Last night the Yankees jumped over yet another hurdle.
Before game one of the American League Championship Series, all we had been hearing about were CC Sabathia’s poor career numbers in the postseason, Alex Rodriguez’s inability to perform in the playoffs, and all of the Yankees’ struggles vs. the Los Angeles Angels.
But it didn’t matter to them.
The Yankees went about their business like they have been doing all year, beating the Halos 4-1 in game one of the ALCS.
Let’s start with the obvious: Sabathia pitched like a machine, dominating the Angels over eight strong innings of work. He allowed only one earned run on just four hits, walked one, and struck out seven.
Sabathia won game one of the ALDS and game one of the ALCS, becoming the first Yankee to accomplish the feat since Orlando Hernandez in 1999.
The Yankee ace now has 21 victories this year, combing both his regular season and postseason wins.
“That was a great feeling to have the Stadium rocking,” Sabathia told the media in the press conference after the win. “I don’t really show a lot of emotion, but it came out of me there.”
Before each of Sabathia’s eight strikeouts, the Yankee faithful would boisterously chant “CC,” and he also noted his appreciation for the fans’ overwhelming support.
“Eh, he did alright,” Derek Jeter modestly joked after the game when the media asked him what he thought of Sabathia’s performance.
Before his last two games, Sabathia was 2-3 in the postseason with a bloated 7.92 ERA. In his last two October starts, the big man is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Not to mention he has recorded 15 strikeouts in his last two games while only allowing one walk.
The Yankee ace seems to be rewriting his postseason history.
The only run Sabathia allowed was an RBI single off the bat of Kendry Morales which scored Vladimir Guerrero in the top of the fourth.
The Yankees on the other hand cashed in on the many mistakes the Angels made.
In the bottom of the first, the Yankees put a run on the board quickly with a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez, jumping out to a 1-0 lead.
After game one of the ALCS, Rodriguez is now batting .462 this postseason with two homers and seven RBIs. How’s that for no production in October?
Then Hideki Matsui popped a fly ball toward the left side of the infield, almost right in between third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar. The ball dropped right in between the two of them, allowing Johnny Damon to score, much to the disgust of Angels’ starter John Lackey.
Charge that an error on the Angels but neither player ever really called for the ball. It seemed as though both of them just expected the other guy to get it and in the end they both looked like a couple of deer in the headlights.
“I saw him standing there and I thought he was going to catch it,” Aybar told the press after the game. “There was no communication.”
Figgins said that one of them should have called for the ball, and it was an honest mistake by both players.
A costly mistake by the Angels, one of the three errors they would commit in the game. It’s strange; in all five games of the 2005 ALDS, the Halos only made one error. Last night they made three. It was not like them.
The Yankees would score their third run in the fifth, as Damon busted out of his 1-for-12 postseason slump and led off the inning with a double. After a walk to Rodriguez, Matsui drove in Damon with a base hit to left field.
Rodriguez would be put out, however, running through the stop sign set by third base coach Rob Thomson and getting nailed at home on a play at the plate.
The next inning, Melky Cabrera worked a walk and reached second on an errant pickoff throw from Lackey. Jeter then poked a sharp liner up the middle that got by Torii Hunter in centerfield, allowing Cabrera to score and it gave the Yankees their fourth run.
Charge two more errors on the Angels in the sixth.
In the ninth, who else but “The Hammer of God” (Mariano Rivera) came in and shut it down. After allowing a leadoff walk to Morales, Rivera got the last three outs in the ninth to wrap up game one and secure a Yankee win.
It marked Rivera’s 36 save in his postseason career, as he continues to further cement his postseason numbers. He is the all-time postseason saves leader with 36, and the guy behind him (Dennis Eckersley) has 15.
I’m pretty sure Rivera put that record so far out of reach that no other closer in baseball history will be able to touch it.
I also loved how Joe Girardi was joking around with the home plate umpire Tim McClelland when Rivera came into the game.
As Metallica’s Enter Sandman was blaring through the Yankee Stadium speakers, Girardi went out to inform the umps of the defensive changes (Damon came out of the game, Cabrera moved to left field, and Brett Gardner came in to play center field) and of course to let them know Rivera was coming in.
“It’s Rivera,” Girardi told the umpire.
“Who?” McClelland asked.
“Some new guy that just made it,” Girardi kidded.
“Oh, just got called up from Triple A, right?” McClelland joked.
I thought the banter between the two about Rivera was amusing. Everyone knows Rivera is probably the greatest closer in the history of the game, and for Girardi to kid around with the umpire the way he did, it was funny.
I think the Yankees may have set the tone for the ALCS with the win last night. Game one is extremely important to win and the Yankees went out into the “frozen tundra of Yankee Stadium” and did what they have done all year.
I also think the Yankees do not need to fear the Angels after last night. The Yankees know they can beat them when it matters. They have now won three of their last four vs. LA and if you count the final game of the regular season, the Yankees are on a five-game winning streak.
The Yanks have gone on these winning streaks all year, sometimes reaching eight or nine wins in a row. They only need seven more postseason wins to be called World Series Champions.
Tonight (if the weather holds out) the Yankees will play game two of the ALCS.
A.J. Burnett will make his second postseason start and face Angels’ left-hander Joe Saunders.
Both starters had respectable season records and pitched extraordinarily well during the regular season. Burnett went 13-9 while Saunders posted a record of 16-7.
In his last start on Oct. 9 in game two of the ALDS, Burnett went six innings and gave up one earned run on three hits. The walks were a little bit of an issue (he allowed five free passes) but he struck out six in a quality start.
Not only that, but Burnett beat the Angels the last time he faced them on Sept. 23, dominating them with 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings while only allowing two runs.
Saunders did not pitch in the ALDS vs. Boston and has not thrown since Oct. 4 when he pitched five innings in Oakland. He does however pitch well in the cold weather, as he is a career 10-1 with a 2.51 ERA in April and 12-4 with a 4.31 ERA in September and October.
When you think about how long it has been since the Yankees have won a World Series, consider how long it’s been since they’ve won an ALCS game. Not since game three of the 2004 ALCS (beating the Red Sox 19-8) have the Yankees been victorious in a Championship game.
That seems like a lifetime ago; I was a senior in High School the last time the Yanks won an ALCS game. I am now a senior in College and they finally won another.
Well, hopefully the Yankees and Angels get their game in tonight. If the Bombers win game two, things will be looking very good for the Yankees. If they go up 2-0 and take the series to Anaheim, I think the Yankees just might be headed to the fall classic.
The 2009 Yankees do not seem like the type of team that would collapse if they go up by two games, especially if the Angels are going to see Sabathia twice more in the ALCS.
We’ll see what Burnett and the Bronx Bombers can do tonight. The Yankees have a rested bullpen, a confident offense, and a game one win under their belts already.
I’ll be back after game two with more highlights and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!