Yankees' Damon continues resurgence in ALCS

Johnny Damon hits a two-run, bases-loaded, go-ahead single Johnny Damon hits a two-run, bases-loaded, go-ahead single in the fourth inning as the Yankees took a 2-1 lead against the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS. (October 25, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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Johnny Damon was in such an offensive rut before the American League Championship Series that the Yankees leftfielder was basically one step from calling talk-radio stations for help on his swing.

He wanted help, needed help, and that's where the Yankees stepped in.

Before the start of the series, the team arranged for an on-field simulated game - minus the 50,000 fans, of course - and Damon got his share of hacks in.

And ever since, his swing has been back.

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Yankees celebration Yanks beat Angels in Game 6
Johnny Damon hits a two-run, bases-loaded, go-ahead single in the fourth inning as the Yankees took a 2-1 lead against the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS. (October 25, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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That was most evident in Game 6 last night, as Damon came through with the biggest hit and set a positive offensive tone for the Yankees.

With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning and the Yankees trailing by a run, Damon was as locked in as he's been all postseason.

Facing Angels lefthander Joe Saunders, the lefthanded-hitting Damon did what he does best: hit the ball where it was pitched. With a 2-and-1 count, Saunders threw a 92-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate, and Damon went with it by lining a single to left-centerfield.

That hit - the Yankees' first with a runner in scoring position last night - drove in two runs, and the Yankees led for good.

"In the ALDS I knew I was still a threat even though the outcome wasn't there," Damon said. "Being a veteran, I knew I just had to put the results aside and move forward."

Coming through with the big hit in an elimination game was a fitting role for Damon to play, considering the last time the Yankees had been this close to the World Series was in 2004. And of course everyone remembers the role Damon played in dashing the Yankees' World Series hopes that season.

The Yankees brought in Javier Vazquez to try to limit the damage while trailing 2-0 in the second inning of Game 7 that year, and Damon greeted him by depositing his first pitch into the rightfield seats for a grand slam.

Five years later, Damon is a mainstay on the first Yankees team to make it back to the ALCS, and he and his teammates have plans of ending this season with a parade.

Coming off a regular season in which he started strong but faded in August and September, Damon went 1-for-12 in the Division Series.

But Damon has rebounded quite well in this round, as he's gotten at least one hit in every game. He entered Game 6 with seven hits in 26 at-bats, including home runs in Games 3 and 4 at Angel Stadium, and wound up 9-for-30.

A free agent after this season, Damon has made it no secret that he wants to remain with the Yankees. But he also knows that the Yankees might prefer to get younger in the outfield, so he's made a point of enjoying his fourth - and potentially final - season in pinstripes.

Joe Girardi never wavered in his belief that Damon would recover from his first-round struggles, no matter how bad he looked at the plate. Girardi even has referenced his decision to stick with Damon, and how that move has worked out, when asked about benching Nick Swisher during his slump. Swisher came through with a big hit in Game 6, too.

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