Despite protestations from the Angels, Mark Teixeira’s foot was clearly on the bag when Torii Hunter was called out in the sixth inning.
Eight innings. Four hits. One run. Seven strike outs. That’s pure dominance from the Yanks’ Big Man, and that’s why they’re paying him the big bucks.
When the Yankees signed CC Sabathia this winter, a few analysts questioned Sabathia’s role on the Yanks. He didn’t throw particularly well against the Yanks in the 2007 ALDS and did worse against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Could the Yanks lean on Sabathia to carry them through an October run if he hadn’t yet enjoyed much October success?
Last week against the Twins, Sabathia didn’t have his best stuff and still walked away a winner. On Friday, amidst some brutal cold, a bit of a drizzle and a powerful wind that in the words of Johnny Damon was “playing havoc” out there, CC stifled the Angels. He threw 113 pitches in eight innings and just 37 were out of the strike zone. He recorded 11 outs on the ground, seven by the K and just six in the air. That is dominance.
“CC’s been doing that all year for us,” Derek Jeter said after the game. “He did in the first round and he did it tonight.”
The Angels, meanwhile, didn’t play their generally solid game. They made three errors and let an easy two-out pop up fall for an RBI hit. The Yanks capitalized and walked away 4-1 winners. They are now just three wins away from a World Series berth.
The Yanks got off on the right foot in the first inning. Derek Jeter knocked out yet another first inning single, and Johnny Damon moved him to third with a base knock of his own. Damon advanced to second on an error, and with no outs, the Yanks were primed for a big inning. Mark Teixiera took a 3-0 hack and popped out. Although A-Rod drove in a run with a sac fly, the Yanks were left with a runner on second and two outs when Hideki Matsui lifted a lazy pop up right to third base. Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins couldn’t figure out which Angel would catch though, and it landed with a thud on the infield dirt. Damon scored, and the Yanks had all the runs they would need.
As the game progress, the Angels toyed with disaster all night, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize. The Yanks put two runners on the third, two on in the fourth, three in the fifth and three in the sixth, but the offense could plate just two of those runners. They left 11 men on base and went just 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position. The Yanks could have had more but for a play at the plate involving — who but? — Alex Rodriguez.
With two on in the fifth, Hideki Matsui doubled to left center, and Juan Rivera tumbled over himself trying to field it. Rob Thomson originally waved A-Rod on but threw up a stop sign too late for Alex to see it. Rodriguez headed home, but the thrown beat him. Although replays showed no tag, A-Rod was out as he bowled into Jeff Mathis. In another era, he would have been the goat, but tonight, the Yanks didn’t need the run.
In the sixth, they would add a fourth run, but why bother? CC just kept on rolling. He ran into one bit of trouble in the fourth when a Vladimir Guerrero double and a Kendry Morales single led to a run, but that would be all. He struck out Mike Napoli to end the 7th and pumped his fist emphatically as the crowd roared. “The stadium was rocking,” Sabathia said. “I was pretty pumped up.”
At just 98 pitches through seven, Sabathia went out for the 8th, and he served as his own Bridge to Mowhere. One-two-three went the Angels in the 8th and in came Rivera for the 9th. He walked Torii Hunter on four pitches, and Tim McCarver began predicting boom. But Mo was Mo was Mo. Vladimir Guerrero struck out; Juan Rivera flew out; and Kendry Morales followed suit.
As the strains of Frank Sinatra filled the air, Yankee fans left a very cold Yankee Stadium, quite pleased with their ace and enjoying the 1-0 lead in this best of seven ALCS. CC was every bit the ace the Yankees wanted and needed for this year, and the team stands just three wins away from a World Series appearance.
For a similar but different take on the Yanks’ Game 1 win over the Angels, check out my YESNetwork.com recap.