Yes, YES YES! YES! YES! Great stuff in The Bronx last night as the Yanks beat their nemesis Angels 5-2 to advance to the World Series for the first time in six years. Lefty was simply outstanding, going 6 1/3 strong and allowing 7 hits, a walk, 1 run earned, and fanning 6 on 99 pitches/64 strikes. From the beginning, he was smooth, efficient, and in control of all his pitches. His curve was particularly sharp and he used it with precision to both get ahead and strike out Angel batters. JD broke through with a two-run single to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead in the fourth that they would never relinquish, and the team took advantage of a couple Angel errors in the eighth to tack on crucial insurance runs after the Angels cut the lead to one off Mariano.
The game started with the Yanks stranding six runners in the first three innings, not unlike Game 4. That hurt, for they trailed 1-0 in the third as Mathis led off the third with a double, and Abreu’s two-out single scored him. But the Yanks broke through in the fourth with a terrific rally off Saunders. Cano came back from 0-2 to work a walk, Swish singled, Melky bunted them over, Jeter worked an eight-pitch walk, and JD lined a 2-1 fastball to left center, 2-1 Yanks. After struggling in the ALDS, JD really came around in the ALCS, batting .300 with 5 RBI. Teixeira’s infield single re-loaded the bases, and Saunders walked A-Rod on a close 3-1 fastball inside, 3-1 Yanks, ending Saunders’s night after getting worked over for 30 pitches in the fourth. But Oliver entered and got Jorge to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP, clipping the threat short in a still productive fourth.
Andy kept the Angels in check, getting a 4-4-3 DP to end the fifth. The Angels threatened in the sixth with a two-out rally when Hunter got an infield single on a slow roller to A-Rod, and Vlad blooped a double to right on a pitch down and away, one that only Vlad would consider tantalizing, second and third. But Pettite got Morales on a comebacker off his glove and right in front of his face to escape.
After Teixeira’s 5-5-3 DP ended the sixth, Lefty got Kendrick on a liner to Swish, then gave up a single to Rivera, ending his night and earning a standing ovation from a raucous Yankee Stadium crowd. Joba entered and was sharp, getting Mathis on a grounder that took a bad hop and bounced up hard on Jeter but thankfully careening right to Cano, standing on second, for the second out. As I reminded my daughter as we watched, that is why players move and move to the ball when it is hit–you never know what can happen. Joba then got Aybar on a 6-3 to end the seventh. A-Rod smoked a single up the middle to start the seventh but Jorge’s second DP ball erased him.
Mariano entered for a six-out save in the eighth. Figgins started with a typical Mariano garbage hit, a bloop barely past the reach of a sprinting Jeter in shallow left. Teixeira made a great diving stop on Abreu’s grounder, 3U and Figgins to second. Hunter grounded out to Cano on what could have been an RBI single, but Cano was cheating toward the middle to hold Figgins, two down. Vlad scored the first postseason run off Mariano in New York in ages, singling through the hole on the right side, 3-2 Yanks, but Mariano got Morales on a 4-3 to end the inning.
The Yanks got big insurance runs in the bottom half. Cano worked a four-pitch lead-off walk off Santana, Kazmir entered and Swish bunted, but Morales’s throw bounced off Kendrick’s glove at first, Swish safe. Melky bunted and Kazmir floated one well over the leaping Kendrick into right field, scoring Cano 4-2. Jeter grounded out to Kazmir, JD walked, and Teixeira ripped a long sac fly to center, scoring Swish, 5-2 Yanks. A-Rod walked again, but Weaver got Jorge looking, ending a chance to completely blow it open.
But honestly, that was that, for I knew like most others that Mariano wasn’t going to allow more. He buzzed through the last three, getting Kendrick on a 3U, Rivera on an F8, and fanning Matthews Jr. to end the game and ALCS.
In a spirited late-night chinwag with Frank the Sage, we paid considerable respects to the fallen Angels, truly a tough team. The Sage put it well when he said that, with all due respect to the Red Sox, it is the Angels who have been the Yanks’ biggest nemesis this decade, certainly in the playoffs. It is the Angels beyond whom the Yanks could not advance come October. In the immortal words of Inspector Clouseau, Not anymore. This was a tough series win, one well earned, and one that I and a good many of us knew had to occur. The Yanks had to get past the Angels, they had to solve their playoff nemesis just as the Angels had to and did solve theirs in Boston. That New York did, and they did it with good pitching and some timely hitting. They will need to improve their RISP hitting against the Phillies, going 2-8 last night but stranding 12. They also played good defense (including getting a great 9-3 DP from Swish doubling off Vlad in the second) and committed far fewer mistakes than the usually mistake-free Angels. But pitching won the series, with the Yanks holding Figgins to .130, Abreu to .160, Morales to .167, and Rivera to .200. That’s simply outstanding.
The Big Guy got the ALCS MVP, although it could easily have gone to A-Rod or could have been shared between the two. Regardless, C.C. was money, as was A-Rod. Kudos to Melky (.391) for having a heck of an ALCS, too.
Not to be overlooked in all the mirth, what a great way to open the new digs, getting to the World Series in its first year. Honestly, although I had a few worries about some of the super-rich and their selective presence draining from the atmosphere, the new Stadium sounds an awful lot like the old one–LOUD.
I have to confess to being tempted to advocate pitching C.C. last night to seal the deal. But truly, who better to have going on the mound than the man who is now the winningest postseason pitcher in the history of the game? Pettite’s gem earned him his 16th playoff victory, the most ever. The guy is flat-out money, and was dominant when he had to be. I can’t say enough about Lefty; great performance in what has been a great year for him. Great move bringing him back; great.
Back to the World Series for the first time since 2003, and it starts Wednesday night. Although I am still under the weather, I am feeling a bit better, and may open up the Digital Living Room Wednesday night. Funny how a trip to the World Series changes one’s outlook.
Enjoy it, Yankees fans. We have been blessed thus far this year, and I don’t think it ends here.
[Edit: Thanks to everyone for stopping by The Heartland lately. Last week, there were over 2,000 site visits, well more than usual. I greatly appreciate that people come here to discuss baseball, and it still honestly surprises me that this blog has drawn any sort of attention despite my lack of spare time. Thanks a lot, really.]