BRONX, NY – The conditions were the same for both sides. Cold and wind causing some havoc in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium Friday evening Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia with his eight solid innings put the Los Angeles Angels bats on ice. The Angels made a season high three errors and the Yankees capitalized in taking game one of the American League Championship Series 4-1.
“It’s tough putting pressure on CC when you get nobody on,” said Angels, outfielder Torii Hunter who got a single off Sabathia in the first inning. It was one of four hits off Sabathia who got his first LCS win and recorded a postseason high in innings pitched. “It was just CC,” said Hunter. “CC is the cold weather. CC’s the real deal, man” he said.
And again, the Yankees as they do so well, capitalized on the errors by the Angels, a team that set a franchise low 85 and third fewest in the league this season. One in the first inning opened the door for a New York early 2-0 lead when left fielder Juan Rivera threw to the shortstop that put runners on second and third.
Then, in the same inning there was the probable miscommunication of a ball in the infield, or the wind playing havoc which saw a popup from the Yankees Hideki Matsui drop between third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar. The result was a single and Johnny Damon scoring a run.
“”We haven’t seen our guys crack the door open for a team like we did tonight in a long time,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia about that first inning, And like so many other teams that have been victims, now are the Angels. “And the Yankees are going to take advantage of that, and they did,” added Scioscia.
From there it was all Sabathia. This series is supposed to be about the Angels speed and ability to take the extra base, if they can get there. The Yankees with their power, though no home runs this windy night, and ability to hold a lead then go to their pen in the late innings. Sabathia threw 113 pitches, struck out seven and had great command.. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth and got the save,
“I noticed he was able to get ahead and change speeds,” commented Scioscia. “He threw some good change ups. I think he commanded both sides of the plate better than we had seen him before. He pitched a heck of a game. He obviously is one of the best in out league.”
The Angels know for sure how important it was to get on base. But Sabathia did not let the cold weather get to him and made the Angels know he could be the difference in this series. Sabathia could face then two more times if indeed there is a seventh and decisive game in the Bronx next weekend.
“He kept the guys that can create problems off the bases all night,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, “and he was sensational.” Sabathia has now won two opening games in the postseason, the other against Minnesota last week in the divisional series. And for the first time this season, with over 49,000 fans chanting CC in the seventh inning, Sabathia showed emotion after striking out pinch hitter Mike Naploi with a runner on second with a 4-1 lead.
Said Sabathia about the emotion, “That was a great feeling to have the Stadium rocking and to be chanting my name and to be able to get a strikeout. I was pretty pumped up. I don’t really show a lot of emotion a lot of times, but it came out of me there.”
But that emotion is what the Yankees like. They feel confident when their work horse takes the mound. Johnny Damon who made a defensive gem in left and had a fifth inning double hoped to have a powerful pitcher behind him in the postseason. This is his first ALCS with the Yankees.
“This is the first time we’ve been into the ALCS since I’ve been here,” he said. “The other two times we were knocked off in the first round. That’s why we got CC. To be a work horse during the season, of course, But to shut down teams in the postseason. They didn’t have too many base runners tonight. And any time you can do that, it definitely plays in our favor.”
As for the errors that the Angeles rarely make, said Damon “We’ll take it. We don’t see them do that too often, so we’ll take it.” Miscues that spoiled a good pitching performance from Angels, starter John Lackey who gave up four runs on nine hits.
A loss that Hunter said will be forgotten. “Wake up in the morning and feel like we had amnesia,” he said. The Angels hope to readjust and get out of New York with a 1-1 split before going home for Game 3 Monday.
Girardi also has the ability to use the bullpen Saturday evening in Game 2 because Sabathia went deep. That may now go to the Yankees advantage when A. J. Burnett takes the mound for New York opposing Joe Saunders. “If we need multiple innings out of guys we know we can get it,” he said.
“Having a guy like CC, A.J. Pettitte (Andy) and the strong bullpen we have, it’s allowed us to get to this point,” commented Damon. So Hopefully tomorrow night A.J. shows up and pitches well, and hopefully we can score a few runs off Saunders”
And if the Angels want to make this a series they know they have to avoid those costly mistakes. Burnett is not Sabathia, but one mistake against the Yankees, as Scioscia said, will crack the door open.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]