Winning the ALCS in six games helps Yankees in World Series matchup against Phillies

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By Thomas Boswell
Monday, October 26, 2009

NEW YORK

The game that ultimately decides the '09 World Series may actually have been played at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, disguised as Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

If the Yankees eventually win a long, tough World Series from the Phillies, think back to this night in the Bronx when New York not only avoided the possibility of losing a Game 7 to the Angels but also escaped with its pitching rotation intact, not a wreck.

This 5-2 Yanks victory over the Angels was an appropriate and classy inauguration of their $1.5 billion ballpark: Just what a new house needs, a 40th AL pennant to fly in the foyer.

That flag, presented to the Bronx Bombers primarily by 37-year-old southpaw winner Andy Pettitte, was an enormous prize to be sure and cheered to the heavens by the biggest Bronx crowd so far in his park of 50,173. But it's true significance, and its deep urgency, may be more apparent as their series against the Phillies begins here Wednesday.

The heroes for this evening were familiar -- especially Pettitte, who with 6 1/3 innings of one-run work became the first pitcher in history to have 16 postseason wins. Johnny Damon had a two-run single and Alex Rodriguez, who's locked in on almost every at-bat, had a bases-loaded walk in a three-run fourth inning that put the Yanks ahead for good.

But the true importance of this night may have been slightly obscure. This was the win New York needed to set up its World Series rotation perfectly with the big three of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte working in that order against the Phils' similarly impressive trio of '08 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, future Hall of Famer Pedro Martínez and '08 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Both teams have a pair of excellent southpaws to (partially) neutralize the powerhouse, lefty-laden lineups of their foes. How will Pedro fare back in the Bronx where he once appeared regularly as a hated Red Sox ace?

Do we think we can stand any more glamour than that?

What will now be forgotten, but could have put a huge blotch on the Yanks' grand big-picture plans, would have been an Angels win in Game 6, even if the Yanks and their mighty southpaw Sabathia had won a Game 7. In that eventuality, the Yanks would have started Burnett; Chad Gaudin (6-10, 4.65 ERA), who has pitched for six teams in the last six years; Sabathia; Pettitte; and, after that, who knows what mess of men pitching on short rest to avoid letting poor Gaudin start another Series game.

See, isn't it better this way? Well, unless you're a Phils fan. We will have a better chance to see if the best team can win in a close Series. The Yanks, with a totally tangled rotation, might not have matched the Phils, who don't even know if likely rookie of the year, J.A. Happ, a 12-4 lefty, will get to start against the Yanks.

Sunday's game, though close throughout, had one true crisis moment when the Angels might have changed the whole feeling in this vast park. If anything, emotions may rise higher here than they did across 161st Street. This place is just totally amped. It's like a near duplicate of the old Yankee Stadium, but better because of the restoration of the white encircling facade. However, everything is lit so brightly, painted so crisply and detailed so sharply that it's like baseball just went into the HD age.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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