knees for a backhand stop at second and making a nifty underhand flip to Jeter.

Matsui homered leading off the bottom half, Jorge Posada hit an RBI grounder, and Jeter had an RBI single that chased Byrd. Jason Giambi’s run-scoring single off Brendan Donnelly went through the shortstop hole vacated by the overshifted infield. Gary Sheffield nearly hit a two-run single on the next pitch but Figgins, whose defense at third saved the Angels’ in Game 2, reached his sinking liner to center.

Matsui walked leading off the fifth and Cano lined a double to left-center to tie it 5-5, and he took third when Cabrera’s relay throw sailed to the backstop. Williams followed with a sacrifice fly as Cano scored easily.

Notes: The Yankees left Game 1 winner Mike Mussina behind in California to pitch a possible Game 5, scheduled for Sunday in Anaheim. Barring a rainout Saturday, Bartolo Colon would pitch Game 5 for the Angels. … The series has followed the pattern of the 2002 matchup, when the Angels lost the opener before winning three in a row.

AP-ES-10-08-05 0024EDT


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