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Sabathia takes control of ALCS

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Yes, the umpires were terrible again and have positioned themselves as the theme of the playoffs, along with the temperature, the battering by Ryan Howard(notes) and renaissance of Alex Rodriguez(notes), and the fact you can't trust your closer anymore.

It's fine for the umps, because it seems they've been out of position on everything else. I think we can assume that when the next discussion on instant replay comes around, they've probably lost their vote (along with their right to gripe about the result).

It will be written that they cost the Los Angeles Angels some on Tuesday, which of course they did, but if they were unlucky on all the calls they guessed on, they were at least lucky the New York Yankees had CC Sabathia(notes), who took the baseball on three days rest and made sure Game 4 would hardly be a game at all, and A-Rod, who hasn't missed more than a handful of pitches since the end of August. It's nice when life sends you cover.

As it is, the Yankees are a win from their first World Series appearance in six years after routing the Angels, 10-1. They have won six of their seven playoff games. Sabathia has won three of them. Rodriguez has five home runs and 11 RBIs. Welcome to the new Yankees.

On another warm Southern California night, Sabathia was striking out Bobby Abreu(notes) in the eighth inning with a 95 mph fastball, pretty much all anybody needed to know about him and short rest, and exactly what umpire crew chief Tim McClelland and the boys needed to distract the locals while they shuffled off the field Tuesday night.

Andy Pettitte(notes) has certainly seen a lot of postseason starts, and made 37 of them himself, and still he marveled at Sabathia's command of the evening. The Angels don't look like much right now, but maybe that's not entirely their fault – or the umpires'.

“The most impressive thing for me, I mean, everybody knows about his fastball, but I never realized he could throw that changeup any time and that it's so good,” Pettitte said. “That's it. That's what makes him so good. That pitch is the equalizer, man. He has such a good feel for it. And it's a feel pitch. It's so tough to throw.”

Asked if he felt a good changeup was the result of nature or nurture, Pettitte couldn't say. But, he said, “I don't remember it when he was in Cleveland. Some games this season he'd come to me in the dugout and say, 'Dude, I don't have my changeup today.' But, it hasn't been anytime recently, that's for sure.”

Sabathia won 19 games in the regular season, 22 through three weeks of October. And while everybody had taken a step back for a long look at the Yankees after they'd lost Game 3 here, Sabathia got the Yankees' most important 24 outs to date. You never know about these things. As Derek Jeter(notes) said about the Angels, “You get a couple guys on, the monkey comes out, anything can happen.”

As it was, the Yankees were nine runs better. They were actually, like, seven runs better, and the umpires took them the rest of the way, which kept the monkey away but not the Angels' annual pre-World Series elimination game.

“We've still got a breath left,” Angels center field Torii Hunter(notes) reminded.

Maybe, but this is beginning to look a lot like the Jersey Corridor Series, beginning Oct. 28 at Yankee Stadium, the Los Angeles contingent on its last gasp. Not that there wasn't some significant consternation here. The Yankees lost Monday afternoon and suddenly their manager was a micro-managing dolt and their Hall of Fame closer was a slobbery cheater and there were plenty of concerns about Sabathia on short rest.

“We needed him to step up,” catcher Jorge Posada(notes) said, “and he did in a big way.”

So goes the New York game, which has never changed, only the results did. A decade ago, they would get pitching performances like Sabathia's regularly. When everything got a little sideways on Joe Torre and friends, along came David Cone or Pettitte or Roger Clemens(notes) or El Duque or even David Wells(notes), away went the threat, and on went the march toward World Series championships Nos. 23, 24, 25 and 26.

That's what this looked like, a real ace taking command of a potentially volatile situation, while Angels left-hander Scott Kazmir(notes) lasted a hitter into the fifth and then whipped his glove down the dugout stairs. The umpires' calls were other peoples' issues. The Angels, who'd seemed to be gaining on their offensive problems, had almost no chance. The series, which could have run off in either direction, ran off in only one.

“You know, we've still got a ways to go, but I've been feeling good,” Sabathia said. “I never had any doubt about me being able to perform on this stage and to pitch well late in October. But it seems like people did. … Hopefully I can keep it going.”

In the worst scenario for the Yankees, it'll be Game 7 of the ALCS. That seems unlikely. You know, unless the umpires turn on them, too.

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