Yankees' pennant-winning dreams built on pitching, Angels' mistakes
It was 12:01 a.m. when the clock struck midnight for the Los Angeles Angels. It is, of course, somewhat ridiculous to cast a club with the game's seventh-highest payroll ($116.7M), and one that won the second-most games (97), in a Cinderella role. But there was a sense that if the Angels somehow won two in a row and took the series, it would be a shocking accomplishment. Not the equivalent of the Red Sox' recovery from a 3-0 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS, perhaps, but something close to it.
The Yankees won Game 6 using the same formula they used in most of their other victories in the series -- all of them, in fact, except for the 10-1 aberration that was Game 4. First, they received a stellar performance from their starting pitcher, in this case
Over 6 1/3 innings of work, Pettitte allowed seven hits and one earned run, and threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes. That total might have been aided by home plate umpire
Pettitte also made an amazingly athletic play for a 37-year-old man in the top of the sixth that saved at least one run, and maybe two. With the Yankees leading 3-1 and
The second part of the formula was that the Yankees took advantage of the insanity that seemed to strike the Angels again and again in crucial moments, as it had struck the Twins during the ALDS. In Game 6 alone, the Angels made three distinct mental errors (four if you count
In the second inning, Guerrero, who had just hit a lead-off infield single, allowed himself to be doubled off first by
In the ninth, with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead, Swisher tried to bunt
"Everybody came to play," said a dejected Figgins, who sat slumped in his corner locker still wearing his full uniform, dirt occasionally flaking off his pants onto the navy blue carpet. "I didn't think anybody approached anything differently. They pitched great, and we made some mistakes."
In their four victories, the Yankees' starting pitchers -- Pettitte,
The Yankees' Game 6 win means they can start Sabathia in Game 1 of the World Series against the Phillies in New York on Wednesday, and they should have every reason to believe that Element No. 1 of their winning postseason formula -- their superb starting pitching -- will remain in place. The Phillies, though, are a veteran group, and the defending champions, and it seems unlikely they will make as many mistakes as the Angels and Twins did, allowing the Yankees to take advantage of them. (Of course, it had seemed unlikely that the Angels, the Yankees' primary nemesis this decade, would make as many crucial blunders as had the Twins in the ALDS, and they did.)
To win their first World Series title since 2000, New York's offense will have to click in a way in which it really hasn't yet this postseason, except during one game, and that will mean hitting with men on base. The Yankees hit eight home runs in the ALCS, yes, but all but two of them were of the solo variety, and those two outliers were two-run shots.
All of that, of course, is Wednesday's worry. "I said it was going to be a dogfight, and it was," said Figgins, blithely overlooking the fact that dogfighting metaphors are frowned upon in sports in this post-
It might not have been