10/21/09 1:30 AM ET
Stymied by CC, Angels move to brink
Yankees ace shuts down Halos as Game 4 gets ugly
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Alex Rodriguez's third homer of the series and the second by Johnny Damon, along with four RBIs by Melky Cabrera, powered the pinstripers, who are one win away from their first World Series berth since an unsuccessful 2003 adventure against the Marlins."That's what they brought him there to do," Angels leadoff man Chone Figgins said of Sabathia. "He didn't give us anything to hit. He made one mistake all night, left one ball up, and [Kendry] Morales hit it out. That was it." Morales' homer came in the fifth, when it was still in issue at 5-1. The Yankees put it away with two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth. Sabathia, who held the Angels to one run across eight innings in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, repeated that polished, highly professional act. Chad Gaudin worked the ninth, keeping the bullpen fresh for a potential Game 5 clincher on Thursday night. The Angels will use Wednesday to work out and infuse each other with the notion that they can rebound and book another trip to the Big Apple. They'll turn to John Lackey, asking their ace to help send the show back to New York for a Game 6. He'll face right-hander A.J. Burnett. "I love our chances," Figgins said. "We've been in this situation before. One thing's for sure, if we go down, we're going to go down fighting." Sabathia took the fight out of the Angels by consistently putting his heater, changeup and slider in prime locations. "He was throwing 94, 95, and his changeup was fading out of the strike zone to righties," Torii Hunter said. "The guy's so flexible, so relaxed. He's got a loose arm. He knows what he's capable of doing. That's why he got all that money."
PERFECTLY TIMED STREAK
|Series||After Gm 4||Gm 5||Gm 6||Gm 7|
|'07 ALCS||CLE, 3-1||BOS, 7-1||BOS, 12-2||BOS, 11-2|
|'04 ALCS||NYY, 3-1||BOS, 5-4||BOS, 4-2||BOS, 10-3|
|'03 NLCS||CHC, 3-1||FLA, 4-0||FLA, 8-3||FLA, 9-6|
|'96 NLCS||STL, 3-1||ATL, 14-0||ATL, 3-1||ATL, 15-0|
|'86 ALCS||CAL, 3-1||BOS, 7-6||BOS, 10-4||BOS, 8-1|
|'85 ALCS||TOR, 3-1||KC, 2-0||KC, 5-3||KC, 6-2|
Yankees manager Joe Girardi certainly thinks his operation is getting full value out of its Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million free-agent deal."He was spectacular again," Girardi said. "To be able to shut this club down like he did is no easy feat. This is a very dangerous lineup." In contrast to Sabathia, who pounded the strike zone, Angels southpaw Scott Kazmir walked a tightrope early in Game 4. It's never a pretty sight when someone falls off that contraption. After working out of jams in the second and third innings, Kazmir yielded three runs in the fourth. A-Rod got it started with a single, stopping at third when Jorge Posada whistled a double past third base. With one out, second baseman Howard Kendrick charged Robinson Cano's slow roller and his throw home sailed high as A-Rod slid under catcher Mike Napoli's tag. A full-count walk to Nick Swisher was followed by Cabrera's two-run single to left. After Derek Jeter walked, Damon flied to center, and Swisher was ruled out at third for leaving too soon on his way home. A line-drive single by Mark Teixeira leading off the fifth ended Kazmir's night. "I was just missing some pitches," Kazmir said. "When you're not attacking the strike zone, it's tough to get those borderline calls. I was frustrated at times. If I'm not consistently in the strike zone, it's tough." Kazmir yielded four earned runs on six hits and four walks, striking out three. Jason Bulger came on after Teixeira's hit, and A-Rod greeted him with his fifth homer of this postseason, one shy of Bernie Williams' club record in 1996. Darren Oliver relived Bulger after a walk to Posada, and the veteran lefty escaped after yielding a double to Cano by retiring Swisher and Cabrera on force plays. Morales finally gave the crowd something to roar about in the bottom of the fifth with his drive to left-center. It was a 1-2 fastball near his shoulders that he launched for his first homer of the series and second of the postseason. After successive singles by Napoli and Erick Aybar, Sabathia doused the fire by getting Figgins to bounce into a force and Bobby Abreu on a fly ball. Figgins and Abreu, the catalysts all season, are a combined 4-for-32 (.125) in the series. "Right now, I think we're trying to do too much," said Abreu, who is 2-for-16 in this series after going 5-for-9 against Boston in the AL Division Series. "We need to calm down, especially with runners on base. We have to score some runs and win this next game, then see what happens."
In the sixth, the Halos threatened for the final time. After a Hunter walk and bloop single by Vladimir Guerrero, Juan Rivera grounded into a double play and Kendrick lined to Teixeira at first.Damon unloaded his two-run shot in the eighth against reliever Matt Palmer. Since the advent of best-of-seven LCS play in 1985, 28 teams have taken a 3-1 lead in the two leagues. On 22 occasions, the club with the advantage has gone on to win the series. Angels fans have painful memories of one of those comebacks, by the 1986 Red Sox, starting with a Game 5 classic at Angel Stadium. The five others were by the 1985 Royals (vs. the Blue Jays), the '96 Braves (vs. Cardinals), 2003 Marlins (vs. Cubs), '04 Red Sox (vs. Yankees) and '07 Red Sox (vs. Indians). "You've got to win one at a time," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You focus on the process. You need to have good at-bats. You need to pitch well. "This is the first game that really got away from us on the pitching side. I think we've been doing a good job on the mound." After yielding just three earned runs in 20 innings in the previous six postseason games, the bullpen was blitzed for six in five innings after Kazmir fell off that tightrope.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.