Wow. It seems I have been saying that a lot throughout this postseason.
Once again mystique and aura visited the Yankees at their new home as the Bronx Bombers defeated the Angels 4-3 in 13 wild innings in Game Two of the American League Championship Series.
It was one of those marathon games that just carried on and on, and was seemingly never-ending, but the Yankees once again came out on top. The game began at 8:00. Five hours and 10 minutes later, it ended.
I had been saying all night that when the Angels made mistakes, the Yankees cashed in. It didn’t seem to be working both ways. And really the story of the 2009 Yankees at home: other teams cannot beat them in the seventh inning or later in a tied or one-run game.
Winning at home in the late innings has been the story of the Yankees’ season and with the win, the Yankees maintained home-field advantage in the ALCS.
Miscues and the Winning Play
Game Two was defined by missed opportunities on both sides. In plenty of instances, both the Yankees and Angels had chances to score runs and make big innings. The amount of men left on base was just absolutely ridiculous.
The Angels stranded 28 runners on base, eight of them left on by Vladimir Guerrero, who seemed to be striking out in key situation after key situation. He was free-swinging, and struggling greatly with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees left 20 men on base, missing so many chances to win late in the ballgame. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both missed chances to end the game past the ninth inning, but wound up stranding a combined five runners on base in what could have been game-winning situations.
Errors also became a problem for both teams.
Robinson Cano committed two errors, mishandling what looked like two easy, routine grounders. Derek Jeter also committed an error, which cost the Yankees a double play.
The Angels committed three errors in game one, and in game two they added two more to the list. Both were throwing errors, one on Chone Figgins, the other on Maicer Izturis.
In all fairness to both teams, the weather was a huge issue; playing in 47 degree weather and in the pouring rain is difficult any way you look at it.
But Izturis’s error cost the Angels big time.
In the bottom of the 13th, the game tied 3-3, and Jerry Hairston on first base after a leadoff single, Melky Cabrera tapped a grounder out to second. Izturis fielded the ball, trying to turn a double play. He gunned the ball toward Erick Aybar covering the base, but the ball sailed away on an errant throw, allowing Hairston to turn on the jets.
Hustling as hard as he could as the ball trickled in between short and third, Hairston scored the winning run. A long night’s journey into day complete and a 4-3 game two Yankee win.
“When he first hit it, I thought it would go through for a hit, Jeter told the press after the game. “You have to give Jerry a lot of credit for running hard.”
I know it would probably be classified as a walk-off win, but in reality it was more like a “run-off win.” One of the craziest, sloppiest games I have ever seen and the second walk-off Yankee win of the postseason (the first walk-off came in Game Two of the ALDS; Teixeira of course won the game with a home run)
Because he scored the winning run, Hairston ate the pie-in-the-face.
Mark that the 17th walk-off win for the Yankees in 2009 and the first time the Bombers won the game on an error since June 12 when Luis Castillo of the Mets dropped a pop up allowing Teixeira to score for a Yankee win.
Not to mention the Yanks are on a six-game winning streak, including the win in Tampa Bay on the final day of the regular season.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez
Cano started the Yankees’ offense in the game with an RBI triple to score Nick Swisher in the bottom of the second, but one of the two moon shots in the game came in the bottom of the third.
Jeter smacked a solo home run to right field to put the Yankees ahead, 2-0. It was his second home run this postseason and his 19th career postseason round-tripper.
He now sits by himself in third place on the all-time postseason home runs list, putting Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle behind him.
So now the all-time postseason home runs list looks like this: Manny Ramirez (29) is the all-time leader, Bernie Williams (22) is in second place, and Jeter (19) is now in third. Jackson and Mantle (18) are now tied for fourth place.
I don’t know if there has ever been a better hitter in the postseason than Jeter. But right now Rodriguez is pushing him.
With the Yankees down 3-2 in the bottom of the 11th, Rodriguez came to bat against Halos’ closer Brian Fuentes. Quickly falling behind in the count to 0-2, A-Rod smashed a wall-scraping, solo home run to tie the game. It was his third home run this postseason and all three of his homers have tied the game in the seventh inning or later.
Rodriguez seems to have a flair for the dramatic these days, and as I said a couple weeks ago, I think he learned the Heimlich maneuver–he is not choking, he is coming up big time in clutch situations.
