Yanks win series in Anaheim for first time in 5 years, head back to Bronx with big weekend plans*


When Brett Gardner caught the final out of today’s game, I must have looked like a defendant in court who just heard “Not guilty.” Relief and joy and exhausted excitement washed over me, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about, let alone sublimely grateful for, a baseball game to be over.

They did it. They pulled out the win. And are finally, finally, heading back to the Bronx, for another relaxing weekend of ball games. But they return home with something they didn’t leave with: the knowledge that they can beat anyone.

The afternoon rubber match in Anaheim was like that early scene in Knocked Up when the older sister and Katherine Heigl are going to the club, and the sister says, “I can always tell whether we look good based on whether or not we get in.”

The Yankees are good, we all know that. But sometimes you need a bouncer to provide some reaffirmation of this.

Maybe Boston’s Kansas City-Baltimore cakewalk schedule seemed enviable when we were getting shelled by Seattle, but what kind of power barometer is a matchup with the league’s jellyfish? Roll up the anchors, and bring on Jaws…then we’ll know exactly how far we’ve come.

Even though the Yanks have the playoffs locked up, AJ Burnett needed this win to prove his spoiled gem in Seattle was a return to form, and not just a tease. He’s been lugging around the boilerplate “1-5 in 10 starts” stat for weeks, to the point where it looked like he was going to have to jump on the Changing Your Name bandwagon, and become AJ “August Junk” Burnett.

Brian Bruney may be the one wearing 99, but if anyone’s summoning his inner Rick Vaughn, it’s AJ “Atypical Juggernaut” Burnett. No one knows what to make of the piercing-adorned, tatted up, pie-slamming starter, and it’d be easier to predict next week’s episode of Lost than it’d be to theorize on our boy’s next outing. But, hey, I’m very much okay with these strikeout-heavy surprise parties he’s thrown for the last 2 games.

You don’t blank 11 batters in a brief flash of brilliance, especially when it comes in the wake of a 1-run showing in the most recent outing. The Angels have easily one of the most stacked line-ups in the league, and AJ sliced through it like a chainsaw in flan. In the words of Stan Rothenstein…

Our offense only patched together a handful of hits off the semi-effective Scott Kazmir, but I bet that Tom “Yeah I think we’ll score more than 17, Plax” Brady would have traded his ACL to put up that many points in Super Bowl XLII. Maybe a low score doesn’t reflect the strength of the team, but if it’s enough to win, then it’s enough.

Cano has shed his ribbiphobia, and is now demonstrating he’s getting more comfortable with batting while people are on base. (I want so badly to learn that ARod’s life coach had some helpful hint like “imagine them in their underwear” or something. I’m going to pretend that’s how it went down.)

Because Melky Cabrera worships the ground Cano walks on, he followed Cano‘s 2-out, 2-run double in the top of the 4th, with his own RBI single. The back to back run-scoring hits would be the extent of the Yanks’ scoring. (Very un-Yankee-like…tacking runs up in the first half of the game only? I like where your head’s at.)

Anaheim staged a poor man’s rally in the 5th and 6th innings that could only garner 2 runs off the bats of Bobby Abreu and Gary Matthews. And in the middle of all this pitchers-dueling, the Yankees decide to hold a fashion show of middle relievers upon AJ’s exit from the game in the 5th.

Seemed like a good time. In a critical matchup with a future playoff opponent and an instrumental determining momentum factor, Girardi decided to basically go with a “new reliever per pitch” strategy.

This is nothing new to anyone who’s followed “Joe’s Adventures in Quizzical Bullpen Use” all season, but bringing in Ian Kennedy with a 1-run lead in the 8th seemed, um, ludicrous.

You know how’d I want to ease back into playing baseball in the majors after aneurysm surgery? By pitching against the most terrifying batters in the league, in a stadium you haven’t won a series in in 5 years, in a game whose outcome can potentially have a dramatic effect on the postseason in terms of securing home field.

Tough love there, huh. Well, I’m glad Kennedy escaped a bases loaded jam unscathed. I can’t say the same for my own cardiac stability. Thanks for introducing my heart to new and exciting beat rates,Sgt. Hartman Girardi.

Mo closed it out, for his 42nd save of the year, and thus concludes the regular season west coast trips. My gratitude for this is boundless.

And now it’s back to New York, a day of rest to prepare for the weekend of GREATEST RIVALRY OF ALL TIME! media diarrhea, and a constant telegraphy of playoff tautologies. (“If Boston wins today, loses tomorrow, then wins SUNDAY, then New York will have to win Monday or Tuesday but only if…etc etc.” As if I couldn’t toe the line of situations-engendering-head-exploding even more…)

But before I get earmarked for electronic shock therapy, let it be known that apparently the effects of the playoffs have even made their way to the AP, as evidenced in their game recap:

“Mark Teixeira started New York’s rally with a one-out double, but Juan Rivera threw him out at the plate from left field on Shelley Duncan’s sharp single to right.”

I’m gonna have to sleep on that one.

*At press time, plans included garroting the Red Sox.