ALCS GAME 4: KEY MOMENT
It is the bottom of the fifth inning and the New York Yankees lead the Angels 5-0, having broken through and chased starter Scott Kazmir with five runs over the previous two innings. CC Sabathia is rolling again after having given up just a walk and infield single over the first four innings. The Angels, trying desperately to avoid going down in the best-of-seven championship series 3-1 must break through against the 2007 American League Cy Young Award Winner.
After one out, there is a glimmer of hope as first baseman Kendry Morales drives a high fastball into left-center for a solo home run. The Angel fans among the 45,000 in attendance begin banging their thunder sticks, trying to ignite their team.
It’s Rally Monkey time in the Big A.
GLIMMER OF HOPE
As Morales gets the glad hand all around in the Angels dugout, Mike Napoli steps to the plate. Napoli is catching despite the fact that starter Jeff Mathis had doubled in his last three at-bats and drove in the winning run the day before.
Napoli works to a 1-1 count and slaps a single just past the dive of Alex Rodriguez down the leftfield line. Now the fans are on their feet, thunder sticks flapping at 100 miles per hour. The Rally Monkey is finally awake.
After Napoli, Erick Aybar digs in determined to work the count on Sabathia and he does it. He fouls off some tough pitches to get the count to 3-2. Sabathia knows that Aybar has choked up on the bat and shortened his swing.
His efforts to throw pitches on the corner are thwarted when Aybar reaches across the plate and fouls it off. He tries high in the strike zone and Aybar fouls it off. Sabathia has worked the first four innings in an amazing 38 pitches.
But Aybar is determined to drive that pitch count up all by himself. The next pitch will be Sabathia’s ninth to Aybar. Sabathia tries outside again and Aybar just flicks the bat and flips the ball into shallow centerfield. It drops in front of Melky Cabrera and the Angels now have two runners on and one out.
The fans are really into it now. Thunder sticks resonate in every corner of Angel Stadium.
The Angels rally is now up to two of its best hitters of the regular season; Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu.
Figgins hit .298 and led the American League with 114 runs scored. He was the catalyst for the team’s offense all season long. Abreu hit .293 and drove in 103 runs. The two had also combined on 72 steals.
THE HOPE FADES
Sabathia fires two quick called strikes on Figgins and Figgins realizes he will not be able to work the count. He will have to be aggressive and protect the plate. He fouls off the next pitch and is still behind in the count 0-2.
Sabathia, from the stretch, throws his next pitch and Figgins’ bat rolls over the top of it and it bounces right to Robinson Cano at second base. Cano tries to get rid of the ball quickly to Derek Jeter to get Aybar at second.
Second base umpire Dale Scott calls Aybar out but Figgins is too fast to double up at first base and the Angels still have a chance with Napoli at third and Figgins at first with two out.
It will take a two-out clutch hit from Abreu, who had many such hits for the Angels all season long. Cast adrift by the Yankees after the 2008 season, Abreu hoped to sign as lucrative a deal as the one he had with the Yankees at $16 million per season.
But because economic hard times hit baseball at the midpoint of the free-agent signing period, Abreu waited, waited and waited some more before having to settle for a low-ball $5 million plus incentives contract with the Angels.
Abreu worked a walk in the first inning but Sabathia struck him out looking in the third. In the series, the Yankees have been backing Abreu off the plate with pitches inside and throwing low and outside pitches to get Abreu out.
Abreu is usually a patient hitter, unafraid of hitting with two strikes. But Sabathia’s command has forced Abreu to be more aggressive. Angel fans have the thunder sticks and the Rally Monkey going strong, hopeful Abreu can come through.
Sabathia throws a strike. Ohhhhh! Angel fans have seen this all night.
On the second pitch Abreu sees a pitch he likes and swings but he misses it low, popping it up harmlessly into the Anaheim sky to centerfield. Cabrera camps under it and uses two hands to make sure it nestles into his glove.
Ohhhh! Angel fans fall silent, thunder sticks halt and the Rally Monkey has been foiled.
The Yankees would go on to score five runs in the final two innings and the final score ends up 10-1. The Yankees are 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and need only one victory for a trip to the World Series.
Meanwhile, the Angels squandered another chance to get to Sabathia in the sixth when Torii Hunter walked and Vladimir Guerrerro singled to lead of the inning. Juan Rivera followed by hitting into a double play and Howie Kendrick lined out to first baseman Mark Teixeira to end the Angels last serious threat.
Figgins, Abreu and Rivera are probably the poster children for the Angels’ plight in this series. Their failures to hit in clutch situations is the main reason why the Angels are losing. Combined they are 6-for-49 in the series, a woeful .122 average. They have one RBI between them.
In a key moment in Game 4, they all failed to deliver a big hit. Now the Rally Monkey is hanging by a thread on life support with very little hope left of recovery.