Thursday, September 24, 2009

Halo at Ya Boy

Yankees Earn Their Wings

Written for Baseball Digest Online

Perhaps the Yankees had a five year plan. It seems that what most successful businesses do. Or perhaps there’s another explanation as to why it took the Yankees five years to win a series in Anaheim. The culmination of the Yankees’ “business plan” came to fruition with a 3-2 Yankees win over the LA Angels Wednesday that was their first series win in So Cal since May, 2004. It wasn’t easy though. With Phil Hughes and Al Aceves unavailable, Joe Girardi had to throw everything against the wall to see what would stick before Mariano Rivera came on for his 42nd save.

The Yankees also had to be encouraged by the second straight good start by A.J. Burnett. Though he lasted just 5 2/3 innings in 95 degree heat, Burnett struck out 11 and limited the Angels lineup to two runs. He ran out of gas in the 6th, allowing an RBI double to Gary Matthews Jr., followed by a walk to Mike Napoli. Girardi sent for Damaso Marte to flip Chone Figgins around to the right side. The dangerous switch-hitter already had three hits, but Marte retired him on a fly to right to preserve the lead.

After that it was all mix and match and keeping one’s fingers crossed. The biggest surprise, to the pitcher himself, was when Girardi called on Ian Kennedy in the 8th. It was Kennedy’s first major league appearance this season after missing most of the year due to surgery for an aneurysm in his shoulder. It wasn’t pretty, butIPK got the job done. He loaded the bases loaded with a pair of walks and a hit batter, but got Erick Aybar on a fly to Melky Cabrera in left to set things up for Rivera.

With a lineup that was missing Alex Rodriguez (rest), Jorge Posada (foul ball off his foot), and Nick Swisher (foul ball off his knee), the Yankees knew they would have to scratch and claw for runs. Mark Teixeira stroked a one out double off Scott Kazmir in the 4th and tried to score two batters later when Shelley Duncan ripped a single to left off the glove of Figgins at third. Despite the fact Teixeira had started to head back to 2nd base, 3rd base coach Rob Thomson waved Teixeira home, hoping to break the scoreless tie. Unfortunately for Thomson, Juan Rivera made a perfect throw to nail Teixeira at the plate.

Hideki Matsui, who had drawn a walk, and Duncan both into scoring position on the play. That’s when the guy you would least expect to deliver in the clutch, did just that. Robinson Cano came into the game barely hitting over .200 with runners in scoring position, but ripped a single to right to plate both runners. WhenNapoli couldn’t handle the throw home, Cano moved to 2nd base. The play would prove important when Melky Cabrera followed with a double to easily score his buddy for a 3-0 Yankees lead.

So perhaps the Yankees finally have some confidence in the home of the Halos. What they definitely have is a six game lead over Boston in the AL East and a six game homestand ahead with the Sox and Kansas City Royals.

Game Notes

The Yankees have Thursday off before starting that 3-game set with the Red Sox. Joe Girardi has shuffled his starting rotation, moving CC Sabathia to Saturday to give him an extra day’s rest. Joba Chamberlain will go Friday night against Jon Lester.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, A.J. Burnett is just the third Yankee pitcher to record double digit strikeouts in less than six innings. Chamberlain did it earlier this season (12 K’s) and David Cone performed the feat in 1998 (11 K’s).

Jerry Hairston Jr. left the game with a wrist injury when he checked his swing in the 7th inning. Hairston hurt a popping sound and will go for tests today.

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