The Yankees rode their big horse all the way to the ninth inning, and then handed the ball to the best postseason reliever of all time, while the Angels handed them two gift runs that would be all the ballclub from the Bronx would need to go up 1-0 in the ALCS. The rain stayed away, and although it was a cold weather game, only the wind was really a factor.
Jeter got the scoring started in the first, with one of his patented Jeterian hits to right field. He moved to third when Johnny Damon went the other way to drop a single into left in front of former Yankee Juan Rivera. Mike Scoscia looked like he wanted to bust a vein when Rivera threw the ball in badly, allowing Damon to go to second. John Lackey bore down and got a harmless pop off the bat of Teixeira, but then came Alex Rodriguez.
With his resurgent play this postseason, corwin and I have taken to saying “Here comes that man again,” every time he comes to the plate. Because more often than not, he does something good. This time it was a sac fly to center, scoring Jeter and bringing Matsui to the plate. Matsui popped up, too, but the wind was whipping, perhaps leading to some confusion as the ball dropped untouched on the infield. Damon scored all the way from second to make it 2-0.
The Angels got a run in the fourth when Vlad Guerrero cracked a ball that should have landed in the bullpen, but the wind knocked it down so that it fell on the warning track for a double instead. (My brother texted me from the cheesesteak line at the Stadium to say he thought it was blowing at least 20 mph.) Kendry Morales brought him in with a base hit, but that would be the only run that CC Sabathia would allow. By the end of the night, the Halos tallied only four hits total, Vlad’s double the only extra base hit. CC walked only one and struck out six.
Overall, the heart of the Angels’ order was 2 for 11 on the night with one walk, with Torii Hunter almost beating out a throw to first that had Scoscia out of the dugout to argue. The ball was fielded in front of the mound by Sabathia, who fired to Teixeira, who only got the ball by virtue of a textbook split stretch, where only his tippy toe was touching the bag. Replays on FOX showed the tippy toe. (Tippy toe is a technical term, you know.)
Lackey was good, too, but not as good with his defense faltering behind him. Damon led off the fifth with a double, another hit to the opposite field, and then Matsui knocked him in. In the sixth, with two outs, Melky worked a walk, then moved to second on Lackey’s own throwing error when he threw a pickoff away. Jeter brought him in right away with an RBI hit that ended Lackey’s night. He threw 114 pitches in 5.2 innings, 4 runs, 2 earned, striking out three and walking three.
Meanwhile, CC’s pitch count was at only 80 pitches after six, 98 pitches after seven. The Yankees had a long inning in the seventh, mounting a faux rally as pitcher Scott Bulger walked two and hit a batter to load the bases, only to come back and strike out Nick Swisher. (Swisher has looked off throughout this postseason so far, in that he seems to be swinging at bad pitches–ones he would normally take.) All through the long inning, CC stayed on the bench, his hands in his jacket pockets, waiting to go back out for the 8th. He had a 1-2-3 eighth, ending the night with 115 pitches.
The only reason I would question why it might have been better to go to Hughes in the eighth is that the Yankees plan to pitch Sabathia in game 4 on three days rest, so why push him to his limit? But perhaps it was better to just make sure this one was in the bag.
Which was what Mo Rivera did in his 80th postseason appearance. It took him a batter to shake off the rust, walking Torii Hunter to lead off the inning, but the next three batters went down relatively easily, in yet another postseason save.
Now if only the rain will hold off for Saturday’s game, too, and hopefully the Yankees will have the same result.
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