ALCS GAME 4
YANKEES 10, ANGELS 1
When your getting ripped in the New York newspapers and on sports talk radio shows, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is finding lots of comfort in writing CC Sabathia’s name on his lineup card.
Sabathia (2-0) quelled all the dustup over Girardi’s supposed mismanaging of Game 3 by throwing eight dominant innings at the befuddled Los Angeles Angels as the Yankees won Game 4 of the American League Championship Series 10-1 on Tuesday night.
The victory puts the Yankees up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and also leaves them within one victory of making the team’s 40th trip to the World Series in franchise history.
For the naysayers who did not think Sabathia should pitch Game 4 on three days rest, the 6-foot-7 lefthander actually pitched just as well as he did in Game 1. In his eight innings of work, Sabathia gave up five hits and two walks and struck out five batters.
“I never had any doubt about me being able to perform on this stage and to pitch well late into October,” Sabathia said to MLB.com. “But it seems like people did. I feel great. You know, hopefully, I can keep it going.”
Sabathia’s only blemish came on a letter-high fastball Kendry Morales muscled for a solo home run to left-center with one out in the fifth inning that drew the Angels to 5-1. That was as close as the Halos would get to Sabathia the rest of the night.
After giving up the home run to Morales, Sabathia gave up back-to back singles to Mike Napoli and Erick Aybar. But Sabathia got Chone Figgins to bounce into a fielder’s choice and Bobby Abreu flew out harmlessly to center to end the inning.
Figgins and Abreu are now a combined 4-for-32 in the ALCS, a .125 average.
Sabathia also wriggled out of a jam in the sixth after he walked Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter singled to open the inning. Sabathia, as he always has this season, remained calm and induced Juan Rivera to hit into a double play and Howie Kendrick lined out to Mark Teixeira.
In Sabathia’s other six innings of work, he only gave up an infield single to Rivera in the second inning and walked Abreu in the first. He threw only 59 pitches in those six innings to retire 18 batters.
In Sabathia’s two starts in the ALCS, he has now pitched 16 innings, given up two runs on nine hits and three and struck out 12 batters. His is 3-0 with a 1.09 in the 2009 postseason.
“He really doesn’t change,” catcher Jorge Posada said. “When he’s down, when he’s up, he’s always the same. He just goes out there and does his job, and that’s all you can ask for. He really doesn’t change at all.”
“He was spectacular again,” Girardi said to MLB.com. “To be able to shut this club down like he did, again, is no easy feat. This is a very dangerous lineup. We had some chances early, and CC kept getting outs for us. We finally broke through and got a couple of runs, and we kept tacking on.”
Meanwhile, the Yankee offense had former Tampa Bay Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir battling with his command and had him on the ropes early before breaking finally through on him in the fourth inning.
The Yankees 2009 version of Mr. October, Alex Rodriguez, started the fourth with a line single to center. Posada followed with a double.
After one out, Robinson Cano hit a ground ball to Kendrick at second base. Kendrick elected to try to cut off the run at the plate but threw high to Napoli at home, which allowed Rodriguez to slide under Napoli to score the game’s first run.
After Nick Swisher drew a walk, Melky Cabrera ended the Yankees’ recent spate of not hitting with runners in scoring position (totaling 26 at-bats) as he delivered a line single to left that scored Posada and Cano. Swisher moved to third.
“I feel really good, because it was bases loaded and I got a big hit for the team,” Cabrera said.
“We’ve had some frustration with runners in scoring position so far in this series,” Girardi said to MLB.com. “But tonight, we were excellent in those situations from the fourth inning on.”
Kazmir then walked Derek Jeter to load the bases again and then the inning took a very odd turn, courtesy of third base umpire Tim McClelland. Johnny Damon sent a fly ball to centerfield that Hunter settled under and caught.
Swisher raced home ahead of Hunter’s throw with the what would have been the Yankees’ fourth run of the inning but the Angels appealed that Swisher left third base too soon. McClelland surprisingly called Swisher out and the inning was over.
Television replays revealed two things about the play: No. 1, McClelland was looking at Hunter and not Swisher’s feet as the play unfolded. More importantly, No. 2, Swisher did not leave the base before Hunter caught the ball. McClelland’s magical ability to look two places at once and imagine Swisher left too soon cost the Yankees a run.
But McClelland, the longest serving umpire in the major leagues, really topped himself in the following inning.
