2009 American League Champions…
Good pitching beats good hitting…
So goes the old adage, but clearly, the Yankees are headed for the World Series because of their pitching. Carsten Charles Sabathia is probably the one who is most responsible, although Mark Teixeira’s defense is not too far behind.
The Yankees eliminated the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 on Sunday night to win Game 6 and capture the American League Championship.
It was vintage Andy Pettitte, and he showed why he’ll be fondly remembered as one of the great lefty pitchers in Yankee history. He’ll be making his 8th World Series appearance (7th as a Yankee).
There were a few in-game decisions by manager Joe Girardi that did surprise me…
I didn’t expect to see Andy Pettitte come back out to pitch the 7th inning. He retired the first hitter, Howie Kendrick, on a line out, but departed after the next batter, Juan Rivera, singled. Joba Chamberlain finished the inning unscathed.
I was also surprised when Girardi went with Mariano Rivera in the 8th rather than Phil Hughes. I realize that Hughes was partly responsible for the Angels’ comeback in Game 5, but I still think that was because of the momentum given to them by the previous pitcher in that game, Damaso Marte. My only concern was the availability of Rivera to pitch in a possible Game 7. Nevertheless, Mo showed why he’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer at the end of the day. The punch out of Gary Matthews, Jr. to propel the Yankees to the World Series was classic.
Finally, I thought playing Nick Swisher was risky. Swish has been ice cold, and I was ready to see if an outfield of Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera was more productive…or Jerry Hairston, Jr. in right at the very least.
For all of the moves, Girardi made the right call. Andy deserved the opportunity to leave the field with a tip of the cap to the crowd. Mo clearly had the right stuff, and Girardi was obviously playing to win. But I thought that Swisher’s throw to first to double off Vladimir Guerrero at first base following a fly out by Kendry Morales in the second inning was huge. As Swish caught the fly ball, he immediately fired the ball to Teixeira, who stepped on the bag as he was falling back, just ahead of the sliding Guerrero. In my opinion, that was one of the keys to the game. A great play.
So, Girardi was right and I was wrong. I am okay with it, because the Yankees will soon be playing for their 27th World Championship! After several years trying to escape Joe Torre’s shadow, Girardi has emerged as the true leader of the Yankees. Best of luck to the Yankees as they open the World Series on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
A couple of other side notes unrelated to the Yankees. I am glad that ESPN fired Steve Phillips for the alleged sex scandal, and if true, congratulations to Tony LaRussa for bringing Mark McGwire back into baseball as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Say what you will about McGwire, but I do think he deserves an opportunity to redeem himself for the fans.
P.S. Was it just me or did it look strange seeing Hal Steinbrenner in the locker room celebration instead of his dad? I know that it’s now Hal’s team, but there is still some sadness that George Steinbrenner is no longer able to be at the forefront of Yankee success.