Damon, Pettitte move Yankees within 3 innings of first World Series trip since 2003

By Ronald Blum, AP
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Damon, Pettitte move Yanks within reach of Series

NEW YORK — Johnny Damon hit a go-ahead, two-run single, Andy Pettitte held the Los Angeles Angels in check and the New York Yankees took a 3-1 lead after six innings in Game 6 of the AL championship series on Sunday night to move within reach of their first World Series trip since 2003.

With the Angels trying to even the ALCS and force a Game 7 on Sunday night, former-Yankee Bobby Abreu put Los Angeles ahead with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning.

But the Yankees chased an ineffective Joe Saunders in the fourth, when Damon’s single gave New York a 2-1 lead and hot-hitting Alex Rodriguez walked with the base loaded.

New York could have broken open the game, but Jorge Posada grounded into an inning-ending double play against Darren Oliver — giving the Yankees eight left on base in the first four innings. With two on in the sixth, Oliver induced Mark Teixeira to hit into another inning-ending DP.

New York, which led the series 2-0 and 3-1, was trying to win its record 40th AL pennant and ease the bad memories of 2004, when the Yankees won the first three games of the ALCS against Boston before losing four in a row. The Angels were hoping to reach the World Series for the second time and force Philadelphia to travel across the country to Wednesday night’s World Series opener.

Just 11 of 70 previous teams that trailed 3-1 in best-of-seven postseason series came back to win, and just six of those comeback teams won Games 6 and 7 on the road.

Pettitte made his first home postseason start for the Yankees since the 2003 Series and was seeking his 16th postseason win, which would break a tie with John Smoltz for the record. Pettitte also was trying for his fifth postseason series-clinching victory, which would give him the most — one ahead of Catfish Hunter, Dave Stewart and Roger Clemens.

He allowed six hits in the first six innings, retiring the side in order just twice.

Jeff Mathis doubled up the gap in right-center leading off the third, making him 7 for 11 (.636) with five doubles in the series — three shy of his regular season total — and took third on Chone Figgins’ one-out grounder. Abreu, just 3 for 22 at that point, drove a hanging breaking ball into right field for a two-out single and a 1-0 lead.

But Saunders faced 22 batters allowed 12 of them to reach — on seven singles and five walks. He allowed three runs in 3 1-3 innings.

Robinson Cano walked leading off the fourth and Nick Swisher, in a 3 for 30 postseason slump, singled into left. Melky Cabrera sacrificed and Derek Jeter fouled off a pair of 3-2 pitches before loading the bases with a walk.

Damon, whose bases-loaded grounder ended the second, stroked an opposite-field single into left-center — just the 11th hit for the Yankees in the series in 59 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Teixeira reached on an infield single — with Damon beating shortstop Erick Aybar’s throw from the outfield grass. When Rodriguez walked on a 3-1 pitch, forcing in a run that made it 3-1, Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in Oliver.

Los Angeles threatened in the sixth when Torii Hunter beat out a slow roller to third with two outs for an infield single and Vladimir Guerrero blooped an opposite-field double down the right-field line. Pettitte fell behind Kendry Morales 3-0 and threw a called strike before Morales hit a hard, one-hopper back to the mound. Pettitte threw up his hands as if to shield his face, and the ball bounced off his glove and fell a bit toward first. Pettitte scampered off the mound, picked up the ball and threw to first for the out.

Unlike the first two games, it was a relatively balmy 58 degrees at gametime, and most starters switched back to short sleeves.

After Pettitte retired the Angels in order in the first, Guerrero reached on an infield single leading off the second. But he followed with a baserunning blunder, straying too far off the bag when Morales flied to short right. Guerrero easily was doubled up by Swisher.

New York was seven outs from winning Game 5 at Anaheim on Thursday night but lost 7-6 when Swisher popped out with the bases loaded. It was the fifth straight loss for the Yankees in what could have been a pennant clincher. Game 6 was then postponed Saturday night because of rain.

If there is a Game 7, it would be at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. CC Sabathia, 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in three playoff starts, would pitch for New York against John Lackey (1-1) or Jered Weaver (1-0).

New York began the night 4-0 at home in the postseason. In all eight postseason losses to the Angels in 2002, 2005 and this year, the Yankees held leads.

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