Before the second McClelland drama unfolded, Mark Teixeira led off the fifth with a single for only his second hit of the series and it broke an 0-for-13 slide. The hit also brought an end to the festivities for Kazmir.
He was replaced by Jason Bulger, who promptly gave up a two-run home to Rodriguez on his second delivery. The 375-foot blast to left for Rodriguez was the third homer and his fourth and fifth RBIs of the series. In the ALCS, Rodriguez is 6-for-16 (.375).
“I will say that in other postseasons I failed, and sometimes failed miserably,” Rodriguez said. “It certainly feels good to come through for my team and help the team win.”
“When I grow up, I want to be like Alex Rodriguez,” Nick Swisher said to MLB.com. “I’ll tell you what, man. I don’t know how it feels, but it’s got to feel like it’s a beach ball coming in.”
Rodriguez now has five home runs in the 2009 postseason, which ties him with Reggie Jackson for second o
n the all-time postseason home run list. Rodriguez only trails Bernie Williams, who hit six home runs in the 1996 postseason.
“He’s been as clutch as anybody could have hoped for on their side,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s playing his game right now. We’re obviously going to have to do a little better job of making some pitches on him.”
Kazmir, who was acquired by the Angels largely due to his ability to pitch well against the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees, ended up going 4-plus innings, gave up six hits and four walks and four earned runs.
Bulger, after serving up the Rodriguez home run, than gave up a walk to Posada and, as a result, was handed a trip to the showers with Kazmir courtesy of Scioscia.
Darren Oliver came on to restore order but, thanks to McClelland, there was anything but order. After Hideki Matsui struck out, Robinson Cano doubled in deep centerfield and Posada, who had stolen second base, should have scored before Hunter got to the ball.
However, Posada chose instead to tag up at second base and had to hold at third.
Then the confusion ensued.
Nick Swisher hit a weak grounder back to Oliver and Oliver threw home to make a play on Posada. Napoli, who had Posada halfway between third and home, ran Posada back towards third base.
Posada was tagged by Napoli as he pulled up at third. Cano, who was unsure of where to go stopped a foot off the bag at third. Napoli tagged him also. The Angels believed they had a double play and the inning was over.
But McClelland said no. He called Posada out but allowed Cano to have third base. Most of the 45,160 bleacher umpires in attendance at Angel Stadium booed McClelland unmercifully for his error in judgment.
It may have been a botched call but since Oliver got Cabrera to bounce into a fielder’s choice to end the inning, McClelland’s bonehead mistake did not cost the Angels a run as it had the Yankees an inning before.
Angels fans still booed McClelland after the inning ended.
But, like a gallon of water to a thirsty Bedoin camel herder, McClelland was let off the hook by some late-inning thunder from the bats of the Yankees.
Johnny Damon added to the Sabathia four-run cushion in the eighth with a two-run home run off reliever Matt Palmer.
Palmer became the pitcher who keeps on giving in the ninth, when Rodriguez doubled and scored on a Posada flyout after Abreu’s throw to cut him down at third bounced into the Angels’ dugout, allowing Rodriguez to trot home.
After two were out, Palmer walked Cano and Brett Gardner followed with a bloop single to center. Cabrera followed with a ringing double to plate Cano and Gardner to cap the scoring and make McClelland’s erroneous calls irrelevant.
Cabrera ended the night 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs.
Now the 2009 Yankees stand within one game of returning to their first World Series since 2003, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in six games. The Angels have a huge hole to climb to prevent that from happening.
Since the ALCS was changed to a best-of-seven format in 1985, 12 of the 16 teams who have held a 3-1 lead have advanced to the World Series.
“You just want to keep going and keep playing well,” Sabathia said to MLB.com. “We’ve been playing good all playoffs. We’ve been having good pitching, playing good defense. You know, we just need to close it out. It’s that time.”
Fellow free agent signee A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04 ERA) will get the call from the Yankees to close out the Angels on Thursday afternoon in Anaheim, CA. Though veteran righthander has two no decisions in the postseason, he is sporting an ERA of 2.19 in his two starts.
Angels Game 1 starter John Lackey (11-8, 3.83 ERA) will pitch for the Angels. Lackey is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA in the postseason but lost Game 1 to Sabathia and the Yankees 4-1, largely due to mental and physical errors on the part of his his teammates on defense.
Gametime is 4:57 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX.