Monday, October 19, 2009

The Honeymoon Is Over

For the first five games of this postseason, it was easy to fantasize about the Yankees steamrolling through the playoffs without so much as a hitch. However, the reality was that an 11 game winning streak would have been their longest of the season by two games. To expect them to better that against the best competition they've faced, under the most extreme pressure was wishful thinking, and we were reminded of that in the 11th inning in Anaheim.

Perhaps four home runs should have been enough to win the game for the Yanks, but some missed chances, homers by the Angels and questionable decisions led to their undoing. Before we start debating the managerial moves (which we certainly will tomorrow morning), let's look at what actually did happen.

Derek Jeter began the 1st inning by depositing the third pitch he saw from Jered Weaver into the left field seats, his third tater of the postseason in only 25 plate appearances. It was as good a start to the afternoon as possible for the Yanks and they looked to add to that lead in the second inning.

After a lead off single by Hideki Matsui, and a walk to Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano grounded out thereby moving Matsui to third base. Nick Swisher had a chance at a cheap RBI but flied out to shallow left after which Melky Cabrera grounded out to end the threat.

Andy Pettitte had held the Angels scoreless through the first three innings when A-Rod led of the fourth with yet another October homer. Weaver left a 3-1 change up floating over the plate and Alex mashed it to deep left field, putting the Yanks up 2-0. Like they did in the second, the Yanks followed with a walk, single and a force out, again putting runners on first and third with one out for Swisher. This time Weaver threw all off-speed pitches, ultimately getting Swish to swing over a curveball in the dirt.

A homer by Johnny Damon in the 5th inning put the Yanks on top 3-0, and after a walk to Mark Teixeira, the Bombers looked poised to blow the game wide open. With Weaver still in the game, A-Rod ripped a ball to left center which looked at first like it had a chance to become his 6th homer off of Jered Weaver in career 18 ABs, but it fell short into the glove of Juan Rivera.

And it was pretty much all downhill from there...

Howie Kendrick knocked the first home run given up by Yankees pitching this postseason in the 5th inning to cut the Angels' deficit to 2 runs. Then, with Bobby Abreu on base in front of him in the 6th, Vlad Guerrero (who many had suggested be replaced at the Halos' clean up hitter) lofted a high drive off of Andy Pettitte and paused to watch it sail towards the visitor's bullpen, tying the game at 3.

Pettitte came out to start the seventh inning but was replaced by Joba Chamberlain after retiring Kendry Morales. Cue the Rally Monkey. Joba promptly allowed a triple off the right field wall to Howie Kendrick, putting the go ahead run on third with one out. Mike Napoli was due up but Mike Scioscia inexplicably pinch hit for him again, this time with Macier Izturis. The decision worked out, as Izturis smashed a deep line drive, scoring Kendrick easily.

The Yankees hadn't trailed for more than two times at bat during this postseason and this situation was no different. Hideki Matsui led off the 8th with a walk and was pinch run for by Brett Gardner. Unfortunately, the move backfired when Gardner was nabbed stealing on a well-timed 0-1 pitch out. If you subscribe to the FotPO, it cost the Yankees a run when Jorge Posada jacked a solo homer, tying the game at 4.

Damaso Marte needed only one pitch to get the 3rd out of the 7th inning, but Joe Girardi called on fellow lefty Phil Coke to pitch to Bobby Abreu to start the 8th. Abreu ripped a ball in the gap but took an extra wide turn around second and was tagged out thanks in part to a strong throw by his old pal Melky Cabrera, a nice relay by Jeter and Mark Teixeira's diligent back up of second base.

Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira both made outs to begin the top of the 9th inning but the Angels intentionally walked A-Rod anyway. Brett Gardner was hitting 5th after replacing Matsui, but he was pinch hit for by Game 2 pie recipient Jerry Hairston, Jr. There was no magic for Hairston this time as Fuentes struck him out easily, giving the Halos their first chance at a walk-off.

Phil Hughes had cruised through an inning and two-thirds without giving up a hit, so Girardi left him in to begin the 9th. Hughes would only face one batter, Jeff Mathis, who drove a lead off double into the gap in left. After some stalling on the mound, Girardi pulled the escape hatch and called on Mariano Rivera to face Eric Aybar. In an attempt to sacrifice, Aybar laid a bunt down the third baseline. Rivera, spry as ever on the mound, sprung off mound to field it. He looked to have Mathis at 3rd, but botched the throw. It bounced in the dirt past A-Rod and rolled into foul territory but Johnny Damon was there to back it up. At that point, the Angels' Win Expectancy was 93.8%.

Rivera had his work cut out for him and began by getting Chone Figgins to bounce out sharply to Mark Teixeria, holding the runner at third and getting the out at first. With Bobby Abreu due up and men on second and third, the Yankees walked the bases loaded, putting a force at every base. There were a lot of ways to get the run across, but Rivera got both Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero to ground out to first and squirmed out of a death-defying jam.

Because Girardi chose to swap Jerry Hairston for Johnny Damon in the 10th inning for defensive purposes, Rivera was due up at the plate in the top of the 11th. After Ervin Santana got both Melky and Jeter out, Girardi pinch hit for Rivera with Francisco Cervelli who struck out on a slider in the dirt.

Since Rivera was out of the game, Girardi went to David Robertson. After getting Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales - Girardi, to this dismay of many - called on Alfredo Aceves to face Howie Kendrick. The decision backfired in a major way. Kendrick singled and Jeff Mathis - the far inferior hitter of the two Angels' catchers who could have been pinch fun for in the 10th - ripped his second double of the afternoon, this one a game-winner.

This game is bound to leave a bad taste in some people's mouths, but luckily it won't linger for too long. CC Sabathia will take the hill on short rest in a pivotal Game 4 tomorrow night at 8.


  1. After Mo bailed out Hughes and the Yanks I think Girardi got drunk with happiness.

    With 2 outs and no one on why hit Cervelli for Mo? Hell Mo's probably a better hitter than Cervelli.

    Secondly, what stupid numbers did he have that made his decision for him to take out Robertson and put in Aceves?

    Hopefully CC dominates again, but that game could have been had.

  2. Well that sucked but people are REALLY PANICKING and that's ridiculous. Did anyone think the Angels series was gonna be a breeze? Yeah, no. That said, I am still confident (but in no way cocky).

    Girardi pulling Robertson for Aceves was terrible but to be fair to Girardi, the leaving many, many, many runners on base was worse than the Robertson-Aceves move. That's what really cost us the game.