Yankees Stay Alive, Force Game Five

Hardly any time to feel satisfied for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the Yankees (search). They packed their bags and bolted for the airport -- New York is still around in these playoffs and has much more work to do.

Slow-footed catcher Jorge Posada (search) barely beat the tag for the go-ahead run on Jeter's seventh-inning bouncer, and New York scratched out a 3-2 victory Sunday night over the Los Angeles Angels (search) to force a decisive fifth game in California.

Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra came through with a tying single and, with Yankee Stadium (search) rocking, Rivera retired Vladimir Guerrero for the final out to finish off a two-inning save as the Yankees evened the best-of-five AL playoff series at two games apiece.

"The whole game was a grinder, we did a lot of things well," Posada said. "It doesn't mean anything if we don't go out there and play the way we're supposed to."

After a rainout Saturday postponed Game 4, the teams must now fly cross-country overnight to play Monday in Anaheim at 8:15 p.m. EDT. Both scheduled pitchers were already waiting out West -- Game 1 winner Mike Mussina and Angels ace Bartolo Colon.

"It's a long flight for both teams," Los Angeles outfielder Steve Finley said. "This team is not going to hang its head. We're going to come back tomorrow with the same energy we had today."

Thanks to yet another New York comeback, this first-round series is the only one to go the distance in 2005. The winner Monday faces the Chicago White Sox (search) in the AL championship series.

It also means 37-year-old Bernie Williams (search) has at least one more game left with the Yankees. He can become a free agent after this season -- his 15th in New York.

But most important for the Yankees, Rivera said he would be ready to throw two innings again in Game 5 if needed.

"I can't stop," he said. "Tomorrow is going to be the big one."

Trying to knock New York out of the playoffs for the second time in four seasons, the Angels built a 2-1 series lead on airtight defense and a deep bullpen.

This time, both betrayed them.

With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Robinson Cano (search) reached on an infield single to start the seventh and Posada drew a one-out walk from losing pitcher Scot Shields.

Sierra, batting for No. 9 hitter Bubba Crosby, grounded a sharp single to right and Cano scored standing up despite a strong throw from Guerrero, leaving runners at the corners.

Jeter, at the center of so many big moments for the Yankees, topped a slow bouncer to third, forcing Chone Figgins to charge the ball.

Figgins, who made a couple of outstanding defensive plays earlier in the series, bounced a wide throw to the plate, and Posada skidded in on an aborted slide. Catcher Bengie Molina argued the call, as did Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

But after his teammates viewed a replay and told him what they saw, Molina agreed that Posada was safe.

"It's a tough play. Two strikes, I'm playing back and the guy's going on contact," said Figgins, adding that the ball was a little wet when he grabbed for a grip.

Winning pitcher Al Leiter got Darin Erstad to ground into an inning-ending double play in the seventh. With the season on the line, Rivera got six outs for his record 34th career postseason save and second of the series.

"Let me tell you something: It's not easy," Rivera said. "But I trust my pitches and I trust my teammates behind me."

Acquired from Colorado for a pair of minor league pitchers in late July, Shawn Chacon (search) was one of the fill-in starters who helped save the Yankees down the stretch -- and he delivered again in his playoff debut.

While Chacon went 10 days between starts, Los Angeles' John Lackey was pitching on only three days' rest. After a no-decision in Game 2, he was told Sunday morning that he would need to step in for scheduled starter Jarrod Washburn, scratched because of a throat infection and fever.

As a rookie, Lackey started and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series (search) against San Francisco on short rest, and his cap was sent to the Hall of Fame.

He delivered another gutsy effort before 56,226 raucous fans. Each team managed only four hits in a tight ballgame.

"That was an outstanding performance by John Lackey," Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, Chacon matched him pitch for pitch."

After rain fell all weekend in the Big Apple, Game 4 was played under a clear sky on a crisp, 61-degree night.

Chacon retired his first nine batters, striking out four, and Guerrero's infield single with two outs in the fourth was the Angels' first hit.

"He's cool. He's having a good time. He just really told people a lot more with this last start than we learned since he came over from Colorado. Obviously, we needed every bit of it," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Now we can reunite with Moose again because we haven't seen him in about five days."

Lackey had the Yankees off balance, too: Alex Rodriguez's bat slipped out of his hands and sailed into the seats about halfway down the left-field line after he swung and missed in the third. The right-hander held New York hitless until Posada's two-out double in the fifth.

Chacon finally faltered in the sixth. Juan Rivera drew a leadoff walk on four pitches and advanced to second on Finley's sacrifice.

With two outs, Figgins, who started the series 0-for-11, lined an RBI double into the right-field corner, and Orlando Cabrera hit the next pitch to right-center for consecutive doubles and a 2-0 lead.

Gary Sheffield's two-out RBI single cut it to 2-1 in the bottom half, and Scioscia handed the rest of the game to his normally steady bullpen. Shields retired Hideki Matsui to end the inning.

Lackey lasted 5 2-3 innings -- just as he did for a no-decision in Game 2 -- and allowed only two hits. He struck out six and walked four.

"I felt like I was still strong, but you can't argue with going to our bullpen," Lackey said. "When you hold that lineup down the way we did tonight, you've got to find a way to win."

Chacon gave up two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings.

"I get nervous, I'm human," Chacon said. "When I get out on the mound, that's where I'm supposed to be. I'm in control and nobody can bother me."

Williams, baseball's career leader in postseason homers (22) and RBIs (80), received a standing ovation before each trip to the plate, with the crowd chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" He finished 0-for-4.

Notes: Williams took over in center field in the eighth, leaving the Yankees without a DH. Rivera took the No. 3 spot in the lineup. ... Molina left Game 3 on Friday night after being hit on the left elbow by Tom Gordon's pitch. ... Sierra was 4-for-23 with three RBIs as a pinch-hitter during the regular season. ... Posada pumped his first after throwing out a pair of runners at second base in the fourth. ... Chacon did get two outs in relief during the regular-season finale on Oct. 2.