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October 27, 2009

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Champagnes uncorked as Yankees celebrate return to the World Series

FIRST-TIMERS and grizzled veterans savored victory and champagne in the clubhouse at the new US$1.5 billion Yankee Stadium on Sunday after the Bronx Bombers booked their first trip to the World Series in six years.

Captain Derek Jeter, winning pitcher Andy Pettitte, closer Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada each have four World Series rings and two other trips together to the Fall Classic, but many teammates will get their first taste of it.

"This is huge for the old guys and for the new things here," Posada told reporters after the 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels gave New York the American League pennant.

Jeter, champagne dripping down his baseball cap, echoed the feeling.

"It's huge for everybody, not just us. I'm happy for everybody in this room," he said.

Nick Swisher, who made two stellar plays in the right field and was in the middle of a pair of run-scoring rallies for the Yankees as they clinched the ALCS, was giddy with excitement.

"This feels like I'm on cloud nine right now," the six-year major league player said. "To be able to celebrate like this is a tremendous thing. My first year with the Yankees, my first time ever in the World Series - just an amazing thing."

Manager Joe Girardi, who won World Series rings as a Yankee catcher and is in his first postseason as a skipper, had his own slant.

"We're trying to win this for Pops. Mr. Steinbrenner deserves another championship," Girardi said, referring to 79-year-old George Steinbrenner, the long-time club owner who has handed down control of the team to his sons.

Girardi has made no secret of his mission, wearing uniform No. 27 to signify a sought after 27th World Series title.

The Steinbrenners and general manager Brian Cashman spared no expense trying to make up for the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2008 after qualifying 13 years in a row.

An offseason spending spree of US$423.5 million in deals that landed free agent pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, forged the championship roster.

"I'm having fun. I am enjoying this process getting to this point so far," said Sabathia, who will start the World Series opener tomorrow against defending champion Philadelphia.

"You know, going in there and you see Derek Jeter, you see Jorge Posada, you see Andy Pettitte. These guys have been through this situation a lot of times.

"You have to lean on those guys and talk to them in situations. They have been a lot of help.

"It is really not a surprise that we are here. I hate to sound like that, but this is a really good team."

Pettitte pitched into the seventh for the win, a 16th career postseason victory that put him on top of MLB's all-time list. He was aided by a two-run single from Johnny Damon in a three-run rally in the fourth that erased a 1-0 deficit.

Some sharp fielding by the Yankees, including several sparkling plays by second baseman Robinson Cano and right-fielder Nick Swisher, helped the Yankees, while a defensive breakdown once again sabotaged the Angels.

Los Angeles scored a run off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera on Vladimir Guerrero's RBI single in the top of the eighth to claw its way to 3-2, but sloppy fielding allowed some breathing room for New York.

The Bronx Bombers added two runs in the bottom of the eighth without benefit of a hit thanks to Angels miscues on two sacrifice bunts.

Second baseman Howie Kendrick dropped a throw covering first to allow Swisher to reach after a walk to Cano.

New York's fourth run of the game scored when pitcher Scott Kazmir lobbed a throw to first well over Kendrick's head on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice bunt, and Cano came around to score. Mark Teixeira's long sacrifice fly brought home the last run.

"I want to congratulate the Yankees," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They played an incredible series. They outplayed us and they deserved to win."

"At times we played good baseball. At times we shot ourselves in the foot. The Yankees are a team that you can't give extra outs to. We did it in a couple of games and obviously it cost us."


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