“Enter Sandman”, the hit song by Metallica, roared through the ears of the 50,173 fans that packed into Yankee Stadium last night for Game 6 of the ALCS.
Every Yankee fan knew what this meant: it was time for Mariano Rivera, considered by some to be the best relief pitcher in history, to do what he does best.
Actually, last night, from the first pitch around 8:00 ET, every Yankee seemed to do what they do best: win. I was lucky enough to witness another great victory in New York, first hand from the new Yankee Stadium.
Although the Angels jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, old, reliable Andy Pettitte seemed not to be phased. Instead of cracking under pressure (like Joe Saunders, the Angels starter in this game), he came away with his 16th post-season win, breaking John Smoltz’s record for the most playoff victories.
A clutch hit from Johnny Damon in the home half of the fourth, and costly errors by Howie Kendrick and Scott Kazmir, resulted in most of the Yankees’ runs. When Mariano took the hill in the eighth, it was all over.
He did let up one run, but rebounded quickly and closed the door by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning. As Gary Matthews Jr. struck out swinging to end the game, the stadium erupted. The Yankees won the ALCS, and will next be seen Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series.
I can hardly even put the experience into words. It was exciting, loud, emotional, and seemed to represent all of the hard work that was put into building this team. Long-time catcher Jorge Posada embraced Mariano Rivera in a never-ending hug that developed into a dog-pile around the left field grass. The jumbo-tron flashed graphics of “The New York Yankees’ 40th American League Championship” as champagne was sprayed everywhere. It was quite an exhilarating experience.
It seemed to really bring the Yankees’ season into full circle. The newcomers were rewarded (CC Sabathia won the series MVP, while Nick Swisher cracked his slump and made a nice defensive play), and the long time vets were remembered, honored and redeemed. After all, Pettitte got his record-breaking win, closer, Mariano Rivera got his 37th Postseason save, and former outfielder Bernie Williams threw the honorary first pitch, all on the way to the Yankees’ first World Series appearance in nearly a decade. Alex Rodriguez has even returned to the complete superstar he once was!
The Yankees will move foreword to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, as they get a chance to win their 27th championship. However, this matchup wont be nearly as easy as the ALDS or the ALCS. Game 1 is Wednesday night, and two former teammates and All-Stars, Sabathia and Cliff Lee, will go head to head.
A game against Lee this week will be no walk in the park for New York. I recently did a video blog on how good he is, but I don’t guarantee a Phillies win. Keep in mind that CC has been an animal in the postseason so far as well. I expect a great pitching duel this Wednesday night, but I expect the fresh bats of Mark Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter to eventually crack the run column versus Philadelphia’s bullpen.
The Yankees present baseball’s best line-up and a band of storied veterans working with highly paid new comers, versus the Phillies 1-2 punch of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and a team that won the Fall Classic just a year ago. Although this could be the hardest series the Yankees have to play all year, I see them winning it in six games.
Whether they win or lose, there is no doubt that the 2009 World Series will be a great one!