Did the Yankees lose this intense and exciting ball game, 7-6 to the Angels, or did the Angels win it?
With the ALCS heading back to New York, Yankees leading 3-2, there’s an argument each way, but know this: The Yankees should be awfully worried about both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, both of whom are very hittable right now.
Obviously, too, A.J. Burnett’s mental fragility is a problem. If he melts down twice in this ball park – to start the first inning, then immediately after the Yankees had scrapped back to give him a two-run lead in the seventh inning – what happens if and when he gets to Philadelphia, where the fans eat their young?
In his first post-season appearance on the road, Burnett showed that, unlike C.C. Sabathia, so far he isn’t worth the money.
But the best part of this game was Mike Scioscia doing what a lot of us figured he would and that’s walking Alex Rodriguez intentionally, rather than give him a chance to beat them.
First time, Scioscia even broke that old cardinal rule of baseball, the one that says you never put the potential winning run on base intentionally. But he did it – which kind of goes hand in hand with the strategy – and sure enough Rodriguez came around to count the go-ahead run when the Yanks scored six two-out runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.
After Burnett and the bullpen blew that lead, the Angels carried a 7-6 lead into the ninth and closer Brian Fuentes got two quick outs. Then came the four fingers for A-Rod, even though he was the tying run. Fuentes loaded the bases with a walk and a hit batter and went to a full count before popping up Nick Swisher to end it, so that’s how close – one more ball – he came to making A-Rod the tying run.
“Obviously, if we’ve got some action in front of us, first and second or a runner at first, we probably would not have,’’ Scioscia said. “But in that situation you just want to keep Alex in the park.’’
“It got a little congested there at the end of the game, but we just felt it was better to take our chances with some of the lefties following him.’’
None of this should be a surprise. Scioscia’s Angels, you recall, intentionally walked Barry Bonds seven times in the 2002 World Series, when Bonds was at the height of his powers.
“There’s a huge difference in the lineup we’re facing as opposed to the lineup we were facing in ’02, with Barry Bonds in it. I think the Giants had a terrific club, but their offensive lineup then was nowhere near the depth we’re facing now with the Yankees. So it’s not about controlling one guy. We have to make pitches all the way through the lineup.’’
The Yankees made the strategy backfire once, but not with the game on the line in the ninth. The Angels might not have much of a chance, but whatever chances they have are much better if they keep taking the bat out of the big guy’s hands.’’