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Yankees 4, Angels 1

Sabathia plays it cool in opener

Angels left frozen by Yankees’ ace

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 17, 2009

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NEW YORK - CC Sabathia arrived in New York this season with one blemish on his otherwise sparkling résumé, an unsightly 7.92 ERA in five postseason starts.

That concern, if ever there was one, is fading quickly. Sabathia dominated the Los Angeles Angels for eight innings last night as the Yankees started the American League Championship Series with a 4-1 victory.

Sabathia allowed one run on four hits and struck out seven with one walk. He has allowed two earned runs and struck out 15 in 14 2/3 innings this postseason, having beaten the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the Division Series.

“That’s as good as CC has been all season, and he has been very good,’’ said Derek Jeter, who had two hits, scored a run, and drove in another for the Yankees. “He challenged them, he threw strikes. He was outstanding.’’

The well-chilled crowd of 49,688 chanted “CC’’ as Sabathia worked deep into the game. The big lefthander retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced before handing the lead to closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

“Sensational,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Before this season, Sabathia had never gone deeper than six innings in a postseason game. He threw 113 pitches last night and could come back Tuesday for Game 4 in Anaheim, Calif.

“I got the rest in September so I’m feeling fine physically,’’ Sabathia said. “Just the command and not putting a lot of guys on base. They were putting the ball on the ground when I needed them to. Just had a pretty good game.’’

Hideki Matsui was 2 for 3 with a walk and drove in two runs for the Yankees, who took advantage of three errors to score two unearned runs against the uncharacteristically sloppy Angels.

“We haven’t seen our team crack the door open for a team like that in a long time,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And the Yankees took advantage of it.’’

Game 2 is tonight, weather permitting. The Yankees will start A.J. Burnett against Joe Saunders.

Game-time temperature last night was 45 degrees with a light drizzle and a stiff wind blowing from left field to right. Many players wore caps with earflaps or partial facemasks to guard against the raw conditions.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first against John Lackey by imitating the Angels’ style of baseball.

Jeter singled to right field, then raced to third when Johnny Damon dropped a single into left. An errant throw from Juan Rivera allowed Damon to take second. With one out, Alex Rodriguez drove in his seventh run of the postseason with a sacrifice fly to center.

With two outs, Lackey got Matsui to pop to the left side of the infield. As the ball wobbled in the wind, third baseman Chone Figgins looked at shortstop Erick Aybar. Neither called for it and the ball fell within reach of Aybar. Damon, running hard, scored from second on what was ruled an RBI single.

“I was surprised,’’ Matsui said through a translator. “To me, that should be an easy out.’’

Damon doubled and scored on Matsui’s double in the fifth. Jeter added an RBI single in the sixth. Damon, who went 1 for 12 in the Division Series, was 2 for 4.

Sabathia cruised into the fourth having allowed two singles over 43 pitches. But with one out, Vladimir Guerrero drove a 2-and-2 pitch into the gap in left-center. The wind kept the ball in the park, and it landed at the base of the fence for a double. Guerrero advanced to third on a ground out by Rivera and scored on a single to left by Kendry Morales.

The Angels did not advance another runner into scoring position against Sabathia, who in two previous LCS starts, against the Red Sox in 2007, allowed 12 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

“If he goes on some kind of roll the rest of this month, I won’t be surprised,’’ Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said. “CC has great stuff and those starts he has had will give him a lot of confidence. He’s the kind of pitcher who can carry a team and that’s why we wanted him.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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