ANAHEIM, Calif. — Alex Rodriguez has done something remarkable in every game this postseason. CC Sabathia is settling for every time he takes the mound.
Together, they have the Yankees within one win of a long-awaited return to the World Series.
Rodriguez homered in the third straight game of his outstanding postseason, Sabathia pitched eight resilient innings of five-hit ball on short rest and New York beat the Angels 10-1 Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Rodriguez had three hits and three runs and Melky Cabrera drove in four runs for the Yankees, who have built a commanding cushion in this once-wild series with power and pitching from their big-name, high-priced stars.
"It's the best I've felt all year, no doubt," said Rodriguez, who is 6-for-16 with three homers and five RBIs in the ALCS. "I certainly feel free and liberated. It's the happiest I've been in a long time."
Johnny Damon added a late two-run homer for the Yankees, who can sew up their first trip to the World Series in six years Thursday night at Angel Stadium. New York's A.J. Burnett faces Angels ace John Lackey.
One day after the Angels handed New York its first playoff loss in an extra-inning thriller, the Yankees asserted control with two early rallies before piling on five runs late, all backed by Sabathia's steady work on three days' rest for his second win of the series.
"This team's good. We have great players, Hall of Fame players," said Sabathia, who has won three of the Yankees' seven playoff games. "We've got all the confidence in the world."
With a two-run homer over the leftfield fence that silenced an excited Anaheim crowd in the fifth, Rodriguez drove in a run in his eighth straight postseason game, tying the major-league record. It was his fifth homer in New York's seven postseason games, matching Reggie Jackson's iconic 1977 effort for the second-most homers in a single playoff year for the Yankees.
Bernie Williams holds the club record with six homers in 1996, but that mark seems ripe to be toppled by A-Rod, who had struggled in recent postseasons with the Yankees.
Rodriguez also singled and scored New York's first run in the fourth, and he doubled and scored on an error in the ninth to cap his do-it-all day.
After playing 24 innings over 9½ hours and making a coast-to-coast flight over the previous three days, both teams needed a no-nonsense victory. Sabathia came through for the Yankees, providing rest for a taxed bullpen while further frustrating Los Angeles' lineup, which is foundering in the playoffs after an outstanding regular season.
"I didn't feel any different at all," Sabathia said about his quick turnaround. "I felt good, actually."
The left-hander yielded two walks and struck out five, throwing 101 pitches. After he retired Torii Hunter on a weak grounder to end the eighth, thousands of fans left Angel Stadium, not sticking around for the final demise of their suddenly punchless club.
Kendry Morales homered for the Angels, whose bats have been mostly awful in the ALCS. The club that had nine .300 hitters in its lineup in mid August is batting .201 in the series, and the Angels managed just one extra-base hit in Game 4.
Newcomer Scott Kazmir, acquired from the Rays in August in part because of his success against the Yankees and Red Sox, crumbled in his second straight postseason start for the Angels. He allowed six hits and four walks while barely making it through four innings.
After holding the Angels to four hits over eight innings in Game 1, Sabathia pitched on three days' rest for the first time this season, though the workhorse starter is no stranger to extra assignments. He pitched very well on short rest four times for the Brewers last season while carrying them into the playoffs, though he struggled once he got there.