Chess match: Pitching tough to figure

Chess match: Mo' move pays off

NEW YORK -- It was a memorable American League Championship Series that had several shifts in momentum, not to mention a lot of hard decisions for both managers.

Game 6, in which the Yankees defeated the Angels, 5-2, on Sunday night to advance to the World Series, was no different.

Here is a look at some of the turning points in the clincher.

Sticking with Saunders

The situation: Angels left-hander Joe Saunders clearly lost his feel for the strike zone in the fourth inning, walking two batters and allowing a two-run single to Johnny Damon. Mark Teixeira reached on an infield single and the bases were loaded with one out. Alex Rodriguez was up next for the Yankees.


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The decision: Though the Angels had lefty Darren Oliver and righty Kevin Jepsen up in the bullpen, manager Mike Scioscia stuck with Saunders.

The outcome: A-Rod drew a walk, making it 3-1 Yankees. Scioscia then came out and got Saunders, perhaps one batter too late. Oliver came on and got a clutch 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Jorge Posada to get the Angels out of the inning.

Analysis: "I thought Joe battled," said Scioscia. "Yeah, there were a lot of counts that he didn't quite get in his favor. But he made some pitches to get out of some innings early."

Girardi and the bullpen

The situation: Andy Pettitte had given the Yankees just what they had hoped -- six strong innings. The Angels rallied in the sixth, putting two on with two outs, but Pettitte made the pitch he needed, getting Kendry Morales on a grounder back to the box. Pettitte had thrown 91 pitches through six. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was left with the choice of trying to get more outs of Pettitte or giving his bullpen a clean seventh inning.


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The decision: Pettitte came back out for the seventh.

The outcome: Howard Kendrick led off the inning by lining out on a diving play by Nick Swisher in right, but Juan Rivera followed with a single to left. At that point, Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain, who had given up five hits over his one inning of work in the series. The move worked, as pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis hit a fielder's choice grounder and Erick Aybar grounded to short to end the inning.

Analysis: "To have the confidence in me to run out there after Andy and the performance that he had, I couldn't ask for anything better," said Chamberlain.

Mo' for six

The situation: Up 3-1 after seven innings, the Yankees were within six outs of their first American League pennant in six years. It was up to Girardi to decide which combination of relievers would get those six outs.


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The decision: Girardi did what his predecessor Joe Torre did numerous times in the same situation and called on Mariano Rivera to get all six outs.

The outcome: Rivera wiggled his way out of a 21-pitch eighth inning, allowing one run on an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero. And in the ninth, the right-hander mowed down the Angels in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 inning, giving the Yankees their 40th pennant.

Analysis: "We felt we could use him for 35, 40, 45 pitches, if we needed it," said Girardi.

Where's Weaver?

The situation: When the Angels chipped their deficit to a run heading into the bottom of the eighth, Scioscia had Jered Weaver, a hero in Game 5, still available out of the bullpen.

The decision: Ervin Santana, who had already pitched a scoreless seventh, came back out for the eighth. After he allowed a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano, Scioscia did go to the bullpen, but called on Scott Kazmir, who pitched poorly in his Game 4 start.


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The outcome: In fairness to Kazmir, the defense -- including his own -- was a culprit as the Yanks plated two insurance runs. On a sacrifice bunt by Nick Swisher, second baseman Kendrick flat-out dropped the throw by first baseman Morales and everybody was safe.

Melky Cabrera also tried to give himself away on a bunt, and Kazmir gave away the out this time, making an errant throw to first that went down the right-field line, allowing a run to score. Teixeira narrowly missed a grand slam, but his drive to center was still deep enough to get a run home, making it 5-2. Only after the Angels were down three runs did Scioscia finally call on Weaver. By then, it was too late.

Analysis: "You know, you're always thinking about things here and there that maybe you should have moved in a different direction," said Scioscia. "We'll digest this and get better from it."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.