We're just a few hours away from Game Three. We'll have the preview up shortly, but before we do, here are a few final thoughts on Game Two.
I made a poor decision Saturday. Late in the afternoon I was offered a ticket to the game. I was feeling pretty tired, ran some quick calculations in my head to what the night would cost, how much driving I'd have to do, and considered the weather forecast, and I declined. To a lesser extent, I didn't think Saturday's game could measure up to what I was fortunate to witness in Game Two of the ALDS. I hate passing up the opportunity to attend a game, but it seemed like the right decision for me at the time. I was wrong.
It's eerie how similar Game Two of the ALCS was to Game Two of the ALDS. Bad weather was predicted, but held out for the most part. The Yankees used the same eight in pitchers in both games, and in the same exact order save for a flip-flop between Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning. David Robertson pitched well in relief, earning the win. Once again, Joe Girardi managed aggressively for the win, leaving himself with just one reliever and one position player on the bench at game's end. And of course, with the Yankees down to their final three outs, Alex Rodriguez hit a game tying home run of the opposing team's closer.
Before both series, we've heard how the Yankees' opponents are skilled at doing "the little things" and won't beat themselves. Yet in the ALDS, the Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto made big baserunning blunders that cost the Twins. Thus far in the ALCS we've some costly defensive miscues from the Angels. While the focus has been on the dropped popped up in the first inning of Game One, the "neighborhood play", and on Maicer Izturis' decision to go to second in the thirteenth inning of Game Two, there were two other very costly defensive miscues from the Angels in Game Two that haven't received as much attention.
In the second inning, Robinson Cano laced a triple into the right center field gap to score Nick Swisher for the game's first run. The Angels seemed to be employing what I thought was an odd defensive alignment. Torii Hunter appeared to be swung around to left center field, playing Cano to go the other way, while Bobby Abreu was more towards straightaway right field, if not shaded towards the line. I was surprised that the ball made it all the way to the wall, I had imagined it would be cut off in the gap. But that's not the biggest problem for the Angels with this play. As Nick Swisher was rounding third, he appeared to be running out of gas. I was anticipating a play at the plate, but the throw never came, as Izturis bobbled the relay, killing any shot at Swisher.
Then, on the game's final play, Chone Figgins astutely backed up second base, and was in position to field the errant throw from Izturis. Jerry Hairston said he broke for home as soon as he saw the ball rolling around, and had Figgins picked it clean, he may have had a shot at Hairston at home. At the very least, a throw home may have prompted Hairston to retreat to third base, which was vacated with Erick Aybar covering second and Figgins in short left field. This would have left a bases loaded, one out jam - but who knows if the Halos would have been able to induce another double play ball. Instead, Figgins twice bobbled the ball; there was no throw, negating any chance at prolonging the inning.
Neither play was scored an error, but both were critical in leading to two of the four Yankee runs on the night. Last week, I took a look at the extreme amount of good fortune the Yankees had against the Twins in 2009. While the Angels have fared very well against the Yankees in recent years, the Yankees have caught some big breaks through the first two games of the ALCS. Here's hoping that trend keeps up through the remainder of the series.