On the five-year anniversary of the Yankees' last ALCS victory and the sixth anniversary of the Aaron Boone walkoff home run, the Yankees beat the Angels in Game 1 of the 2009 American League Championship Series 4-1, behind a stellar outing from starter Carsten Charles Sabathia.
While the Angels made a number of uncharacteristic errors in the field, the story of this game was CC Sabathia. Sabathia tossed eight full innings in which he struck out seven, walked one, yielded only four hits and one run. He kept the Angels' batters off balance all night, ran into only two three-ball counts and flat-out dominated deep into the game, big game pitcher-style. I think it's safe to say the "Sabathia can't pitch in the postseason" meme is dead and buried.
The Yankees capitalized against Angel starter John Lackey early, plating a Derek Jeter leadoff single on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly and picking up a second run on a misplayed infield pop-up with two outs. The Angels halved the lead in the 4th inning on a Kendry Morales RBI single with two out, but the Yankees added runs in the 5th and 6th innings, and kept Los Angeles off the board the remainder of the game.
Lackey seemed off his game for the most part, giving up four runs through 5 2/3 innings. Oddly enough, the Angels' bullpen, cited as a weakness by just about everyone, managed to keep the Yankees from blowing the game open in both the 7th and 8th innings. Thankfully the missed opportunities did not come back to haunt them.
Mariano Rivera came on in the 9th and gave up a leadoff walk to Torii Hunter, but promptly quelled any fears by retiring the next three men in a row, recording his 36th postseason save.
The Yankees were able to keep the always-pesky Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu off base for the game, as the duo combined to go 0-8. The Angels only managed six baserunners the entire game. This also marked the Yankees' fourth quality start of the postseason in a row -- when was the last time the Yankees accomplished such a feat? -- and I don't think it's a coincidence that they have won all four of those games.
On the offensive side, Johnny Damon seemingly broke out of his ALDS slump with a 2-5 night, Jeter continued his hot hitting with two more base hits and A-Rod picked up another hit, a walk and a big RBI. Mark Teixiera laced a single in five at-bats but didn't look great in his other plate appearances; Cano nearly put one into the right field seats but had nothing to show for it; Swisher picked up a hit but struck out twice; and Melky Cabrera of all people had a base hit, two walks and scored a huge run. Tonight marked the first game of the playoffs the Yankees did not hit a home run.
On a very cold night at the Stadium -- a game that began in a fairly steady rain which thankfully petered out -- I thought the crowd was fantastic. Several friends mentioned that the crowd sounded a bit subdued on the Fox broadcast, but the fans in attendance seemed even more into tonight's game than those that were at Game 1 last week against Minnesota. The crowd was really hanging on Sabathia's every pitch, and in the 7th and 8th innings I heard something I haven't heard at Yankee Stadium all year, and I hope it's something that becomes de rigeur at future Yankee games: the entire stadium chanting "C! C!" in unison over and over again, willing him towards another big strikeout. Moments like these seem to be happening more and more as we get deeper into the postseason, and it's great to see the fans as ravenously into Yankee postseason baseball as ever.
I'm still thawing out but already ready to head back up to the Stadium for tomorrow night's game, assuming the weather cooperates. Even if it doesn't, it's critical that the Yankees got Sabathia's Game 1 outing in tonight, as he'll now be able to start Game 4 as per the team's plans.
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