Game 1 of the ALCS was a definitive statement that this Yankees squad has a different mentality, class, and breed than those teams that folded against the Anaheim Angels in 2002 and 2005. While admittedly New York won the first games of both of those series also and eventually went on to ultimately lose both, the pure fundamental efficiency by which the Bombers disposed of their opponent on Friday made it abundantly clear that the Angels will have to play far beyond their natural skill level to defeat this 2009 version of the Yankees.
First and foremost CC Sabathia was calculated and viscous on the mound, rising to the top of his game on baseball's biggest stage, keeping the Angels' batters off balance all night and over-powering them when appropriate or necessary. Giving the bullpen an extra day of rest, Sabathia went eight strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits, striking out seven and walking only one. Further shedding the absurd accusation/assumption/belief that CC is unable to attain postseason success, Sabathia owned the Angels on Friday night, lock, stock, and one smoking left arm for a barrel (pushing his stat line for the 2009 playoffs to 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA).
The offense didn't display its usual explosive fireworks but nevertheless scrapped across enough runs to win the ball game, ironically much in the same fashion that Mike Scioscia's teams traditionally have done against the power-dependent, Yankees teams of the early aughts.
A-Rod contributed another RBI (furthering his own playoff redemption story) with a sacrifice fly scoring Jeter in the first, but it was Hideki Matsui who put the Yankees over the top in this contest. His infield single — also in the first inning — scoring Johnny Damon would provide all the run-production necessary for Sabathia to notch a victory on this cool, damp, fall night in the Bronx. But for good measure, Godzilla added another RBI, this time lashing a double into the left-centerfield gap in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring Damon once again with Alex Rodriguez getting gunned out at the plate after a hard-nosed collision with Angels catcher Jeff Mathis. And as usual Derek Jeter was not absent from the party, adding an RBI of his own, singling in Melky Cabrera in the bottom of the 6th inning to cap off the 4-1 win.
And at the end of a game that separated the two participants by only three runs, Mariano Rivera made his usual ninth inning appearance given the margin between the teams. And keeping with historical precedent, the arrival of "The Sandman" signaled the proverbial nail in the coffin for the opposing team. While Rivera did record a rare walk (caused by some hideous work by home plate umpire Tim McClelland), he also struck out one, finishing off the Angels in a quick and effortless fashion for his 36th career postseason save.
To be fair in the assessment it must be noted that the Angels played an incredibly sloppy game in the field, committing three costly errors that ultimately prevented any attempt at a comeback from occurring. But the mechanical-like efficiency, consistency, and passion that the Yankees continue to display, and their ability to successfully and seamlessly adapt to any style of play or game situation — whether pitchers’ duel or a slugfest — are further attributes that make this particular team a highly dangerous squad, especially in the postseason.
These tangible and intangible qualities further illiustrate why this New York team has their best chance in years to exact revenge over a franchise that has vexed them (more so than even Boston) in the Torre post-dynastic, postseason years. Only after the final destruction of the absurdity known as the "the rally monkey" can the Yankees truly continue their march on to another (their 27th) World Series Championship.