NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez, welcome to the World Series. The New York Yankees are back in baseball’s big event.
The sport’s top spenders finally cashed in with their first pennant in six years Sunday night, beating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 in Game 6 of the A.L. Championship Series behind the savvy pitching of that old October pro, Andy Pettitte.
Next up, New York hosts defending champion Philadelphia in the World Series opener Wednesday night. Cliff Lee is expected to face ALCS MVP CC Sabathia in an enticing pitching matchup between former Cleveland teammates – and the past two A.L. Cy Young Award winners.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like a 10-year-old kid.”
Ridiculed in the past for his October flops, Rodriguez played a huge role in helping his team advance through the playoffs, batting .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. The slugger earned his first trip to the World Series during a 16-year career in which he’s accomplished almost everything else.
Pettitte set a postseason record for wins, Johnny Damon hit a two-run single and Mariano Rivera closed it out in familiar fashion with a six-out save as the Yankees won their 40th American League crown by vanquishing the Angels, a longtime nemesis.
Now, the Yankees go for their record 27th title. When manager Joe Girardi was hired two years ago, he took jersey No. 27 with that in mind.
“We’re just trying to enjoy this, man,” Derek Jeter said. “Hopefully, we can play one more great series.”
Not a bad way for Jeter and crew to finish up the first season at the team’s new $1.5 billion ballpark
For manager Mike Scioscia and his sloppy Angels, it was their latest playoff failure during a decade of consistent regular-season success. Since winning their only championship in 2002, the Angels are yet to return to the World Series despite five A.L. West titles in the past six years.
“At times we played good baseball. At times we shot ourselves in the foot,” Scioscia said.
After rain postponed Game 6 for a day, the clear weather and mild, 58-degree temperature at first pitch was a stark change from the first two games of the series, when the Angels froze up in the raw chill in New York.
Pettitte escaped a jam in the sixth, going to 3-0 on Kendry Morales before knocking down a comebacker with runners at second and third to preserve a 3-1 edge. The left-hander pumped his fist, then headed for the dugout.
Pettitte left to a standing ovation with one on and one out in the seventh and tipped his cap to the sellout crowd of 50,173, the largest at the new Yankee Stadium. He earned his 16th postseason win, breaking a tie with John Smoltz, and his fifth to close out a postseason series – also a major league record.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Andy when he’s on the mound. He’s been a big-game pitcher for us for 14 years,” Jeter said.
Joba Chamberlain got two key outs and Girardi went to a well-rested Rivera in the eighth. He gave up a two-out RBI single to Vladimir Guerrero, making it 3-2, then retired Morales to end the inning.
A diving play by first baseman Mark Teixeira helped Rivera escape further damage.
It was the first earned run allowed at home by the 39-year-old Rivera in a postseason save situation. But the Yankees added two insurance runs in the eighth on a pair of Angels errors and Teixeira’s sacrifice fly.
Rivera finished up in the ninth for his record 37th postseason save, and the Yankees had their pennant.
“You bring him in, you feel like the game’s over. He’s the best,” Pettitte said.
Phillies choose Lee
Cliff Lee will start Game 1 of the World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Yankees.
The left-hander has been dominant in the postseason, going 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three starts. Manager Charlie Manuel made the announcement Sunday.
Manuel hasn’t set the rest of his rotation. Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels are the candidates to pitch Game 2.
Indians hire Acta
The Cleveland Indians hired Manny Acta to be their manager, giving him the job about three months after he was fired by the Washington Nationals.
Acta signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2013, Indians spokesman Bart Swain said. Additional terms were not disclosed.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.