Offense returns to form as Yanks cruise to 3-1 series leadBy
Waiting is the hardest part, and waiting for Game Four to start after the tough loss in Game Three made for a rocky 24-hours in Yankee Universe. Joe Girardi was second- and third-guessed all day for some questionable pitching changes, and the search party was out for the offense that led the majors in OPS (by 33 points!). Nine innings later, none of these problems really mattered.
Derek Jeter led off the game by dumping a single in front of former teammate Bobby Abreu, but was immediately picked off after running on Kazmir’s first move. Although the Cap’n was picked off, it was an indication of how aggressive the Yanks were going to be tonight, attempting to steal four bases in total. After walking to lead off the second, Alex Rodriguez swiped second, again going on Kazmir’s first move. Jorge Posada eventually walked behind him, and just like the night before, the Yanks were looking at a first and second, none out situation in the second inning.
Home plate ump Jerry Layne showed early on that he was going to have a tight strike zone tonight, and it was clearly effecting Kazmir early on. After the walks to A-Rod and Posada to open the second, Hideki Matsui took the first two pitches to work himself in a favorable 2-0 count. However the took the next pitch – a fastball on the outside – for a strike, but swung late on a fastball out over the plate, and popped it up on the infield. Robbie Cano followed that up by getting ahead in the count before popping out to shallow left, and after working the count full, Nick Swisher ended the inning with a routine fly ball to right. For the second consecutive game, the Yanks missed an opportunity to put some runs on the board early.
A-Rod singled to lead off the fourth, the fourth consecutive inning the Yankees put the lead off runner on base. Posada followed with a double down the third base line, putting runners at second and third with none out. The last few times the Yanks were presented with a situation like this, they squandered it and walked away without any runs. This inning, however, would be different.
Kazmir got Matsui to swing awkwardly at an inside fastball for strike three, but Robbie Cano followed that up with a ground ball to the right side. Even though the infield was in, A-Rod broke home from third and made it in under the tag because of Howie Kendrick’s high throw. It wasn’t technically a hit, but after an 0-for-20-something stretch with runners in scoring position, the Yanks were happy to take it, and the 1-0 lead. Following a Swisher walk, Melky Cabrera singled through the 5.5 hole, scoring Posada and Cano for what seemed like a gigantic 3-0 lead. The inning ended when Swisher was called out for leaving the bag early on a Johnny Damon sacrifice fly, however the replay the showed the call was incorrect. Considering Swish was picked off second but called safe earlier in the inning, it was probably a makeup call.
Aside: Holy crap was the umpiring awful. Aside from the two Swisher plays in the fourth, there was also that majorly botched call at third base in the fifth. Both Posada and Cano are tagged while not on the bag. How are they both not out? Just terrible. And this is the postseason!
The playoffs have been full of offensive struggles for our heroes from the Bronx, but the Yankee bats seemed to come alive in the middle innings tonight. Mark Teixeira, 3-for-October coming into the game, ripped a single into left to lead off the fifth, chasing Kazmir from the game after he recorded just 12 outs on 89 pitches. A-Rod followed that up with a two-run jack off reliever Jason Bulger, his fifth in the postseason, giving him at least one RBI in eight straight playoff games, tying Reggie Jackson’s Lou Gehrig’s club record. The lead off runner reached base in each of the first six innings and eight of nine overall), and the bottom of the order, so bad in Game Three, came through by reaching base a combined nine times and drove in five runs. Melky Cabrera paced the offense with three hits and four runs driven in. All told, they put ten runs on the board, and it’s the first time since Game One of the ALDS against the Twins the Yanks scored more than four runs in a game.
While the Yankee offense went to work against Scott Kazmir and various Angels relievers, CC Sabathia went to work on the Angels hitters. Despite pitching on three day’s rest for the first time in pinstripes, Sabathia retired 13 of the first 15 batters he faced before serving up a solo shot to Kendry Morales in the fifth. He went on the give up two more consecutive hits in the inning, and also allowed the first two runners in the sixth to reach, but pitched around both jams without letting a run cross the plate. Sabathia was extremely efficient all night, throwing just 38 pitches through four innings, 80 through six innings, and 101 pitches through eight innings. Eight innings of five hit ball was just another ace-like performance in a postseason full of them.
The two clubs will take the day off tomorrow to regroup, then meet back up in the Big A for Game Five Thursday evening. AJ Burnett, presumably with Jose Molina in tow, will take to mound looking to clinch the Yanks’ first trip to the World Series since 2003. The Fightin’ Scioscia’s will counter with ace John Lackey, who the Yanks hit up for four runs in five and two-thirds innings back in Game One. The Yanks are certainly in a good spot, but that last win is always the toughest.