Often athletes who just can't quite get that ring are asked the dubious question. The awards, the accolades, the records, the money, would you trade it all for a ring? Alex Rodriguez may have sold his soul and tarnished his legacy by admitting steroid use this spring, but in doing so and setting himself free he is starting to create a new legacy.
Saturday night into Sunday morning if it felt like you'd read this script before, it's because you already have. Another Game Two of solid starting pitching from A.J. Burnett, another game tying HR off the bat of A-Rod, another win for David Robertson and just another walk-off win against a team that used to throw their weight around and now just throws the ball all over the place.
Nick Swisher drew a walk off Joe Saunders in the bottom of the second. Robinson Cano drilled an RBI triple to the right field wall plating Swisher and for the second time in as many games this ALCS the Yankees took the lead first.
Derek Jeter came up in the third and homered off Saunders well beyond the short porch in right. Jeter's second homer of the playoffs and 19th of his post-season career moved him past Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for sole possession of third on the all-time list, putting the Yanks up 2-0.
Burnett who struck out four over 6 1/3 was rolling along until the fifth. Maicer Izturis hit a ground rule double to right. Erick Aybar singled to center allowing Izturis to score. Aybar stole second, Burnett plunked Chone Figgins on the foot and followed that up by walking Torii Hunter. That's when Burnett with two outs un-leashed a wild pitch allowing Aybar to come in and tie things at 2-2. Burnett induced Vladimir Guerrero to ground to short but the damage was done.
Both teams had multiple opportunities from there but each team's bullpen answered the bell.
Until the top of the eleventh when Alfredo Aceves came on in relief of Mariano Rivera, who'd had his longest post-season outing since Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS where he went three innings to pick up the win and ALCS MVP honors. Aceves inexplicably walked Gary Matthews Jr. to start the frame. Aybar bunted him to second and Figgins picked up his first hit and RBI of the playoffs with a bloop to left. Aceves got out of it on a 'round the horn double play, but the Yanks were down 3-2.
Then speaking of the 2003 ALCS, a day (or so) after the anniversary of Yanks third baseman Aaron Boone hitting a clutch leadoff HR in the eleventh, it was like someone dusted off that old script again. And much like another Yanks third baseman Scott Brosius took the league's saves leader Trevor Hoffman deep in San Diego, it was A-Rod's turn to be clutch once again. So A-Rod with the rain pouring down hit a screamer to right off Brian Fuentes to knot the contest at 3-3. His third game-tying HR of this post-season and third overall.
Both teams battled onto the 13th when another player long awaiting his shot at October glory came to the plate. Jerry Hairston Jr. got the Yanks going with a pinch hit single to center off Ervin Santana. Brett Gardner moved him to second on a bunt. The Angels then chose to intentionally walk Cano to try and setup the inning ending double play.
However Melky Cabrera grounded one to Izturis, which Izturis promptly threw away. Hairston rounded third and Figgins who bobbled the loose ball had no chance at throwing out Hairston and the Yankees won it 4-3.
These are Joe Girardi's scrappy, never-say-die Yankees and they are halfway home to pennant number 40 and a trip to the World Series as they now embark on a trip to California with a fresh Andy Pettitte in hand.