Monday, October 26, 2009

The Big 4-0

Yankees Wrap Up 40th Pennant

Andy Pettitte has been in big post-season spots before. There was the huge 1-0 win over John Smoltz and the Braves in the ‘96 World Series. Two wins in the ‘01 ALCS against Seattle. A win in all three series in the ‘03 post-season. So it was no shock to see Pettitte bring his ‘A’ game tonight in what turned out to be the 6th and decisive game of the ALCS. The Yankees topped the Angels 5-2 to capture their 40th pennant in franchise history.

Joe Saunders, who performed so well in Game 2, blanked the Yankees through three innings, but trailing 1-0 in the 4th, the Yankees broke through. Robinson Cano drew a lead-off walk and Nick Swisher followed with a bust-out-of-a-slump single to left. After Melky Cabrera successfully sacrificed the runners over, Saunders walked Derek Jeter to load the bases. Johnny Damon got the Yankees off the schneid with runners in scoring position with a base hit to left field for a 2-1 lead. After a single by Mark Teixeira loaded the bags again, Saunders walked Alex Rodriguez to force in the third run of the inning. After that it was all up to Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera.

Pettitte allowed an RBI single to former teammate Bobby Abreu in the third, but was spotless the rest of the night. His biggest challenge came in the 6th when Torii Hunter reached on a two-out single and Vlad Guerrero followed with a double. But Pettitte knocked down Kendry Morales’ comebacker and threw him out at first to escape the jam.

Pettitte received a standing ovation after he allowed a one-out single to Juan Rivera in the 7th and departed in favor of Chamberlain. The right-hander bridged the gap to Rivera by retiring pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar to keep the game at 3-1.

The Sandman actually looked human in the 8th inning when he gave up a two out RBI single to Guerrero to cut the deficit to 3-2. But the Angels, so sound fundamentally, gave the Yankees some breathing room in the home half of the inning.

After a walk to Cano, Nick Swisher laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Howie Kendrick dropped Scott Kazmir’s throw to first for an error and the Yankees were in business. Cabrera followed with another sac bunt, which Kazmir “sky hooked” into right field for a run-scoring error. Teixeira’s long sac fly to center gave the Yankees an insurmountable 5-2 lead.

In the 9th, Rivera retired Kendrick on a ground-out and Juan Rivera on a fly-out before striking out pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. for the final out. Rivera strode off the mound, exchanged hugs with Jorge Posada, and the Yankees’ celebration was on.

Game Notes

Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday night. The Yankees will send the ALCS MVP, CC Sabathia, out against his former Indians teammate Cliff Lee.