No 1: STARTING PITCHING
In the six games against the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Yankees’ trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte combined to pitch 41 innings and gave up 14 runs for an ERA of 3.07. They yielded 34 hits and 10 walks for a WHIP of 1.07.
In contrast, the Angel four starters of John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir pitched 31 2/3 innings and gave up 17 runs for an ERA of 4.83. They yielded 39 hits and 19 walks for a WHIP of 1.83.
The Yankee trio also was 3-0. The Angel quartet was 0-3.
The truest axiom in baseball is that you are only as good as your starting pitching and the Yankees had the much better starting pitching this series.
NO 2: FIELDING
The Angels were charged with eight errors in the series and the Yankees were charged with three. But there is a larger story here. The physical and major mental mistakes the Angels made in the field directly led to their defeat in three games.
- In Game 1, Juan Rivera’s throwing error and Erick Aybar’s inability to call for and catch a routine pop fly gave the Yankees two runs in the first inning. John Lackey’s errant pickoff attempt throw led to another run in sixth inning. The Angels lost 4-1 and actually gift-wrapped the Yankees three runs.
- In Game 2, the Yankees made all three of their errors in the series but none of them resulted in an Angels score. The Angels committed two errors and the second one resulted in the loss. Second baseman Maicer Izturis ranged far to his left and fielded Melky Cabrera’s grounder and he should have thrown to first for the second out of the inning. Instead he whirled and threw off-balance to shortstop Erick Aybar at second base and the ball sailed past Aybar and allowed Jerry Hairston to score the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning.
- In Game 6, the Angels committed two errors in the game. Unfortunately, after scoring a run off Mariano Rivera in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Yankees, the two errors came in the bottom of the inning. They came on consecutive sacrifice bunt plays. On the first, Howie Kendrick closed his glove too soon as he covered first base and Nick Swisher was safe. Then Kazmir shot-putted the ball over Kendrick’s head and Robinson Cano scored the game’s fourth run and runners advanced to second and third. One additional run scored on a sacrifice fly and the Yankees clinched the series with a 5-2 victory.
The Yankees took advantage of the Angels’ mistakes in the field and the Angels were unable to get the Yankees to commit enough errors to take advantage of them.
No. 3: BASE-RUNNING
In the Angels’ case this was what they did not do. The Angels were second in the American League in stolen bases in 2009. In watching the ALCS, you never would have known that. The Angels stole a total of four bases in the six games. Manager Mike Scioscia will tell you that the Yankees’ starting pitchers limited some opportunities but it does not tell the whole story.
One big reason is that three of the Angels’ best base-stealers, Izturis, Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins were a combined 8-for-58 (.138) at the plate. It is kind of hard to steal first base and the Angel speed demons had a hard time dealing with their limited opportunities.
There also was a the fact that CC Sabathia kept the Angels off base in his two games and Andy Pettitte’s patented pickoff move baffled the Angels in two other games.
But also take into account the uncharacteristic base-running blunders the Yankees took advantage of in the series. Remember Bobby Abreu getting throw out for rounding second base too far in the eighth inning of Game 3? And how about Pedro Guerrero getting doubled off first base in the second inning of Game 6?
The Yankees may have stolen only two bases in the series and pinch-runner Brett Gardner may have been thrown out in his two attempts to steal. But the bottom line is the Angels live or die with the stolen base and their aggressive base-running. In this series their inability to steal and run aggressively to put pressure on the Yankees killed them.
THE CLOSER EDGE
Mariano Rivera vs. Brian Fuentes.
Rivera blew only two save opportunities and saved 44 games this season. Fuentes registered 48 saves but he blew seven chances and had a 1-5 record. K-Rod he was not. This weakness reared its ugly head in this series.
Fuentes pitched in three games and he gave up a run one three innings and saved one game. But that one run was a game-tying home run by Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 2 that led to a 4-3 defeat.
Fuentes also was shaky in his save of Game 5. After he recorded two outs, he walked two and hit a batter to load the bases. He then worked into a full count with Nick Swisher before Swisher popped up to end the game. Had Swisher singled in two runs in that situation, the Yankees would have likely won Game 5 and Fuentes might have been hung in effigy in Anaheim.
As it is Rivera was nearly perfect in his five appearances. He saved two games, including the game-clincher in Game 6. But that does not tell the whole story. Rivera was summoned to hold the Angels in Game 2 and pitched in three innings (2 1/3 innings of work) and gave the Yankees a chance to win Game 2 in extra innings.
His work in Game 3 was spectacular, though the Yankees eventually lost the game in the 11th inning. Rivera pitched around a bases-loaded one-out jam in the 10th inning by getting Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero to bounce into easy infield outs.
Rivera finished the series with a 1.29 ERA and a WHIP of 0.71. He was special and dominant when he had to be. Fuentes was neither and it cost the Angels.
No. 5: A-ROD
Though Sabathia did earn the MVP award for the series, Alex Rodriguez had just as much impact on the series with his bat. He finished the series hitting .429 with three home runs and six RBIs. But the numbers do not tell how much of an impact he truly had.
In inning No. 1 of Game 1, Rodriguez drove in the first run of the series. In Game 2, his dramatic two-out home run in the bottom of the 11th prevented the Angels from stealing a game in New York and allowed the Yankees to win the game in the 13th inning.
He homered in a losing cause in Game 3 and was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in Game 4. But it was his slide under the tag of Mike Napoli in the fourth inning to score the first run of the game that set the tone for the 10-1 romp.
In Game 6 he took a base-loaded walk to drive in the third run of a comeback fourth inning.
But the Angels actually made sure to limit the damage of Rodriguez by walking him at any opportunity they could in the series. Rodriguez was walked eight times in the series, three of those were officially listed as intentional.
He was walked intentionally to load the bases in the seventh inning of Game 5. Hideki Matsui followed with an RBI single and Robinson Cano drove in two more with a double as the Yankees rallied from 4-0 deficit for a short-lived 6-4 lead.
Once the Angels regained the lead at 7-6 they walked Rodriguez intentionally again in the ninth inning with TWO ou
t and NOBODY on.
t and NOBODY on.
Rodriguez came into the championship series hot, having hit .455 with two home runs and six RBIs in the league divisional series against the Twins. In the two series combined he is hitting .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs.
The Angels simply had no one in their lineup who was as hot and as effective with the bat during the series. It is another reason why they are going home and the Yankees have advanced to the World Series.