The Yankees beat the Angels 4-3 in the bottom of the 13th of Game 2 of the ALCS on a Melky Cabrera walk-off groundout-turned-bizarre-error by Angels’ second baseman Maicer Izturis, which allowed Jerry Hairston to score the winning run on what was essentially a fielder’s choice gone bad.
This was probably the coldest, rainiest and by far the longest game I’ve ever attended (and one of the lengthiest in postseason history), and all I can say about that aspect of it is thank goodness the Yankees won and sent everyone home happy.
Yankee starter A.J. Burnett started out strong, keeping the Angels off the board for the first four innings as the Yankees built a 2-0 lead on a Robinson Cano RBI triple and Derek Jeter solo home run, but the wheels more or less came off in the 5th inning for Burnett. While you can’t really ask much more of Burnett than his final line of 6 1/3 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts, a costly wild pitch with the bases loaded knotted the game in the 5th and really deflated the crowd for a few innings.
Aside from the Cano and Jeter hits, the Yankees’ offense was once again stifled by Joe Saunders, whose repertoire includes a 90-mph fastball and other assorted junk. Not to take anything away from Saunders, who pitched an outstanding game (7 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 5 K), but it truly is baffling how a great offensive team like the Yankees routinely gets shut down by guys who throw off-speed slop. Of course, this year’s team is also deep enough that they keep overcoming slow offensive starts.
Mark Teixeria in particular continued to struggle this postseason, going 0-5 with a walk. Every other starter had at least one hit — even Jose Molina! — but the Yankees had trouble stringing hits together all night. Of course, offensive ineptitude was a major Game 2 theme for both sides, as the Angels went 3-15 with runners in scoring position and left 16 men on base, while the Yankees went 0-8 with RISP.
Major credit goes to the Yankees’ pitching staff, as they continued their phenomenal postseason run. Game 2 marked the 5th-straight quality outing from a Yankee starter. Additionally, Yankee pitching has not allowed more than three runs in any of the team’s five postseason games so far and has yielded an astonishing zero home runs to the opposition in 49 total innings pitched.
Things got dicey in the top of the 11th as the ridiculously overdue Chone Figgins, hitless in the postseason to that point, knocked Izturis in with an RBI single off Alfredo Aceves, and as amazing as the Yankees have been in extra innings in 2009, it was hard to figure the team would muster yet another late-inning comeback given the way they’d swung the bats all evening.
As Izturis crossed the plate I wondered how many times, if at all, the Yankees had lost in extra innings at home in 2009. The answer is twice, with both games coming in May against the Rays (another game I attended) and the Phillies.
Down to their last three outs, Mike Scioscia brought his closer Brian Fuentes in to face Alex Rodriguez, who’d scalded several balls earlier in the evening but had nothing to show for it. After quickly getting ahead 0-2, Fuentes left a fastball high out over the plate that A-Rod blasted just over the right field wall and out of the reach of a leaping Bobby Abreu, marking the mind-boggling third time this postseason (and setting a new all-time postseason record) that A-Rod has hit a huge game-tying home run after the 7th inning. Additionally, A-Rod is now batting an obscene .368/.409/.842 with 8 RBI in the 2009 postseason and has driven at least one run in for the Yankees in all five of their playoff games. But remember, A-Rod’s not clutch.
I know I mentioned that the crowd seemed subdued after Burnett coughed up the lead, but I have to give it up for the fans once extra innings rolled around — even after the Angels took the lead, the crowd’s energy and enthusiasm remained unabated despite a steady downpour, as if everyone in the Stadium knew the Yankees would somehow pull it out. After A-Rod’s home run — which would have driven the crowd even more delirious had Abreu not tried to play the ball after it bounced back onto the field, momentarily confusing both the fans and A-Rod as to whether it had actually cleared the wall — the Yankees really had no choice but to hold up their end of the bargain.
Unfortunately, instead of Hideki Matsui following A-Rod, Joe Girardi was forced to send Freddy Guzman to the plate, who he had inserted as a pinch runner two innings prior. In fact, Girardi seemed determined to spike the Yankees’ chances of winning this game several times, between a number of eyebrow-raising calls to the bullpen (Girardi’s bullpen management was rightly praised for much of the season; however, he’s had a very quick trigger finger this October, and it almost came back to bite him after using every reliever he had except Chad Gaudin) and a quick pinch-running trigger finger. There was an excellent chance the Yankees could have closed t
he game out earlier had Matsui and Nick Swisher’s bats not been misguidedly lifted for pinch runners. The selection of Guzman over Eric Hinske for the ALCS roster in particular loomed large after Guzman was unable to score and looked utterly hopeless in his one extra-inning at-bat.
The game would continue for two more insides-ravaging innings. The Yankees actually had a golden opportunity to win in the bottom of the 12th, but Scioscia’s unintentional intentional walk of Teixiera to load the bases with two outs and bring A-Rod to the plate ended up paying off, as Alex popped out to end the inning. The Angels continued to threaten, but David Robertson (who earned his second postseason win) continued to get the job done, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. For as much as the Yankees’ difficulties on offense made me want to tear my hair out this game, credit is also due to the Yankees for finally hiring effective postseason advance scouts and successfully neutralizing Guerrero (1-7 last night), Abreu (0-5 with 2 walks) and Kendry Morales (0-5) so far this series, as the trio is 3-28 in two games.
Girardi correctly pinch-hit for Guzman in the bottom of the 13th with Jerry Hairston, who subsequently led the inning off with a single in his first at-bat of the 2009 postseason. Three batters later, Melky hit the grounder to Izturis, who threw the ball and the Angels’ hopes of evening the series up with a Game 2 victory into left field, as Hairston came motoring home to score the winning run. The win also marked the Yankees’ 17th walk-off victory of 2009, which is all kinds of awesome.
The Yankees remain the only undefeated team in the playoffs, and the series now moves to Los Angeles with the Yankees up 2-0 and in the driver’s seat. I do not want to see this series return to New York, and I definitely don’t want to see Girardi try and get cute and start Gaudin if the Yanks go up 3-0. I want CC Sabathia on the hill in Game 4, ready to thrust a dagger into the Angels’ collective hearts and get the Yankees back to the World Series, where they belong.
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