Classic Jeter, Atypical Rodriguez Give New York Yankees Two-Game Lead

Gabriel TaylorAnalyst IOctober 18, 2009

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 16:  The New York Yankees celebrate their 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game One of the ALCS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 16, 2009 in New York, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

New York Yankees superstars have come out to play in baseball’s postseason led by predictable, indomitable shortstop Derek Jeter and redeeming performances from third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Despite cold, rainy conditions, these superstars are shining and the Yankees are up 2-0 in the American League Championship Series after New York’s highly-paid duo paved the way to a 4-3, 13-inning win over the Los Angeles Angels in Game Two.

Jeter’s third inning home run gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead and Rodriguez’s all-important 11th-inning blast evened the score at three, before Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis’ error on a Melky Cabrera grounder in the 13th led to the game-winning run.

While Jeter has famously baffled pitchers in the postseason since 1996, Rodriguez’s perplexing output has flabbergasted opponents and proven that he’s not the same A-Rod this October.

After notoriously failing to live up to postseason expectations, the three-time AL MVP is batting .368 with three HR, eight RBI, and plenty of heartbreak for hurlers who continue to challenge him in late-inning situations. Jeter is up to his usual postseason heroics and after hitting .334 in the regular season, he’s batting .350 with two homers and four RBI in the playoffs.

Rodriguez’s $33 million 2009 salary plus Jeter’s $21.6 million salary means that the left side of New York’s infield must cash in on every opportunity to bring World Series glory back to New York. So far, so good as the duo has lived up to expectations and the Yankees are 5-0 in the postseason.

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Jeter is simply doing the same things he has done since he made his debut in the big league’s biggest show, displaying an uncanny ability to score in key situations and drive in runs in the clutch. He has a hit in every playoff game and has scored six times in five games. The living legend has only enhanced his story this postseason, but the welcome aid of Rodriguez might be the difference-maker for the Yankees in 2009.

Oddly, even though Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s is struggling—add another $20,625,000 to New York’s pricey infield—opposing pitchers continue to challenge Rodriguez and A-Rod is making them pay. A-Rod is batting over .350 and has an RBI in every postseason game, including three home runs—all in the bottom of the seventh inning or later. Teixeira, batting third before A-Rod’s cleanup spot, is hitting .136.

With an 0-2 count, no outs, and the bases empty in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game Two, Brian Fuentes, the major league saves leader, served a pitch that Rodriguez barely got over the wall in right.

The Yankees other expensive superstars are also bringing postseason dividends. CC Sabathia ($15, 285,714) has two wins in two starts and A.J. Burnett ($16.5 million) has been solid, only allowing three earned runs in his two starts.

Mariano Rivera ($15 million) has been an ageless wonder and the 39-year-old has yielded incredible stats. Rivera hasn’t allowed an earned run while appearing in all five Yankee postseason games. His ERA is 0.00, he has 10 strikeouts in seven innings, and of course, New York won all five games.

Rivera is enjoying the good fortune of MLB’s 2009 postseason schedule which has been very favorable to the Yankees and their pitching staff. With plenty off days, the Yankees have been able to use the Rivera every game and have alluded to using Sabathia in Games Four and Seven.

Now the Angels are reeling and will have to hone in offensively and defensively if they want to battle their way back into the series. Their five errors in the first two games of the ALCS have hampered their championship efforts and while the Yankees have mustered eight runs in the games, the Angels have only scored four runs in 22 innings.

Los Angeles’ pitching staff has only allowed five earned runs in two games against the terrifying Yankee lineup. Nonetheless, after three errors in the series-opener, the Yankees won a nail-biter in Game Two which featured two Angels errors, including one that led to the game-winning run.

If the Angels have had plenty of baserunners, but have been unable to push them across home plate in key situations. In Game Two Vladimir Guerrero left eight men on base and Bobby Abreu added another five.

The Angels' cast of stars should be anxious to head home and make this a series. After the Yankees held serve at home, the series heads to California for the next three games.