Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yanks Win A Chiller

On a cold and blustery night in the Bronx, where the temperature hovered in the low 40's and the wind whipped in from center field, no one could have been very comfortable. Some players donned hats with earflaps and thermal facemasks while fans watched in bundled up from the stands in knit caps, parkas and ponchos. It wasn't the type of night where balls are going to travel very far. With the team's respective aces on the mound, it had the markings of a pitcher's duel, but unfortunately for John Lackey, his defense didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

The Angel's fielding miscues started early on. Derek Jeter, who had made a living of swinging early in the count this year, uncharacteristically took the first 5 pitches against Lackey to lead off the home half of the 1st, ultimately working an 8 pitch at bat before knocking an opposite field single. Johnny Damon followed with one of his own - a broken bat flare to left - that allowed Jeter to advance to third base while Damon took second on an errant throw by Juan Rivera. Mark Teixiera popped out for an unproductive out but A-Rod knocked in Jeter with a sac fly to center.

With Damon still on second, Lackey busted Hideki Matsui in on the hands, getting him to pop the ball straight in the air towards third base, in between Chone Figgins and Eric Aybar. The ball hung in the air interminably and at some point they both lost track of it; looking at each other for a split second, before realizing that neither was looking at the ball.

It landed just in front of Aybar, allowing Damon to trot home easily on what was absurdly scored a single for Hideki Matsui. It might have been the highest single ever. John Lackey could not be reached for comment.

The Yanks left the bottom of the first with a 2-0 lead which proved to be enough for the man of the night, CC Sabathia. The Big Fellas' only hiccup came in the 4th inning when Vlad Guerrero absolutely ripped a ball to left-center and settled into his home run trot, only to see the ball bounce on the warning track. He ended up on second and was singled home with two outs by Kendry Morales two batters later.

The big man made a brilliant play in the 5th, fielding a well-placed bunt down the third baseline by Torii Hunter and firing to first. Teixeira made a great stab, falling off the base into a split but hanging onto the bag with his toe just long enough. Hunter thought he was safe and Mike Scioscia came out to argue, but replays (and the picture below) conclusively showed ball-in-glove and foot-on-bag.

The Yanks responded promptly. With men on first and second in the 5th, Hideki Matsui slapped a fastball from Lackey, splitting the left and center fielders before dying on the outfield grass just short of the warning track. Johnny Damon was ticketed for home already ticketed for home, but Juan Rivera slid towards the ball in a clumsy attempt to field it, which A-Rod picked up as he was passing second base. Alex put his head down rounding third and blew through a stop sign from Rob Thompson. The ball arrived before him and he collided hard with Halos' catcher Jeff Mathis, knee squaring up to jaw, bowling him over but failing to knock the ball loose. Replays showed that Mathis never applied the tag but it's a play would have been next to impossible for the ump to have called correctly.

In the 6th, Melky Cabrera reached on a walk, moved to second on another defensive mistake by the Angels, this one an errant pickoff throw by Lackey. Jeter followed with a sharp liner up the middle which should have produced a close play at the plate with Torii Hunter coming on. However, continuing the tragedy of errors, Hunter let the ball bounce over him, there was no throw and Jeter took second in the process.

Meanwhile, CC Sabathia had just settled into his groove. After giving up the run in the fourth, he allowed only one of the final 14 batters he faced to reach base; Kendry Morales with a walk in the 7th. That was only the second time Sabathia reached a 3 ball count all night and the first walk he issued this postseason.

As the cliche goes, the Angels did a lot to beat themselves in the field. But Sabathia did a lot to beat them on the mound, too, which the fans acknowledged at various points, chanting "C-C". Carsten Charles held them to four hits and one walk while striking out 7 in 8 innings The Yankees bullpen was warming at times, but Sabathia did not need to be relieved until the 9th.

Mariano Rivera issued a rare walk to Torii Hunter to begin the inning, but then recorded three straight outs including a swinging strikeout of Vlad Guerrero during which the once-deadly slugger looked like he was swinging underwater.

The Yanks took the 1-0 series lead, but a massive storm system looms east of NYC surrounding Game 2 of the series in a literal cloud of uncertainty. It could be a while before more baseball is played, but the wait won't seem as bad with a "W" under the belt.


  1. Exactly what the Yanks needed last night, Jay--a money start from The Big Guy, good defense, and taking advantage of opportunities. The offense wasn't great, but it was enough with C.C. rolling like that. His K of Napoli to end the seventh with the crowd chanting "C.C.!" was one of my favorite memories in recent years. Outstanding.

    Thus far, it looks like the weather might accommodate baseball tonight, but we will see.

  2. Loved every minute of it. Really felt like a vintage 1996 kind of win with the right kind of breaks and just enough offense. The pitching was just plain awesome.

    I had goosebumps at the 'CC' chants. It has been far too long since a moment like that.

  3. You need to take that screencap magic and get a shot of Manny Ramirez at bat in front of the ad they have going in Los Angeles. Comedy GOLD!