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YANKEES FYI

CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez are powerful combo for Yankees

Game-changers are both in top form and the right time for New York.

October 21, 2009|Kevin Baxter

One has accounted for half his team's postseason wins. The other is responsible for more than a third of his team's runs.

One set the tone in his team's two playoff series with dominating wins in the opening game. The other has hit home runs that erased deficits in three games his team came back to win.

On their own, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and third baseman Alex Rodriguez can take over a game or a series.

So when they're both playing at the top of their game at the same time, you get performances such as Tuesday, when Sabathia shut the Angels' bats down for eight innings while Rodriguez lighted their pitchers up, scoring three runs and driving in two in a 10-1 victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series that leaves the Yankees just a win short of the World Series.

"It's just fun watching them right now," teammate Nick Swisher said. "Those guys are having a tremendous postseason. And wow, it's fun to be part of their team when this happens."

Not that Swisher is adding much, with three hits in seven playoff games. Rodriguez had that many in four at-bats Tuesday, singling in the fourth, belting a two-run home run in the fifth and then doubling and scoring in the ninth.

For a guy who's been criticized for disappearing in the playoffs most of his career, Rodriguez is in a groove of historic proportions, hitting .407 with five homers and 11 RBIs. And he's driven in a run in eight consecutive postseason games, tying the all-time record.

"The game slows down for you, no doubt about it," Rodriguez said. "You feel like you want to see the ball and hit it hard and not try to do too much."

For Sabathia, the results pitching on three days' rest were little different than his last start, when he had eight days to prepare.

Both times he went eight innings, holding the Angels to a run. In three postseason starts, he's 3-0 with a 1.19 earned-run average.

He's so good, in fact, his teammates sometimes have trouble focusing when he's on the mound.

"You've got to guard against relaxing when he's pitching," Derek Jeter said. "His demeanor doesn't change. Good games, bad games. Strike a guy out or gives up a hit, he's got the same demeanor.

"I know he's got a lot of confidence in his ability, but he seems pretty unflappable."

That hasn't always been the case, though, because, like Rodriguez, Sabathia had his own postseason doubts to expel -- namely three consecutive losses and a 10.93 ERA in his last three playoff starts before this season.

"Every year's different," he said with a smile. "I feel pretty good right now. . . . I just want to keep it up, keep it going."

Rivera cleared

After inspecting broadcast sequences and still photography, some of which appeared to show Yankees closer Mariano Rivera spitting on a ball in the 10th inning of Monday's Game 3, the commissioner's office determined Rivera did nothing illegal.

--

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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