Still suffering from a hangover following their stunning defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in the previous year’s American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees struggled throughout much of the first two months of the 2005 campaign. However, they pulled themselves together over the season’s final four months to edge out the Red Sox for the A.L. East title on the next-to-last day of the season with a Randy Johnson victory in Boston’s Fenway Park. Although New York and Boston finished the year with an identical 95-67 record, the Yankees earned their eighth consecutive division title by defeating the Red Sox in 10 of their 19 head-to-head meetings.
The Yankees captured the division title primarily on the strength of their potent offense. New York placed second in the American League with 886 runs scored, 229 home runs, a .276 team batting average, and a .355 team on-base percentage. The Yankees had as deep a lineup as anyone in baseball. Rookie second baseman Robinson Cano hit 14 homers, drove in 62 runs, and batted .297 after joining the team in late April. Jason Giambi hit 32 home runs, knocked in 87 runs, batted .271, and compiled a .440 on-base percentage. Derek Jeter hit 19 homers, scored 122 runs, and batted .309, en route to earning a 10th-place finish in the league MVP voting. Hideki Matsui hit 23 home runs, knocked in 116 runs, scored 108 others, and batted .305. Gary Sheffield batted .291, scored 104 runs, and placed among the league leaders with 34 homers and 123 runs batted in, to earn an eighth-place finish in the A.L. MVP balloting. Edging out Boston’s David Ortiz for that honor was Alex Rodriguez, who finished near the top of the league rankings with 48 home runs, 130 runs batted in, 124 runs scored, a .321 batting average, a .421 on-base percentage, and a .610 slugging percentage.
In spite of their powerful lineup, the Yankees entered the postseason tournament as a less than overwhelming favorite to advance to the World Series due to their rather mediocre pitching staff. New York’s team ERA of 4.52 represented just the ninth-best mark posted in the American League, with only staff ace Randy Johnson establishing himself as a reliable starter over the course of the regular season. Johnson led the club with 17 victories, a 3.79 ERA, 211 strikeouts, and 226 innings pitched. Mike Mussina finished second on the team with only 13 wins. Still, the Yankees had the game’s best closer in Mariano Rivera, who earned a second-place finish in the Cy Young voting by compiling a 1.38 ERA and saving 43 games.
New York’s first-round playoff opponent, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, didn’t have nearly as much offensive firepower as the Yankees. The Angels scored 125 fewer runs (761), hit 82 fewer home runs (147), and compiled a lower team batting average (.270) and a much lower team on-base percentage (.325). Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins, and Vladimir Guerrero were Anaheim’s top three offensive threats. Anderson batted .283 and finished second on the club with 17 homers and 96 runs batted in. The versatile Figgins batted .290 and led the team with 113 runs scored and 62 stolen bases. Guerrero topped the club with 32 home runs, 108 runs batted in, and a .317 batting average, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP balloting.
However, while the Yankees had a considerable edge on offense, the Angels had an equally significant edge in pitching. Anaheim finished third in the league with a team ERA of 3.68, bettering New York’s mark (4.52) by nearly a run per-game. A.L. Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon headed Anaheim’s staff, finishing the year with a record of 21-8 and an ERA of 3.48. John Lackey gave the Angels another very dependable starter, ending the campaign with a record of 14-5 and a 3.44 ERA. Paul Byrd and Ervin Santana each won 12 games. Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez anchored a deep Angels’ bullpen, compiling a 2.67 ERA and leading the league with 45 saves. Heading into their first-round playoff matchup with the Yankees, it appeared that the Angels would have to rely heavily on their superior pitching if they hoped to emerge victorious.
With the ALDS opening up in Anaheim, the Yankees silenced the hometown fans by scoring four times against Bartolo Colon in the first two innings of Game One. Robinson Cano’s three-run double in the opening frame proved to be the game’s big blow. Colon settled down after that, keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard after the second inning. But the strong pitching of Mike Mussina and the Yankee bullpen protected the lead the rest of the way, giving New York a 4-2 victory and a 1-0 Series lead.
The Yankees scored early in Game Two as well, carrying a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. However, New York starter Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t able to hold the lead, surrendering four runs to the Angels over the next three innings. A solo home run by Juan Rivera and RBI-singles by Orlando Cabrera and Bengie Molina helped turn the tide in the contest. Molina added a fifth run with an eighth-inning homer off Al Leiter, while Jorge Posada countered with a solo blast for New York in the top of the ninth. The 5-3 Angels victory evened the Series at one game apiece, with the next two contests scheduled to be played in New York.
Game Three at Yankee Stadium featured an offensive explosion by both clubs. The Angels knocked Randy Johnson out of the game after only three innings, scoring five times against him on a three-run homer by Garret Anderson in the top of the first and a two-run shot by Bengie Molina in the third. However, the Yankees mounted a comeback, scoring four runs against Paul Byrd in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hideki Matsui got New York on the board with a solo home run. The Yankees added three more runs in the frame on RBI-singles by Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi, to close the gap to 5-4. After the Yankees briefly took the lead by scoring another two runs in the fifth inning against the Angels’ bullpen, Anaheim scored twice in each of the next three frames to win going away by a score of 11-7. Garret Anderson did much of the damage for Anaheim, going 4-for-5, with a home run, a triple, and five runs batted in. The victory gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the Series.
Game Four remained scoreless through five innings, with both John Lackey and Shawn Chacon pitching extremely well for their respective teams. The Angels finally pushed across two runs against Chacon in the top of the sixth on RBI-doubles by Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera. The Yankees cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning when Alex Rodriguez scored on Gary Sheffield’s RBI-single off Lackey. New York went up by a run in the next frame on the strength of RBI-singles by Ruben Sierra and Derek Jeter. Desperately needing a victory to extend their season, the Yankees called on Mariano Rivera in the top of the eighth for a two-inning save. The game’s premier closer responded with two perfect innings that gave New York a 3-2 victory and sent the Series back to Anaheim for a decisive fifth contest.
Game Five pitted Bartolo Colon and Mike Mussina against each other for the second time in the Series. A hand injury forced Colon to leave the game in just the second inning, and the Yankees quickly took advantage by scoring twice against Ervin Santana, who replaced him on the mound. Mussina, though, failed to hold the lead, surrendering five runs to the Angels in the next two innings. Garret Anderson made the score 2-1 with a solo home run, before Anaheim grabbed the lead for good on the game’s pivotal play. With two men out and two men on base in the bottom of the second inning, Adam Kennedy lofted a long fly ball to right-centerfield. Centerfielder Bubba Crosby and right-fielder Gary Sheffield both had the ball within their sights, but the two men collided, allowing the two base-runners to score. Mussina surrendered two more runs to Anaheim in the third inning, permitting the Angels to extend their lead to 5-2. Randy Johnson replaced Mussina on the mound and shut out the Angels on only three hits over the next 4 1/3 innings. But, with Santana and the rest of the Angels’ bullpen allowing the Yankees to score only once more on a Derek Jeter home run, Anaheim won the game by a final score of 5-3. The five-game defeat at the hands of the Angels marked the second time in four years that Anaheim eliminated New York from the playoffs.