ANAHEIM, Calif. - CC Sabathia, feet propped up, sat in a golf cart outside the Yankees' clubhouse three hours before his start last night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series talking on the phone.
"How y'all doing?" a smiling Sabathia said, momentarily interrupting his call, to several reporters who walked past.
The laid-back Sabathia typically spends the time before his starts chatting up as many people as he can and he treated Game 4 of the ALCS no different.
Pitching on three days' rest, Sabathia, backed by two-run homers from a still blistering Alex Rodriguez, a suddenly resurgent Johnny Damon and four RBIs from Melky Cabrera, pitched eight strong innings for the second time this series, leading the Yankees to a 10-1 victory at Angel Stadium.
The Yankees, with a three-games-to-one series lead, will try to win their 40th American League pennant Thursday night as A.J. Burnett, who allowed two runs in 61/3 innings of Game 2, takes on John Lackey, the losing pitcher in Game 1 when Sabathia threw his first gem of this series.
Sabathia, beaten up by the Phillies in Game 2 of last year's NLDS when he pitched on three days' rest for the Brewers, allowed five hits and one run last night. He struck out five and walked two and threw 101 pitches.
"I didn't feel any different at all," Sabathia said of his quick turnaround. "I felt really good."
"He was spectacular," manager Joe Girardi said. "To be able to shut down this club like he did is no easy feat. He gave us what we needed."
Sabathia held the Angels to one hit over the first four innings before allowing a solo homer to Kendry Morales in the fifth that cut the Yankees' lead to 5-1.
That was really Sabathia's only mistake all night.
Rodriguez drove in a run in his eighth straight postseason game, tying the major-league record. It was his fifth homer in the Yankees' seven postseason games, matching Reggie Jackson's 1977 effort for the second-most homers in a single playoff year for the Yankees.
A-Rod acknowledged struggling in previous postseason play with the Yankees. "I will say in previous postseasons I failed, and failed miserably. It feels good to come through for my team."
Although the Yankees are in good shape with the last two games of the ALCS, if needed, to be played in the Bronx, they're taking nothing for granted.
"They're a good team," said Jorge Posada of the Angels. "We haven't done anything yet. We have to keep going."
The Yankees began the scoring in the fourth.
Rodriguez led off with a single up the middle and Posada doubled down the leftfield line. Hideki Matsui struck out and Robinson Cano followed with a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick. Kendrick charged and threw home, but A-Rod slid in just ahead of the tag, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
After Nick Swisher walked to load the bases, still with one out, Cabrera, who had bunted for a hit in the third, grounded Scott Kazmir's 1-and-2 pitch into the hole between third and short for a two-run single that made it 3-0. With Derek Jeter at the plate, Kazmir appeared to have Swisher picked off second, but umpire Dale Scott called Swisher safe.
Swisher's time would come, however.
After Jeter walked to load the bases, Damon sent a fly ball to Torii Hunter in medium center. Swisher tagged and apparently scored, but the Angels protested that Swisher had left early. First baseman Morales, who took Hunter's throw from the outfield, tossed over to third where umpire Tim McClelland called Swisher out, keeping Sabathia's lead at 3-0. The Yankees would pull away with two runs in both the fifth and eighth, and three more in the ninth.
Now they've got three games to win one and return to the World Series for the first time since 2003.
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