Yanks take command of ALCS

ANAHEIM, Calif. — None of the New York Yankees' 26 world championships include Alex Rodriguez or CC Sabathia. The splendid slugger and the workhorse starter both acknowledge that until they win a title, they're still not a big part of their club's hallowed history.

The way Rodriguez is hitting and Sabathia is pitching in the AL championship series, it's clear they're determined to put rings on their hired hands.

And after their two-man demolition of the Angels on Tuesday night, they're both one win away from playing in their first World Series.

Rodriguez connected on his fifth homer of the postseason while getting three hits, Sabathia pitched eight resilient innings on three days' rest, and the Yankees beat Los Angeles 10-1 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.

"I've been feeling good," said Sabathia, who has won three of New York's seven playoff games. "Hopefully I'll just keep it going, keep it rolling, and we win the whole thing."

With superstars earning every last zero in their paychecks, New York earned the chance to advance in Game 5 on Thursday night, when A.J. Burnett goes against Los Angeles ace John Lackey.

Rodriguez homered in the third straight game of his outstanding postseason, driving in a run in his record eighth consecutive playoff game with a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Sabathia pitched five-hit ball on three days' rest, holding the Angels' formerly fearsome lineup to nothing more than Kendry Morales' homer.

"He's a horse. He's a monster," Rodriguez said of Sabathia. "We're so glad to have him on our team."

The October abilities of Rodriguez and Sabathia have long been questioned. A-Rod has been consistently miserable in previous postseasons to the point of derision from his own fans, while Sabathia had never matched his regular-season prowess in the playoffs with his previous two teams.

Those reputations are now as dated as the old Yankee Stadium that sits across the street from the opulent new park where the Yankees' first World Series in six years will start next Wednesday if New York can get one more win.

The Yankees also built a big lead in their last trip to the ALCS in 2004 — and anybody in Boston can tell you how poorly that turned out for New York. The Yankees blew four chances to finish off the Red Sox. They've got three chances to put away the Angels.

While Sabathia needs a few days' rest between starts, Rodriguez has been amazing in every outing. He's batting .407 (11 for 27) with five homers, 11 RBIs and 9 runs scored in just seven playoff games.

"I don't remember a player on our club, when we were playing in the playoffs, having back-to-back series so far like this," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who won three championships as New York's catcher. "He's been unbelievable. I know Bernie (Williams) had some big series, and Paul O'Neill had some big series. But Alex is — wow."

Johnny Damon added a late two-run homer and Melky Cabrera drove in four runs for the Yankees, who built a commanding cushion in this once-wild series by draining the drama from it.

One day after the Angels handed New York its first playoff loss in an extra-inning thriller, the Yankees put together two early rallies before piling on five runs late — all backing Sabathia's steady work in his second win of the series.

"This team's good. We have great players, Hall of Fame players," Sabathia said. "We've got all the confidence in the world."

With a two-run homer to left field that silenced an excited Anaheim crowd in the fifth, Rodriguez drove in a run in his eighth straight postseason game, tying the major league record. His five homers matched Reggie Jackson's iconic 1977 effort for the second-most in a single playoff year for the Yankees.

"Well, the game slows down for you, no doubt about it," said Rodriguez, who is 6 for 16 with three homers and five RBIs in the ALCS. "You feel like you want to see the ball and hit it hard and not try to do too much, but the best way I can describe it is you feel like the game is slowing down."

Rodriguez also singled and scored New York's first run in the fourth, and he doubled and scored on an error in the ninth to cap a do-it-all day.

"He did something different," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said of Rodriguez. "I think he's shorter with his swing and being patient, a lot more patient. He looks different at the plate. He definitely wants it. You can tell by the way he's swinging. That guy's a bad guy, man. I wish he was on my team."

After playing 24 innings over 91/2; hours and making a coast-to-coast flight over the previous three days, both teams needed a snappy victory. Sabathia came through for the Yankees, providing rest for New York's taxed bullpen while further frustrating Los Angeles' lineup, which is foundering in the playoffs after an outstanding regular season.

Sabathia was 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five playoff starts with Cleveland and Milwaukee before this season, but he's 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in three postseason starts for New York, striking out 20 in 22 2-3 innings. The Yankees' $161 million left-hander yielded two walks and struck out five in Game 4, cruising through 101 pitches.

"We've still got a little ways to go, but I've been feeling good," Sabathia said. "I never had any doubt about me being able to perform on this stage and to pitch well late in October, but it seems like people did. But I feel great. You know, hopefully I can keep it going."

After he retired Hunter on a weak grounder to end the eighth, thousands of fans stood up and left Angel Stadium, not sticking around for the final demise of their suddenly punchless club.

Los Angeles had nine .300 hitters in its lineup in mid-August, but the Angels are batting .201 in the series. They managed just one extra-base hit in Game 4, and new left-hander Scott Kazmir crumbled in his second straight postseason start, yielding six hits, four walks and four runs while barely making it to the fifth inning.

"We got beat pretty badly tonight, (but) it was one loss. That's it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our guys are confident. There is nobody in that clubhouse that's down. We know where we have to get to, and there's a terrific challenge for us."

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