Yankees advance to World Series
(AP) - Alex Rodriguez, welcome to the World Series. TheNew York Yankees are back in baseball's big event. The sport's top spenders finally cashed in with their firstpennant in six years Sunday night, beating the Los Angeles Angels5-2 in Game 6 of the AL championship series behind the savvypitching of that old October pro, Andy Pettitte. Next up, New York hosts defending champion Philadelphia in theWorld Series opener Wednesday night. Cliff Lee is expected to faceALCS MVP CC Sabathia in an enticing pitching matchup between formerCleveland teammates - and the past two AL Cy Young Award winners. "I couldn't be more excited," Rodriguez said. "I feel like a10-year-old kid." Ridiculed in the past for his October flops, A-Rod played a hugerole in helping his team advance through the playoffs, batting .438with five home runs and 12 RBIs. The slugger earned his first tripto the Fall Classic during a 16-year career in which he'saccomplished almost everything else. "That's what you play for," Rodriguez said. "In order to wina World Series, you have to get there first." Cameras flashed in the stands throughout the ninth inning as thecrowd roared louder and louder with each pitch. After Mariano Rivera fanned pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. forthe final out, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and most Yankees rushedto swarm a jubilant Rodriguez near third base. Rivera received a huge hug from catcher Jorge Posada in front ofthe mound. Then, the Yankees partied with beer and champagne intheir swanky, high-tech clubhouse. Pettitte set a postseason record for wins, Johnny Damon hit atwo-run single and Rivera closed it out in familiar fashion with asix-out save as the $201 million Yankees won their 40th AmericanLeague crown by vanquishing the Angels, a longtime nemesis. "It's really not a surprise that we are here. I hate to soundlike that," said Sabathia, signed along with fellow free agentsTeixeira and A.J. Burnett during New York's $423.5 millionoffseason spending spree. Now, the Yankees go for their record 27th title - when managerJoe Girardi was hired two years ago, he took jersey No. 27 withthat in mind. Not a bad way for Jeter, Posada and crew to finish up the firstseason at the team's new $1.5 billion ballpark. "We want to enjoy this tonight. We'll worry about Phillytomorrow," Jeter said. "Hopefully, we can play one more greatseries." For manager Mike Scioscia and his sloppy Angels, it was theirlatest playoff failure during a decade of steady regular-seasonsuccess. Since winning their only championship in 2002, the Angelsare yet to return to the World Series despite five AL West titlesin the past six years. "At times we played good baseball. At times we shot ourselvesin the foot," Scioscia said. After rain postponed Game 6 for a day, the clear weather andmild, 58-degree temperature at first pitch was a stark change fromthe first two games of the series, when the Angels froze up in theraw chill at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte escaped a jam in the sixth, going to 3-0 on KendryMorales before knocking down a comebacker with runners at secondand third to preserve a 3-1 edge. The left-hander pumped his fist,then headed for the dugout. With one on and one out in the seventh, Pettitte left to astanding ovation and tipped his cap to the sellout crowd of 50,173,the largest at the new ballpark. He earned his 16th postseason win,breaking a tie with John Smoltz, and his fifth to close out apostseason series - also a major league record. "We've got a lot of confidence in Andy when he's on the mound.He's been a big-game pitcher for us for 14 years," Jeter said. Joba Chamberlain got two key outs and Girardi went to awell-rested Rivera in the eighth. He gave up a two-out RBI singleto Vladimir Guerrero, making it 3-2, then retired Morales to endthe inning. A diving play by Teixeira at first base helped Rivera avoidfurther damage. It was the first earned run allowed at home by the 39-year-oldRivera in a postseason save situation. But the Yankees added twoinsurance runs in the eighth on a pair of Angels errors andTeixeira's sacrifice fly. Rivera finished up for his record 37th postseason save, and theYankees had their elusive pennant. "You bring him in, you feel like the game's over. He's thebest," Pettitte said. Rodriguez reached base all five times up and drew a bases-loadedwalk in the fourth that put New York ahead 3-1. Earlier in theinning, Damon gave the Yankees the lead with a single off 16-gamewinner Joe Saunders. "It started rough this year for me in spring training,"Rodriguez said, referring to a tense news conference to admitsteroids use from 2001-03 with Texas - and hip surgery thatsidelined him until May. "I just felt very happy and very blessed,and all I cared about this year was winning games." Including their unprecedented collapse against Boston in 2004,the Yankees had lost five straight times with a chance to close outan ALCS - and six in a row with an opportunity to end a playoffseries. But this time, New York got it done with leadership from Jeter,Pettitte, Rivera and Posada, all part of the late 1990s dynastyunder manager Joe Torre. Normally airtight on defense and fundamentals, the Angels madeeight errors in the series and several other uncharacteristicmistakes. The miscues continued early in the clincher, whenSaunders walked five in 3 1-3 shaky innings and Guerrero wasdoubled off first base on a shallow fly. With no Rally Monkey bouncing around the video board in theBronx, Los Angeles failed to pull off one of its signaturecomebacks. The Angels trailed in all eight of their playoffvictories against New York, including a stirring 7-6 triumph inGame 5 on Thursday night that extended the series. The Angels eliminated New York with division series wins in 2002and 2005. They are the 73-63 against the Yankees in the regularseason since 1996, when Jeter took over at shortstop and New Yorkbegan a run of four World Series titles in five years. Looking to lock up the pennant, the Yankees turned to a familiarsource of success in Pettitte. The 37-year-old left-handerdelivered, allowing one run in 6 1-3 innings for his secondcloseout win of these playoffs. He also beat Minnesota to completea first-round sweep. Always a picture of poise and focus in October, narrowed eyespeering between his cap and glove as he takes his signs on themound, Pettitte also owns postseason records with 38 starts and 2371-3 innings pitched. Pettitte was pitching at home for the Yankees in the postseasonfor the first time since their last World Series game, a 2-0 lossto Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins in 2003. This one was a different story. "They beat us fair and square," Angels outfielder Torii Huntersaid. "It's just frustrating right now.