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Sabathia, Yanks cruise to Game 1 win over Angels

10/17/2009 12:07 AM ET
By Benjamin Kabak/River Ave Blues

CC Sabathia struck out eight over seven innings. (AP)
The Yankees rolled the dice in Las Vegas this past winter when the team used $161 million over seven years to entice CC Sabathia to New York. With a dominant performance against the Angels tonight, Sabathia is paying immediate dividends for the Yanks.

After beating the Twins with less than his best stuff last week, Sabathia rolled over the Angels tonight. He threw eight innings tonight, limiting the Angels to just one run on four hits and a walk. He struck out seven and showed himself to be every bit the ace the Yankees wanted and needed.

"CC's been doing that all year for us," Yankee captain Derek Jeter said after the game. "He did in the first round and he did it tonight."

As CC rolled, the Angels did not. They played a game marred by miscommunication and errors. In the bottom of the first inning, the Yankees set the tone for the game. Derek Jeter led off with a single, and Johnny Damon moved him to third with a base hit of his own. After Mark Teixeira popped out, Alex Rodriguez drove in yet another postseason run to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. Then, disaster struck for Los Angeles. Hideki Matsui lofted an easily-catchable popup that fell between shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Chone Figgins, and Damon scored the Yanks second run. The Bombers wouldn't need more.

Armed with a 2-0 lead, CC went to work. He gave up just a single in the second and retired the Angels in order in the third. In the fourth, Sabathia hit his only spot of trouble. Vladimir Guerrero hit a booming double to left-center field and scored on a two-out hit by Kendry Morales.

After that, it was smooth sailing: three up, three down in the fifth; three up, three down in the sixth. In the seventh, now enjoying a 4-1 lead, Sabathia struck out Mike Napoli with Morales on second. He pumped his fist emphatically as the crowd roared. "The stadium was rocking," Sabathia said. "I was pretty pumped up."

This was vintage Sabathia, and the Angels had to tip their caps to him. "He pitched a heck of a game," Scioscia said.

The Yankees, meanwhile, had their own frustrations. They left 11 runners on base and were just 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position. John Lackey, the Angels starter, gave up nine hits and three walks in just 5.2 innings, but the Yanks could not push across those insurance runs.

In the fifth, disaster nearly struck, and in another season, A-Rod would have been vilified for a potentially costly play. With two on and one out, Matsui lined a double into left-center field, and Juan Rivera tumbled over this feet trying to field it. Damon scored, but A-Rod run through a stop sign at third base, ran over Jeff Mathis and was called out, a potential October goat once again.

Girardi, though, praised his third baseman for that play. It was a bang-bang play at the plate, and the Yanks, said Girardi, were playing with grit. "Every run is an important run," Girardi said. "You expect your guys to play hard, and that's what Alex did. He played hard."

In the sixth, the Yanks added another insurance run. Melky Cabrera worked a two-out walk and moved to second on an a throwing error by Lackey. Derek Jeter laced a single into center field, and the Yanks would have their lead. "We took advantage of a couple of situations and a couple of miscues," Girardi said of the Yanks scoring on the Angels' defense.

With a 4-1 lead, the Yanks brought Sabathia out for the eighth, and he easily shut down the top of the Angels order. Out after 113 pitches, Sabathia handed the ball over to Mariano Rivera in the ninth. "I thought CC had reached his limit," Girardi said. "He threw extremely well, and he did his job. It was time to go to Mo."

Rivera responded as he had 35 previous times in October -- with a save. He issued an uncharacteristic lead-off walk as Torii Hunter nabbed first base on five pitches, but rebounded to strike out Vladimir Guerrero. Juan Rivera lifted a fly ball to right, and Brett Gardner settled under a lazy flyout off the bat of Kendry Morales for the last out of the game.

As Gardner caught the game, the Yanks had, for one night, vanquished one of their toughest October opponents. The Angels downed the Yanks in 2002 and 2005, but tonight belong to CC Sabathia. "Tremendous," Girardi said of his ace's performance. For another October night, Sabathia was the ace, worth every penny of his extra-large contract.

Benjamin Kabak is a writer for River Ave Blues. Read more from Ben and his team at RiverAveBlues.com.
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