Sabathia Plays Ace Card, Yanks on World Series Doorstep

A-Rod provides power to back Sabathia's gem

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009  |  Updated 8:17 AM EDT
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Sabathia Plays Ace Card, Yanks on World Series Doorstep

AP

New York Yankees' CC Sabathia reacts after getting Los Angeles Angels' Howie Kendrick to line out and end the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship baseball series.

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One night after Joe Girardi was criticized for making too many decisions during a Yankee loss, he sat back and watched as the only decision he had to make paid off marvelously.

CC Sabathia, who Girardi chose to start on three days rest, dominated the Angels over eight innings and put to rest any of the fears that cropped up when they lost in 11 innings on Monday. He struck out five, allowed seven baserunners and generally controlled the entire game when he was on the mound in the kind of superlative pitching performance that the Yankees haven't had in many, many years. It was precisely the kind of performance the Yankees dreamed of seeing when they signed Sabathia during the winter, and precisely the kind of performance that makes a pitcher an ace.  

Sabathia was so good, in fact, that he may have pulled off the most difficult trick of all: Sabathia could take votes away from Alex Rodriguez when it comes time to decide an ALCS MVP.

It's unlikely he, or anyone else, could do enough to wrest the hardware away from Rodriguez, though. Just as Sabathia has done exactly what was expected of him when he donned pinstripes, so has A-Rod fulfilled every expectation of what a star hitter is supposed to do in the postseason. It may have taken him six seasons to make full use of his talents, but the way he's playing makes it hard to remember just why he was so reviled before this year's postseason got underway.

Rodriguez blasted his fifth home run of October in the 5th inning, That puts him one behind Bernie Williams on the franchise list for one postseason run, but, believe it or not, it was A-Rod's feet that made the biggest play of the game for the Yankee offense. He scored from third on a Robinson Cano grounder to second, a play that snapped the Yankees' cold string at the plate with runners in scoring position. It was far from a sure thing, but Rodriguez broke on contact and beat a high throw to the plate to score the first Yankee run in the fourth inning.

Melky Cabrera singled with the bases loaded two batters later and, suddenly, the Yankee offense was back to life. Some boneheaded baserunning (and questionable umpiring) kept them from piling on even more runs, but they led by five following Rodriguez's homer. It turned out to be a lot more than Sabathia would need to pick up his second win of the series and leave the Yankess in a position to do no worse than go home needing one win in two games to advance to the World Series.

Sabathia and Rodriguez, Rodriguez and Sabathia. The game of baseball can be pretty easy sometimes.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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