In some ways, and all the most important ones, this game went according to plan: C.C. Sabathia dominated, because he eats three-day rests for breakfast; A-Rod bashed the hell out of the ball again; and this time his teammates even decided to join him. The Yankees won emphatically, 10-1, and are now up three games to one in the ALCS.
In other ways, though, it was a bit of a mess; as I wrote earlier, if this game were an interwar German Expressionist film, it would be “The 1,000 Mental Errors of Dr. Mabuse”. Yankees and umpires alike made some baffling decisions this evening, though in the end the New York boomsticks made them pretty much irrelevant.
Sabathia started out strong, and got stronger. He went eight innings on only 101 pitches, allowed one run, struck out five and walked two. He was still touching 96 mph on FOX’s radar gun when Girardi pulled him and and, with a then-six-run lead, let Chad Gaudin (the bullpen’s Lonely Man) finish the game. It’s really impossible to overstate just how terrific Sabathia has been this October, and how valuable; the Yankees piled on the hits today, but even if their woes with runners in scoring position had continued, it might not have mattered.
Angels starter Scott Kazmir kept the Yankees off the board for three innings, but he looked plenty shaky in the process, with leadoff hits and walks and a metric ton of pitches thrown. (This might be some minor comfort to Mets fans after their painful season, if only it had been another team doing the damage). Finally, in the fourth, the rains came: A-Rod singled, moved to third on a Posada double, and scored with a close play at the plate on Cano’s fielder’s choice; then Nick Swisher walked to load the bases, and with the Yankees on an 0-for-26 skid with RISP, Melky Cabrera knocked a refreshing two-RBI single into left-field to put the Yanks up 3-zip.
The fourth inning also brought us the first of many blown calls, when Nick Swisher was caught too far off second base and tagged out by a foot, but was nonetheless called safe. Third base ump Tim McClelland then evened the blown-call score by calling Swisher out for supposedly tagging up from third too soon on Johnny Damon’s fly ball… even though replays showed he did not. (If a runner is wrongly called out when he should have been out on a previous play anyway, does it make a sound?) These shenanigans were only prelude to an incredibly odd series of events in the fifth, wherein both Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada were tagged out at third base during the same play, but only Posada was called out, and I’d like to explain it in more detail but frankly it still makes my head hurt, so just watch for yourself.
Anyway, before the ump oddness, the Yankees tacked on two more runs in the fifth with a Mark Teixeira single (nice, but his only hit of the night, so it’s too soon to say if he’s out of his slump) and then… you’ll never guess… yes, an Alex Rodriguez home run. Seriously. Another one. He is now slugging 1.000 in the ALCS, which is just stupid. In the bottom of that inning, Sabathia faced his only major threat of the night – a Kendry Morales solo shot and two singles – but he recovered and pretty much cruised from there on out. Three postseason starts, three earned runs.
The later innings were pretty low-stress for a change – and a good thing too, as Yankee fans have been, let’s just say, a mite on edge these last few days. Johnny Damon hit a two-run shot, Melky knocked in another couple of runs, and there were no terrifying extra-inning contortions to endure. This is the Angels we’re talking about, so I will not be lulled into a false sense of security, but I’m glad my stomach lining got a chance to recover before Thurday’s Game 5. Enjoy the off-day, Banterers.