Five years, to be exact.
New York's last title came in 2000, its fourth in five seasons. With another October disappointment strapped to their backs for the winter, all the Yankees can do now is go home, rest up and look forward to next year.
"Everybody just played hard," said manager Joe Torre. "It wasn't supposed to happen, evidently, but my feelings are deep disappointment. I don't remember being this disappointed because I wanted this very badly. I guess that's why you're in the game."
"It's disappointing," said Alex Rodriguez, who finished the series with just two hits in 15 at-bats (.133) and no RBIs. "This was a year of such trials and tribulations for us, and we played so well down the stretch. To end in this fashion, it's disappointing."
The cross-country travel didn't seem to have an impact on either team, despite the long night endured by both clubs as they flew from New York to Southern California.
"Everybody was tired on both teams," Jorge Posada said. "We felt pretty good today and we had a chance, it just didn't happen. They just played a little better than us."
The Angels scored five times against Mike Mussina in the second and third innings, then rode rookie Ervin Santana and a hot bullpen all the way to the ALCS.
Even Randy Johnson, who redeemed himself after his Game 3 disaster with 4 1/3 shutout innings of relief, wasn't enough to help the Yankees, who head home for an early winter.
"We overcame a lot of ups and downs to get to this point," Johnson said. "We just came up a little short."
That Santana was in the game at all should have been an advantage for the Yankees, who watched starter Bartolo Colon leave in the second inning with an inflamed right shoulder.
The Yankees plated a pair of runs against Santana in the second, but were unable to break the game open, as A-Rod struck out with a runner at second base.
Mussina couldn't carry the momentum for the Yankees, serving up a 3-1 pitch that Garret Anderson deposited in the right-field seats. Bengie Molina followed with a single, then two outs later, Mussina walked Steve Finley.
Adam Kennedy made Mussina pay for the walk, getting a little help from Gary Sheffield and Bubba Crosby, who collided in right-center while trying to catch Kennedy's shot to the warning track. The ball fell to the ground, Kennedy cruised into third base with a two-run triple and the Angels had a one-run lead.
"Neither one of us could hear each other call it, and I don't think either one of us knew who would catch it until the last minute," Crosby said. "It was one of those grey areas, they put it in the right spot. Sheff is aggressive, I'm aggressive, and we collided. I'm just glad no one got hurt."
Santana seemed energized by the lead, throwing a scoreless third to send his offense back to the plate. The Angels responded in the bottom of the third, using three singles, including a pair of bloop hits by Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina, to set up two more runs.
"Your objective when you pitch is to make them not hit the ball hard," Mussina said. "When they don't hit the ball hard and it still works out for them, it's frustrating."
Mussina got Juan Rivera to fly out for the second out, but with runners at first and second and the left-handed Finley due up, Torre turned to his bullpen.
Johnson, who took it on the chin in Game 3, slowly stalked his way to the mound, looking to hold the Angels' lead at three and find some redemption of his own in the process.
Johnson did just that, retiring Finley for the final out of the third. That started a run of seven consecutive batters retired by the Big Unit, who gave the offense an opportunity to come back.
"After making some adjustments to my mechanics, I felt a lot more comfortable out there," Johnson said. "I sensed that they weren't as comfortable tonight as they were the first time."
But Santana settled in after his rocky start, shutting out the Yankees from the third through the sixth. New York tried to rally in the fifth after putting the first two men on, but Santana retired Sheffield, Matsui and Cano to get out of the inning.
"Especially with a young pitcher like Santana, I felt like if we could have delivered the knockout blow, it could have been a long night for them," A-Rod said. "He got into a rhythm and started pitching with a lot of confidence."
"I thought losing Colon was a bad break for them and a good one for us," Torre said. "Unfortunately for us, we couldn't cash in on some opportunities that we had."
The final out of the sixth came on a Cano strikeout, though he appeared to be safe at first after the ball got away from Molina and the catcher made a bad throw to first. But home-plate umpire Joe West called Cano out on runner's interference, saying that he ran inside the baseline.
"I was very surprised," Cano said. "He said I was out of the line, but I was right on the line."
Jeter led off the seventh with a solo homer off Santana, who was replaced one out later by Kelvin Escobar. Giambi doubled off Escobar, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Sheffield flied out to right and Matsui popped up to Molina, moving the game to the eighth.
"It's a game of breaks," A-Rod said. "They made the plays, they made the pitches, and we couldn't come up with that extra hit."
Johnson, who escaped a bases-loaded jam without any damage in the sixth, threw another scoreless inning in the seventh. Johnson left after 4 1/3 scoreless innings, but it was too little, too late for New York.
"That's all anybody is looking for, to go out there and give your team an opportunity to win," Johnson said. "You try to do your job the best you can, whether you give up five runs or throw four scoreless."
Escobar got the first two outs in the eighth, but after Posada walked, Mike Scioscia called on his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, who retired pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra for the third out.
The Yankees tried to rally in the ninth, as Jeter singled to lead off the inning. A-Rod, representing the tying run, grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, leaving the Yankees one out from elimination.
Giambi and Sheffield singled, putting the tying runs on base, but Matsui grounded out to first, setting off an Angels celebration.
"We had our chances up until the last inning, but we fell short," Jeter said. "It's not an easy thing to do. If it was easy to do, a lot of teams would be doing it. You have to be the hottest team, and we haven't been the hottest team the last few years."