Monday, October 26, 2009

Bring On The Phillies

The last time the Yankees made it to the World Series, I was a sophomore in college in Boston, celebrating primarily because the Yanks had just vanquished the Red Sox in what remains the greatest ALCS in my lifetime. It wasn't about earning the right to tango with the senior circuit. Ensnared in the life or death struggle of a Game 7 against our most hated rivals, it wasn't as much about winning as it was about not losing.

Tonight, in a Game 6 against the Angels - although there was a recent history and plenty at stake - there was not the immediate danger of losing. In poker they call that a "sweat". When you're all-in but ahead in the hand, you still have to watch the cards flip over, one by one. If the dealer isn't trying to insert any unnecessary drama it should take ten or fifteen seconds. But that fraction of a minute can feel like an eternity.

That's how the final innings last night felt. Moments creeping along, stress building, exhaling after each pitch. When Mariano Rivera got Gary Matthews Jr. to go down swinging, the Yankees had the Angels drawing dead on the turn.

Andy Pettitte came up big given the circumstances, allowing six hits, one walk and one run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out 6. In the second inning, he got lucky when Vlad Guerrero strayed too far off the bag on a shallow blooper to right field and was doubled off of first, just another of the many baserunning mistakes the Yanks' opponents have gifted them with this October. The one run the Angels scratched across was in the 3rd inning on a two out Bobby Abreu single; it put the Angels up at the time but it would be their last lead of the season.

As they had throughout the series, the Yankees continued to strand runners throughout the first three innings. They wasted back to back singles by A-Rod and Mark Teixeira in the first, left the bases loaded in the second and stranded A-Rod after he walked in the third.

In the fourth inning, not entirely by coincidence, the Yanks offense and Nick Swisher came alive at the same time. After Robinson Cano walked to lead off the fourth, Swish followed him with a single to the left side. For some odd reason, Melky Cabrera was asked to bunt them over, bringing up Derek Jeter. After throwing him a curveball in the dirt, Joe Saunders pounded Jeter with fastball after fastball, four of them which Jeter fouled back and three of them which were called balls and the Captain took his place at first base.

With the bases loaded, Johnny Damon was due up. Finally, the Yanks broke through on his single to centerfield which allowed both Swisher and Cano to score. Teixeira singled to re-load the bases, bringing up A-Rod. He worked a 3-1 and took a pitch that appeared a first blush to be a strike, but was just barely outside, forcing in a run. Saunders' night was over (3.1IP, 7H, 5BB, 3ER) and he was replaced by Darren Oliver who promptly got Jorge Posada to ground into an inning-ending double play. Still, the damage was done and the Yankees led 3-1.

Pettitte ran into some trouble in the 6th with a two out single by Torii Hunter followed by a double to Vlad Guerrero. With the tying run on second base Pettitte dug deep, getting Kendry Morales to ground out and end the threat after 5 straight fastballs.

When Andy gave up a single to Juan Rivera in the 7th, he was lifted (after 6 1/3 IP for this 4th straight postseason start) in favor of Joba Chamberlain. This is the type of move that would have been endlessly second guessed had it not worked out, but the Jobanator retired the two batters he faced.

In bottom half of the inning, A-rod led off with a single but was erased when Jorge Posada grounded into another twin killing. Jorgie had a terrible night, going 0-5 and leaving 10 runners on base - 8 if you could the ones that were erased by the DPs.

Joe Girardi, perhaps revealing that he didn't have as much faith in Phil Hughes as he had stated throughout the long layoff between games, asked Mariano Rivera for a 6 out save. It got off to an inauspicious start as Chone Figgins led off with a base hit. Bobby Abreu very nearly changed the complexion of the game with a sharp shot headed for right field, but Mark Teixeira made a spectacular diving play to his right and scampered back to the bag for the first out. (Suck it UZR!). Vlad Guerrero singled later in the frame, driving in Figgins and closing the gap to 3-2 and the Angels worked Rivera for 22 pitches in the inning.

However, they squandered their hard work and gave the Yankees a gift in the home half. Both Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera reached base on errors after dropping down bunts. The latter was particularly costly as Scott Kazmir lofted a lollipop over the leaping try of Howie Kendrick, allowing Robinson Cano (who walked to lead off the frame) to score. Teix added a sac fly to give Rivera a little extra cushion when he came back out for the 9th. He didn't need it as he sat them down 1-2-3 and send the Yankees to the World Series. Pettitte with the win (breaking the postseason record) and Rivera with the save. Beautiful.

Oh, the World Series, our old friend. It's been far too long.

In the end, the questionable maneuvering by Girardi, the two brutal losses out in Anaheim and the rainout on Saturday night will all be just a footnotes. The Yanks can put all that behind them now as the head to the 40th Fall Classic. How sweet it is.


  1. Great series win for the Yanks; just outstanding. They HAD to get past the Angels. They HAD to solve that issue, and did. Great way to open the new digs, too. I was tempted to advocate starting The Big Guy last night to seal the deal, but Lefty left no doubt. Great start from the winningest postseason pitcher ever.

    Bring on Philly. Yanks in six.

  2. ooh - where is that picture at the top from? LOVE ANDY. I knew he would win when the morons on the Fox pre-game show were saying he was gonna suck because he sucked in Game 6 in 2001 or some shit. Idiots.

  3. Here's the original link, Anon.

  4. ...what remains the greatest ALCS in my lifetime.

    I hope this is from a personal viewpoint and not an objective viewpoint, because the 2004 ALCS was like crazy, historically, best-ALCS-of-all-time good.

  5. Yeah, it was a subjective assertion. I'm sure you'd prefer 2004. There's no was I could be objective about something that close to home.