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!!!
With Game One of the American League Championship Series looming and the Yankees in a position they haven’t been in since 2004, the Bronx Bombers are set to square off with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night.
And I have to admit, I am a little scared. But I suppose as a wise man (namely F.D.R.) once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The Yanks eliminated the Twins in the first round of the playoffs twice before in recent years (2003-04) and history repeated itself in 2009. The Yankees also had the Twins’ number during the regular season, beating them seven times without losing.
It’s safe to say the history vs. the Twins proved that the edge went to the Yankees in the ALDS. But the Yanks’ history vs. the Angels for the ALCS…not so much in their favor.
In 2002, the Halos took care of the Yankees in four games in the ALDS while in 2005 they took out the Yankees in five games. Not to mention the Yankees are 44-56 vs. the Angels since 2000 and have only won four season series against the Halos since 1987.
The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in the past, that’s for sure.
Consider this: in 2002, the Yankees took game one of the ALDS from the Angels, but after that totally disintegrated. Andy Pettitte had one of his worst postseason starts in game two, and in game three Mike Mussina was beat up and smacked around, blowing a 6-1 Yankee lead.
The Angels had all the momentum after game three, just lit up David Wells in the fifth inning of game four, and went on to knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round. It was also the first time the Angels won a postseason series and they went on to win the World Series in ’02, beating the San Francisco Giants.
There’s no questioning the fact that the Angels just walked all over the Yankees in 2002.
In 2005, the Yankees relied heavily on old and injured players, along with a little bit of an inexperienced outfield. After trading victories in the first two games, Randy Johnson gave up five runs in the first three innings of game three.
The Yankees made their way back to a 6-5 lead, only to have it squirreled away by relievers Aaron Small and Tom Gordon. The Bombers obviously lost game three.
Game four was a thriller; the Yankees won by scoring two runs in the seventh inning with RBI singles from Derek Jeter and good, old Ruben Sierra. Then it was time for the decisive game five.
In the final game, Mussina followed the lead of the Big Unit in game three, allowing five runs in three innings. Plus, center fielder Bubba Crosby collided with right fielder Gary Sheffield, costing the Yankees big time. Bad defense hurt the Yankees in game five and they were never able to catch up.
I’ll never forget the words after that series ending, 2005 ALDS game five loss; one of the announcers said something like, “The Yankees’ $hundred million payroll comes up just a couple bucks short.”
I hated that quote. It infuriated me.
But in all honesty, the Angels outplayed the Yankees in the ’05 ALDS. They outscored them 25-20, out-hit them 46-42, and the Yankees made six defensive errors in that series. The Angels only committed one.
I hate to say it, but the Yankees had no business winning that series.
If you check your calendar though, it’s 2009, not 2005. And only 11 players from those 2005 rosters remain with the Yankees and Angels.
Along with the history, there are still numbers standing in front of the Yankees. Jeter has a measly batting average against two of the Angels’ four starters; against Scott Kazmir, Jeter owns a lifetime batting average of .111. Against Jered Weaver, the Yankee captain is .118.
That’s not very good, especially considering Jeter is the leadoff hitter, or “table-setter” for the Yankees.
And then there’s CC Sabathia, who will be making quite a few starts in this series since the Yankees have opted to go with a three-man rotation. If skipper Joe Girardi sticks with his idea of a three man rotation, Sabathia would pitch games one, four, and seven. (Game four he would be throwing on three days rest)
I think if the Yankees lose this series, everyone will jump on Girardi about the decision to go with a three-man rotation. It will be under heavy scrutiny, no matter what.
Sabathia is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA vs. the Angels in 2009 and is 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA vs. LA lifetime. That’s not a promising sign, if you ask me.
But also think about some of Sabathia’s numbers against individual hitters. Gary Matthews, Jr. (one of the Angels’ key players) is 5-for-26 lifetime vs. the Yankee ace with 10 strikeouts. Vladimir Guerrero, another hitter who makes the Angels go, has not hit Sabathia well. Guerrero is just 3-for-15 lifetime against the big lefty.
Sabathia is also 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA at home this year, which is good because the Yankees have home field advantage in the ALCS. If the series reaches a game seven, he would make the start at Yankee Stadium.
Game two starter A.J. Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, and the last time he faced the Halos on Sept. 23, the tall, lanky right hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs while fanning 11 batters.
There’s a stat that works in the Yankees’ favor.
The Angels will most likely send Joe Saunders to the mound for game two. Although Saunders has not pitched since Oct. 4 (the last day of the regular season) he went 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts after coming back in August from a shoulder injury.
Even though the Angels have dominated the Yankees in the past, the Yanks’ hitting has done some good work against the Angels in the past, too.
Although Jeter has not had much success against the Angels’ expected game three starter (Weaver) Alex Rodriguez has dominated him. In his career, A-Rod is 5-for-15 with four homers off Weaver. And Girardi should keep Eric Hinske in the back of his mind, as Hinske is 4-for-11 with a homer off Weaver.
Game three will take place at Angel Stadium of Anaheim with Pettitte starting against Weaver.
Pettitte struggled this year, going 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA at Angel Stadium. Not good, especially since game three is in Anaheim. The Yankees also need to watch out for Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar, Guerrero and Matthews, who all own averages well over .300 lifetime vs. Pettitte.
On the bright side, Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA against the Angels in his career, six of those wins coming in Anaheim. Oh, and by the way, he is 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA in the ALCS. Pettitte is what everyone says he is: a big game pitcher in the postseason.
Kazmir is expected to start game four and is 2-1 vs. New York this year, but the only loss came after he was traded from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles. He will obviously be facing Sabathia, in accordance to the Yankees’ three-man rotation.
So despite some negativity in history and numbers that work against the Yankees, there is some positive history and numbers that work for the Yankees.
This year the Angels and Yankees split the 10 games they played against each other; the Yankees won five against the Angels and vice-versa.
But I’m sure Girardi and his Yankees are not thinking about the past or the history between their team and the Angels. They are focusing on the task at hand, which is beating the Angels and then reaching (and hopefully winning) the World Series.
It’s going to be tough. The Angels and Yankees were the two best teams in the American League all year, so I think it’s only fitting that they meet in the ALCS. There’s more margin for error in this series, it being seven games and all. But still, I hope to see the Yankees come out on top when the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled.
After all, the Angels finally stopped their playoff losing streak vs. the Red Sox, beating them in the ALDS. Maybe now it’s the Yankees’ turn to stop their playoff losing streak vs. the Angels in the ALCS.
“To be honest, I think they look down on us. They have had their way with us for some time and now we have something to prove to them. It’s not the other way around.”–Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman
Looks like even the Yankee management knows what’s at stake here.
Well, see you Friday for ALCS Game One (Weather permitting; Friday’s forecast for the Bronx: a high of 45 degrees with an 80% chance of rain…I hope they can get this game in!)
Until then, Go Yankees!!!