NEW YORK — CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees stopped the Los Angeles Angels cold in the AL championship series opener.
On a blustery night more suited to bobsleds than baseballs, Sabathia pitched eight superb innings of four-hit ball to win his second straight postseason start and New York took advantage of a rare sloppy game by Los Angeles in a 4-1 victory Friday.
“It was about as cold as it gets,” Sabathia said. “It was pretty nasty out there today.”
The Angels looked like chilled Californians withering in the unseasonable wintry weather, making three errors that led to two unearned runs and allowing an infield popup to drop untouched for an RBI single. Even Torii Hunter, an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder, allowed a single to roll past him.
“We took advantage of a couple miscues,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s one game and we know that this is going to be an extremely tough series.”
It was 45 degrees at gametime, and a 17 mph wind made it feel worse. Because of the cold conditions, the traditional foul line introductions before the first game were scrapped.
Back in the ALCS for the first time in five years, New York built a 2-0 lead in the first by taking advantage of a throwing error by left fielder Juan Rivera and a popup by Hideki Matsui that fell between third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar, who each thought the other would snag it.
“It was a mistake. It was ugly, but it happens,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Angels starter John Lackey crouched and screamed in anger. The night didn’t get much better for Los Angeles, which depends on speed and didn’t attempt a single steal.
After Kendry Morales’ fourth-inning single cut the deficit in half, Matsui doubled in a run in the fifth to make it
3-1. Lackey’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed Melky Cabrera to take second in the sixth, and Derek Jeter followed with a run-scoring single that got by Hunter.
Sabathia, 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his first postseason with the Yankees, gave up a double and three singles, struck out seven and walked one, going to three-balls count just twice. The crowd repeated chanted the initials of Sabathia, who may start three times in the best-of-seven series goes the full length. The big lefty showed his heightened emotion with a couple of fist pumps.
“That was a great feeling to have the stadium rocking and chanting my name,” he said.
Mariano Rivera pitched a hitless ninth for his record 36th postseason save, his second this year.
A.J. Burnett is slated to start Game 2 for the Yankees, at 4-0 the only unbeaten team in the postseason. Joe Saunders, who hasn’t pitched since Oct. 4, goes for the Angels. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, and a postponement is possible.
“It’s disappointing but we know we got seven games in this series and it’s the first team to four, not one,” Hunter said. “We’ve just got to try to make some adjustments and come back tomorrow ready to play.”
There was another disputed call, with first base umpire Laz Diaz ruling Hunter out on his sixth-inning bunt. Scioscia argued that first baseman Mark Teixeira’s foot came off the bag when he stretched for Sabathia’s throw — replays were inconclusive.
While players took batting practice in ski caps, sweat shirts and gloves, the giant video board in center showed the NLCS game in Los Angeles, where the temperature was in the 90s and fans wore short sleeves.
Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon and Teixeira wore special caps with Elmer Fudd-style ear flaps — Yankees equipment manager Rob Cucuzza said the team had stocked them all season but hadn’t used them before. Second baseman Robinson Cano wore a ski mask.
Aybar appeared to be wearing a sweat shirt with a red hood — perhaps hindering his ability to hear on the popup that fell. In the stands, actress Kate Hudson bundled in a purple hood. Another fan in the sellout crowd of 49,688 wore a white Santa beard.
Still, the Texas-born Lackey was one of the few players in short sleeves. After pitching 7 1-3 shutout innings in the opener of the Angels’ first-round sweep of Boston, he gave up four runs — two earned — and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings.
New York won a World Series title in its first season at the original Yankee Stadium in 1923 and went on to play exactly 100 Series games there. Eliminated by the Angels in the division series in 2002 and 2005, the Yankees hope to get past their nemesis and reach the Series in the first season at their new $1.5 billion ballpark.
After Jeter singled leading off, the misplays began by the Angels, who set a club record for fewest errors this season with 85.
Johnny Damon singled to left, sending Jeter to third, and advanced to second on Juan Rivera’s bad throw between second baseman Howie Kendrick and Aybar.
Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly, his seventh RBI of the postseason, Matsui’s popup-single made it 2-0. The Angels pretty much remained in their freeze.
NOTES: It was only the second of 84 games at new Yankee Stadium with no home runs. The other was a rain-delayed June 18 game against Washington. ... Rodriguez ran through a stop signal by third base coach Rob Thomson and was thrown out easily in the fifth by Aybar, who took the throw from Rivera. A-Rod bowled into catcher Jeff Mathis, who held onto the ball