The New York Yankees were a few innings from being on the brink of their first World Series appearance since 2003. Instead, they’re suddenly locked in a hotly contested series.
Solo homers by Derek Jeter(notes), Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes) gave the Yankees a 3-0 fifth-inning lead in Monday afternoon’s Game 3, but Los Angeles clawed back to win 5-4 in 11 innings and trim New York’s series advantage to 2-1.
Backup catcher Jeff Mathis’(notes) two-out, game-winning double off Alfredo Aceves(notes) scored Howie Kendrick(notes) and gave the Angels new life after they dropped the first two games of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, including a crushing 4-3 loss in 13 innings Saturday.
“Obviously, it’s the biggest hit of my life,” Mathis said. “For Howie to have the at-bat he did right there, and to get on base and put one in the gap to win the game, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
While the Angels snapped their six-game ALCS losing streak, New York suffered its first defeat of this postseason after sweeping Minnesota in three games in a division series.
“This is the type of series we expected it to be,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We didn’t really stretch out any of our pitchers too far today out of the bullpen, so I believe our guys will be fine (Tuesday).”
Girardi will give the ball to Sabathia in Game 4, with his workhorse pitching on three days’ rest. The left-hander threw 113 pitches in Friday’s 4-1 Game 1 victory, allowing one run and four hits over eight innings, but his manager won’t hesitate to let him go just as long again.
“We’ll just watch carefully like we would any other start, and make sure that location is there and physically he feels fine and doesn’t have any real long innings,” Girardi said. “As far as the pitch count, I would have no problem letting him go 110, 115 if that’s what it took.”
Sabathia, who is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two starts this postseason, said the only change he makes in his routine when working on shortened rest is bypassing his bullpen session.
“This late in the season, you know, you tend to cut down on bullpens anyways,” he said. “So, anyway, it doesn’t really make a difference.”
Sabathia has not pitched on three days’ rest this season but did it in his final four starts last year with Milwaukee. He was 2-1 with a 0.83 ERA to close the regular season before getting ripped for five runs in 3 2-3 innings to lose his lone playoff start.
He’s 6-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 15 career starts against the Angels.
Kazmir makes his first start since Oct. 11, Game 3 of the Angels’ division series against Boston. He yielded five runs and five hits over six innings, but did not receive a decision in the 7-6 win - his Angels playoff debut.
He went 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in Tampa Bay’s run to the World Series in 2008.
Acquired from the Rays on Aug. 28, Kazmir went 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six regular-season starts for Los Angeles.
He is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 14 career starts against the Yankees, including a 3-2 loss Sept. 23, when he yielded three runs in six innings.
Rodriguez is 3 for 24 with no home runs against Kazmir but enters this matchup on quite a power surge. Rodriguez, who has four home runs and a career-best nine RBIs this postseason, had seven and 17 in 39 career playoff games prior to this October.
“Anyone that’s seeing the ball as good as (Rodriguez) is, it’s tough,” Kazmir said. “You know, you can just tell when hitters are comfortable out there. When they start hitting the ball hard to opposite field, they’re really seeing the ball good and really feeling comfortable out there.”
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira(notes), meanwhile, has not looked comfortable at the plate after tying for the AL lead with 39 homers and driving in a league-best 122 runs during the regular season. Teixeira went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday, dropping his postseason batting average to .120.
Teixeira, however, is 7 for 11 with four doubles in his career against Kazmir.
Jorge Posada’s(notes) game-tying solo shot in the eighth Monday was his second of this postseason, tying a playoff career high. Posada last had two homers in the postseason in 2001, when the Yankees lost the World Series to Florida in seven games.
Kendrick was a double shy of the cycle Monday, and is 4 for 10 in three home playoff games this postseason.
Game 5 is Thursday night at Angel Stadium.