Rodriguez has now knocked in a run in each of his last six postseason games, dating back to the 2007 playoffs.
When A-Rod went down 0-2 in the count, I was thinking game three. I felt that if Rodriguez did not reach base or hit a homer, the Yankees were heading out to Anaheim with the series tied, 1-1.
Hitting behind Rodriguez were Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardner, both of whom are very speedy but have virtually no pop. Plus, they’re both rookies. But the veteran slugger Rodriguez came up huge, once again proving that he is exorcising his postseason demons.
Congrats to both Jeter and A-Rod. You are both amazing players and clutch postseason hitters. And perhaps one of the two could be ALCS Most Valuable Player. I wouldn’t bet against it!
A.J. Burnett and the Bullpen
The Yankee pitching had a tough act to follow, what with CC Sabathia tossing eight strong innings of work in game one. But for the most part, A.J. Burnett held his own, tossing his second consecutive postseason quality start in game two.
The lanky right-hander went 6 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on just three hits. He walked two and struck out four.
In the first four innings of the game, Burnett was basically set on cruise control; his fastball was dancing all over the place and his breaking ball was exploding through the strike zone. Nine of the first 10 batters he faced saw first pitch strikes.
Once he got to the fifth, things got a little tight for Burnett, as he allowed two runs in the inning. Aybar knocked in a run with a single in the frame while Burnett tossed a wild pitch, allowing Aybar to score.
The fifth may have been little stiff for Burnett, yet he still was able to get out of the inning with limited damage and come out and toss a quick sixth inning. Burnett’s teammates were so proud of the performance he gave them.
“A.J. threw tremendous,” Jeter said after the game. “Pitching sticks out and ours was good. We missed a few opportunities but our pitching really picked us up.”
Burnett was also pleased with how the game played out and expressed his happiness with his team in the postseason.
“I’m just happy to be a part of something special,” he said to the media.
“I am happy I am a Yankee. Afterward I was thinking a lot about the wild pitch and I expanded a little too far. But we’ve been saying all year that we’re a team that doesn’t quit and we didn’t quit tonight.”
The Yankees have now won the last five games Burnett has pitched, including his final three starts of the regular season.
I have to say, although Burnett is wild, he is so effective. He hit two batters in the fifth and of course walked two in the game, but the fact that he is wild doesn’t make him any less good at times.
In the fifth, Burnett hit Kendry Morales in the inset of his back foot. Yet Morales almost swung at the pitch! Jose Molina actually had to appeal at third base to see if he went around. Even though he can lose it a little bit, he still throws even the best hitters off their offensive game.
Burnett kept his team in the game, but the Yankee bullpen also deserves a lot of credit for how they pitched.
The Yanks’ ‘pen (seven relievers were used) tossed 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits. Together they walked three and struck out six.
The Angels scored their run off the Yankee bullpen in the top of the 11th. Alfredo Aceves gave up an RBI single to Figgins to score Gary Matthews, Jr. That gave the Halos a 3-2 lead, but the Yankees quickly answered the run on Rodriguez’s homer in the bottom of the frame.
Aside from that hiccup, the bullpen pitched very nicely. David Robertson, the Yanks’ eighth pitcher, was awarded the win. It marked his second postseason victory this year.
“Just to win that game…wow!” Robertson exclaimed after the win. “It was nerve racking, but I was happy to be able to get some outs.”
Robertson pitched 1 1/3 innings, including a scoreless top of the 13th to earn the win.
It was another game with thrills and chills and yet another dramatic win in the Bronx. It’s not like we haven’t seen enough of it this year, but last night’s marathon was one of the best (and worst) I have ever seen.
I am just glad the Yankees were able to pull that out against a tough Angel team that never stopped battling. They fought and fought…but like I said, it’s tough to beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a close game in the late innings. Not many teams have beaten them in close games in the Bronx.
Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees have a chance to take game three from the Angels.
Andy Pettitte will look to keep the Yankees hot and will face Jered Weaver. Pettitte is 6-1 lifetime in the ALCS and 15-9 lifetime in the postseason. Meanwhile Weaver owns a 2-1 career postseason record and has pitched very well at Angel Stadium. Nine of his 16 regular season wins came at home.
Well, it was an unbelievable game two. Hopefully game three will be as action-packed and fun as its predecessor. I’ll be back after game three with more highlights and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!