The Yankees made a habit of winning home games this year in their last half-inning at the plate, but they won game 1 of the American League Championship Series in their first. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the Angels lost game 1 in the Yankees’ first half-inning at bat. A Johnny Damon broken-bat single turned into a Johnny Damon broken-bat double (and later, after a scoring change, into a single and an error) when Juan Rivera’s throw allowed Damon to take an extra base. Three batters later, after Alex Rodriguez drove in the game’s first run on a sac fly, Hideki Matsui’s routine pop up dropped in between Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar to allow the inning’s second run to score. It would be all the runs they’d need.
The next eight innings would see more sloppy Angels defense (two errors in the sixth chased starter John Lackey and gave the Yankees a third insurance run) and enough Yankees offense to satisfy anyone concerned that six of their regulars hit under .250 against the Twins. But really, none of that mattered, because CC Sabathia already had his lead after one inning, and he was everything he’s paid to be. The Yankees’ bullpen is set up so the starter only needs to go six innings; Sabathia went eight. He allowed just one walk — his first of the postseason — and allowed only four hits. If the Yankees keep getting starts like this, the Angels are in trouble.
If the Yankees still thought of the Angels as their kryptonite going into this game, they don’t anymore. The Angels were not intimidating. They were not fundamentally sound. They were neither scrappy nor overpowering. They didn’t stage a rally. They were not the Angels of 2002 or even 2005. They weren’t even the Angels of their division series against Boston. These Angels, in game 1 at least, were very beatable. And beaten they were, 4-1. One game down, three to go.