All things considered, the Yankees return home in good shape, having split the first two games of the series on the road. Not that it comes as a consolation to the Yankees, who were looking to take a commanding lead in the series.
"You don't ever go on the road and say you want to split. You want to win," said Derek Jeter. "We played well in the first game, so we wanted to come out and play well [in Game 2], but it didn't happen. Now we go home and it's a best two-out-of-three series."
"We were hoping we could get more done out here," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "We were in a position, we had a lead, but no lead is safe, especially when you're dealing with a ballclub like the Angels."
Many questioned how Chien-Ming Wang would respond to the pressure of the postseason, but the rookie showed no signs of nervousness.
Wang allowed four runs -- one earned -- on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. After walking six in his final start of the regular season, he didn't issue a single free pass.
"He gave us everything we asked for," said Jorge Posada. "Two mistakes cost us three runs."
The Yankees haven't lost two consecutive games since Sept. 2, and Randy Johnson hasn't lost since Aug. 21, putting New York in good position for Friday's Game 3.
"We feel good about ourselves," Torre said. "These guys have been bouncing back, especially over the last three or four weeks. The one thing we've been doing is when something bad happens, you keep fighting your way through it. We're ready to play."
The Angels took advantage of a rare error by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth to tie the game, and then jumped on an opportunity opened up by Wang's seventh-inning throwing error, scoring twice to take their first lead of the series.
"It's unfortunate, because we had our chances," said Rodriguez. "We put together some good at-bats, but they capitalized on our mistakes and they didn't make any of their own."
Robinson Cano doubled in a run in the second, but John Lackey held the Yankees down, keeping the Angels in the game.
New York added one more in the fifth, but was unable to bring Jason Giambi home from third when Chone Figgins made a run-saving play to halt the Yankees' momentum. Figgins made a backhand stop on Hideki Matsui's shot down the third-base line and then fired to first, where Darin Erstad made a nice scoop to get the out.
"The play of the game was probably Figgins on Matsui," Jeter said. "You're looking at [a 3-0 lead] with Matsui in scoring position, but it didn't happen."
Said A-Rod: "That changed the momentum of the game a little bit."
For a while, it didn't look like Wang would need more than the two runs, as his trademark sinker was working wonders. The rookie retired the first five hitters, all on ground balls, as the Angels didn't put a fly ball into the outfield until the last out of the third, when Orlando Cabrera flied to center.
Former Yankee Juan Rivera cut the lead in half in the fifth, crushing a 3-2 pitch from Wang over the center-field wall. But Wang wasn't fazed by the blast, getting the next three batters to succumb to his sinker with groundouts.
The Angels squared the game in the sixth, thanks in part to an error by Rodriguez on Cabrera's routine grounder to open the inning. After Cabrera moved to second on a groundout by Vladimir Guerrero, Bengie Molina singled him in, tying the game at 2.
"It was as routine a play as you can get; I just couldn't make it happen," Rodriguez said. "It was costly. In the postseason, you can't really do that."
One inning later, the Angels played small ball to perfection. Rivera reached on an infield single, sliding head-first into first base to beat Jeter's throw. Steve Finley dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Wang had to rush his throw, pulling Cano off the bag and putting runners at first and second.
"It was a low-scoring game and we gave them a couple of extra outs," Jeter said. "That hurt us."
Adam Kennedy bunted the runners into scoring position, but Figgins popped to shallow center for the second out. Cabrera then roped the first pitch he saw into center, scoring both runners and making it a 4-2 game.
"He made a pitch on Figgins, so we felt pretty good about it," Posada said. "We went after Cabrera and he made a mistake."
"Wang pitched very well," Torre said. "He made a couple of pitches and mislocated them. The one to Cabrera, he was just trying to get it down, and he hung it up high. That was the difference in the ballgame for him."
Molina added a solo shot off Al Leiter in the eighth. Jorge Posada homered off closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth, but it wasn't enough, as K-Rod closed out the game to earn the save.
With the Big Unit set to start on Friday, the Yankees have their big gun locked and loaded, ready to give them the lead in the best-of-five series.
"It's over now, so we have to focus on Game 3," Jeter said. "You can't sit here and hang your head, because you come right back and play on Friday. We need to play better in Game 3."
"We're going home and we have our ace on the mound," Posada said. "That's all we can look at right now."