It was a wake up call to a team who had found a way out of tight spot after tight spot, including the one that Mariano Rivera wriggled his way out of in the 10th inning. But when Alfredo Aceves left that four-seam fastball up in the zone and it hit the wall in left center, just out of the reach of Jerry Hairston, Jr., the invincibility was gone and the Yanks were getting the standing eight count.
Tonight they'll try to shake it off and prove they don't have a glass jaw.
The Angels chose to hold Scott Kazmir back until Game 4 of this series instead of throwing him at Yankee Stadium, so he will be the one facing down the Bombers tonight. Since Kazmir had spent his entire Big League tenure in the AL East before being dealt to the Angels in a post-non-waiver deadline deal, the Yankees have a pretty long history against him - at least for a 25 year old. In 87 IP against the Bombers, Kazmir has a 2.67 ERA and nearly one strikeout per inning pitched.
He was having a pretty terrible season with the Rays before being traded to Anaheim, sporting a 5.92 ERA and a WHIP of 1.58. However, in the six September starts he made with the A's, Kazmir had a 1.73 ERA with an opponents' line of .212/.273/.288 and a WHIP under 1.00.
The start that he made against the Red Sox at Fenway in the ALDS resembled the portion of the year with the Rays much more than his month with the Halos. He was tagged for 5 runs in 6 innings and only struck out one batter. Which Kazmir is going to show up tonight is anyone's guess.
As has been discussed thoroughly since the series began, the Yankees are starting CC Sabathia on short rest tonight in lieu of trotting out Chad Gaudin on 16 days rest. Seems like a pretty obvious decision to me, but get ready for a deluge of second-guessing should this go the slightest bit awry.
You can look at Sabathia's performance on short rest, which has been quite good, but this is a much different year than 2008. The Yankees have taken care to keep the Big Fella's workload down during this season, spacing 12 of his 34 starts on 5 or more days rest. The result is that he threw 230 regular season innings, his lowest total in the past three years. And unlike the time he made a start on 3 days rest in the postseason last year, this won't be his 4th start in less than two weeks.
The Yanks offense has scored 4 runs in each of the first three games of the series, despite putting 42 men on base in 29 innings and hitting 6 home runs. Needless to say, they need to start knocking some dudes in. Contributions from Mark Teixiera, Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher in particular would be much appreciated tonight.
It goes without saying that tonight is a pivotal game in the series. A win puts the Angels on the brink of elimination and a loss evens up the series. The Yanks are in danger of losing the advantage they gained during those bitter battles in the Bronx. Hopefully some timely hitting and a solid performance by Mr. Sabathia can return them to safer grounds.
[Note: Oddly, FOX has been playing this song (Climb To Safety by Widespread Panic) coming in and out of commercial breaks during the ALCS. Not exactly a song you'd expect to hear from a major network so apparently somebody there enjoys a little Panic.]
Scream at the conductor,
He's been deaf for 20 years,
Hear the other people laughin',
As it grinds to where it began.
Go to grab your nerve,
You find that it's been missin',
See you've lost your faith,
In everyone you know.
Well I surely hope,
That you dont plan on winnin',
There's no payin more attention,
Won't until you care,
You are seconds from the impact,
And were movin' way too slow.