Sabathia cools off Angels as Yankees grab Game 1

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia heated up as the night went on, throwing fastballs past the Los Angeles Angels and pumping his fist for emphasis.

On a blustery night more suited to bobsleds than baseballs, Sabathia pitched eight superb innings of four-hit ball to win his second straight postseason start, and the New York Yankees took advantage of a rare sloppy game by the Angels to win the AL championship series opener 4-1 Friday.

"That's why we got CC," Johnny Damon said. "To be a workhorse during the season, of course, but to shut down teams in the postseason."

The Angels looked like chilled Californians withering in the unseasonable wintry weather, making three errors that led to two unearned runs and allowing an infield popup to drop untouched for an RBI single. Even Torii Hunter, an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder, allowed a single to roll past him.

"It was just CC. CC was the cold weather," Hunter said. "CC's the real deal, man."

Because of the cold conditions, the traditional foul line introductions were scrapped. It was 45 degrees at gametime, and a 17 mph wind made it feel worse.

"The wind was playing havoc on a few balls out there," Damon said.

Back in the ALCS for the first time in five years, New York built a 2-0 lead in the first. Derek Jeter and Damon singled, and left fielder Juan Rivera threw to the shortstop position for an error that put runners on second and third.

Alex Rodriguez's one-out sacrifice fly -- his seventh RBI of the postseason -- gave the Yankees the lead, and Hideki Matsui followed with a short popup. Third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar each thought the other would snag it, and the ball fell for a single as Damon came home.

"These guys are not going to be robots out there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's a mistake. It was ugly. But it happens."

Angels starter John Lackey crouched and screamed in anger. Scioscia spoke with Figgins in the dugout between innings.

"The fans didn't have anything to do with that," Aybar said. "None of us called for it."

The night didn't get much better for Los Angeles.

After Kendry Morales' fourth-inning single cut the deficit in half, Matsui hit an opposite-field double to left-center in the fifth that made it 3-1. Lackey's throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed Melky Cabrera to take second in the sixth, and Jeter followed with a run-scoring single that got by Hunter.

"Sometimes there isn't any communication, but it's the first game," the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero said.

Sabathia, 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his first postseason with the Yankees, gave up a double and three singles, struck out seven and walked one, going to three-balls count just twice.

"It was about as cold as it gets," he said. "It was pretty nasty today."

The crowd repeatedly chanted the initials of the big lefty, who may start three times if the best-of-seven series goes the full length. Sabathia showed his heightened emotion, especially when he pumped a fist after striking out pinch-hitter Mike Napoli to end the seventh.

"That was a great feeling to have the stadium rocking and to be chanting my name and to be able to get a strikeout," he said. "I don't really show a lot of emotion a lot of times, but it came out of me there."

Mariano Rivera pitched a hitless ninth for his record 36th postseason save, his second this year.

"It wasn't fun under these conditions," Jeter said.

New York won the opener against the Angels in the 2002 and 2005 division series only to lose Game 2 both times and get beaten in the series. A.J. Burnett is slated to start Game 2 for the Yankees, at 4-0 the only unbeaten team in this postseason. Joe Saunders, who hasn't pitched since Oct. 4, goes for the Angels. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, and a postponement is possible.

"It's disappointing but we know we got seven games in this series and it's the first team to four, not one," Hunter said.

While players took batting practice in ski caps, sweat shirts and gloves, the giant video board in center showed the NLCS game in Los Angeles, where the temperature was in the 90s and fans wore short sleeves.

Nick Swisher, Damon and Mark Teixeira wore special caps with ear flaps -- Yankees equipment manager Rob Cucuzza had stocked them all season but hadn't used them before. Second baseman Robinson Cano wore a ski mask.

"I was wearing the Elmer Fudd for the first time in my career, but I had a few guys with me," Teixeira said. "As far as Robby is concerned, we'll get on him."

Aybar appeared to be wearing a sweat shirt with a red hood. In the stands, actress Kate Hudson was bundled in a purple hood.

After pitching 7 1/3 shutout innings in the opener of a first-round sweep of Boston, Lackey gave up four runs -- two earned -- and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He didn't get much support from the Angels, who didn't attempt any steals.

"I didn't even have sleeves on," Lackey said. "It wasn't that bad out there once you got going."

New York won a World Series title in its first season at the original Yankee Stadium in 1923 and went on to play exactly 100 Series games there. The Yankees hope to reach the Series in the first season at their new $1.5 billion ballpark.

After the opener, New York was feeling fortunate.

"We don't see them do that too often," Damon said. "So we'll take it."

Game notes
It was only the second of 84 games at new Yankee Stadium with no homers. The other was a rain-delayed June 18 game against Washington. ... Rodriguez ran through a stop signal by third base coach Rob Thomson and was thrown out easily in the fifth by Aybar, who took the throw from Rivera. A-Rod bowled into catcher Jeff Mathis, who held onto the ball. ... There was another disputed call, with first base umpire Laz Diaz ruling Hunter out on his sixth-inning bunt. Scioscia argued that Teixeira's foot came off the first-base bag when he stretched for Sabathia's throw -- replays were inconclusive.

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