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Yanks win an extra-inning marathon in Game 2

10/18/2009 2:21 AM ET
By Joe Pawlikowski / RiverAveBlues.com

Alex Rodriguez's solo homer in the 11th inning tied the game at 3-3. (AP)
One of the early ALCS subplots was the rain that threatened Games 1 and 2. It didn't factor into the first game, and if Game 2 had finished in nine innings, the Yankees and Angels would have played a dry game. Instead, the rains came for extra innings. They gave way just in time for another Yankees walk-off win.

As he has three times during the regular season, Melky Cabera brought home the winning run. Jerry Hairston Jr., playing in his first ever postseason game, led off the inning with a pinch-hit single. Brett Gardner sacrificed him to second, which prompted an intentional walk of Robinson Cano, bringing Cabrera to the plate.

Melky hit the fist pitch on the ground, wide of Maicer Izturis at second. Ranging to his left, Izturis tried to turn and throw to second, but missed his target. The ball went onto the grass, allowing Hairston to sprint the final 90 feet and seal a 2-0 series advantage with a 4-3, 13-inning win.

"I think he's trying to make a little too much of that play," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia of his second baseman. "You just want to get an out there."

It took some October heroics for the Yankees to get their chance at a walk-off win. Alfredo Aceves, relieving Mariano Rivera, had a rough start to the 11th. He walked Gary Matthews Jr., which set up an Erik Aybar sacrifice. Chone Figgins, 0 for the series to that point, sliced a 1-2 pitch to left, and the Angels took the extra base on Johnny Damon's arm, giving them their first lead of the series.

With their backs against the wall, the Yankees needed a run off Angels closer Brian Fuentes. He threw lead-off hitter Alex Rodriguez two straight fastballs to go up 0-2. Instead of wasting a pitch, Fuentes left a fastball high and outside, a pitch A-Rod can handle. He drove it on a line to right, and it cleared the wall for a game-tying home run.

"That's the last thing you want to think about in that situation," said A-Rod when asked if he was looking to hit a home run. "You want to get a pitch to hit and hit it hard." When asked if he could believe his amazing postseason run, Rodriguez was confident. "Of course I can believe it. It's what I've done my entire career."

The Yankees got out to a fast start against Joe Saunders. With two outs in the second Nick Swisher drew a walk. After uncharacteristically looking at two straight strikes, Cano lined an 0-2 pitch into the gap that rolled out to the wall. Swisher, running on contact with two outs, scored easily, giving the Yankees an early 1-2 lead.

The scoring continued in the second. Saunders left a 2-0 fastball up in the zone outside to Jeter, and Jeter put everything into a swing, sending the ball over the right field fence for the game's second run. With A.J. Burnett dealing through three, the Yankees appeared to have the game under control.

For the second straight playoff game Burnett pitched well enough to win. He carried the team through 6 1/3 innings, and it could have been 6 2/3 had Cano not misplayed a grounder in the seventh. Burnett cut down on his walks in this start, just two, while striking out four. Just one inning did him in.

"I'm happy I'm a Yankee and can be part of something special," said Burnett after the game.

It was a long wait for Burnett in the clubhouse between the end of his night and the 13th inning victory. He had to sit and think about one bad pitch.

Leading off the fifth, Izturis jumped on a 2-1 fastball and drove it to right for a double. Burnett retired the next hitter, but Erik Aybar singled up the middle to cut the Yankees lead in half. That's when Burnett started slowing down the game.

Burnett was cautious with Aybar at first, but allowed a stolen base on a curveball. Aybar got a good jump, and though the pitch was a strike it did not give Jose Molina, who made a perfect throw, enough time to get Aybar. The at-bat ended with a hit by pitch.

After a protracted at-bat, comprising nine pitches and lasting about five minutes, Bobby Abreu flied out to deep left in foul territory. The pitch carried, but Damon was able to make a catch at the wall. Burnett couldn't take advantage of the two-out situation, walking Torii Hunter.

The critical moment in the inning came in the next at-bat. Burnett got two strikes on Vladimir Guerrero and tried to bury a curveball. It hit the dirt and bounced away from Jose Molina, allowing Aybar to score, tying the game. Burnett induced a grounder on the next pitch to end the inning, but the Angels had changed the tone of the game.

The Yankees immediately had a shot to pull back ahead. Cabrera singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and Molina followed with one of his own, his first of the postseason. But then Jeter grounded one back to Saunders, who started a 1-6-3 double play. Damon struck out on a 2-2 breaking ball to end the threat.

That was the first of three straight innings in which the Yankees grounded into a double play. After Mark Teixeira reached on an error in the sixth, Hideki Matsui grounded the first pitch to Morales at first, who started a 3-6-1 double play. Swisher singled to lead off the seventh, but was erased when the next batter, Cano, hit a grounder to second.

The Angels weren't short of chances, either. They had the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh, but Guerrero swung and missed at a Joba Chamberlain slider. They then had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, but Phil Hughes and Rivera quelled the threat with a strikeout and a groundout. They also failed to capitalize on a Guerrero single to lead off the 10th.

Perhaps their best chance came in the 13th, when Cano committed an error to start the inning. Instead of a one-pitch, one-out situation the Angels had Aybar at first with none out. After a sacrifice and intentional walk the Angels were set up, first and second with one out. They avoided the double play by sending the runners as Hunter grounded out to short. After missing badly on two David Robertson pitches, Guerrero grounded weakly to Cano.

He is known for locking down leads in the postseason, but Saturday night Rivera's job was to keep the game tied. He performed it well, keeping the Angels off the board for 2 1/3 innings, using just 25 pitches to eight hitters. Those innings were critical in the victory.

The Yankees were lucky to work around a few errors. The Angels loaded the bases after Cano's error with one out in the seventh, but Joba was able to retire Guerrero. Jeter bobbled a grounder in the eighth which set up the Angels with first and second with one out, but Hughes and Rivera shut the door. Then in the 13th Cano botched an Aybar grounder to open the inning.

"Mistakes are part of the game, especially considering the conditions that were out there today," said Derek Jeter. "But our pitching staff picked us up."

The win was the Yankees' 17th walk-off of the season, but they don't take them for granted. Said winning pitcher Robertson, "I don't think you ever really get used to it."

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for River Ave Blues. Read more from Joe and his team at RiverAveBlues.com.
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