NEW YORK — The Yankees are plenty good on their own. On a cold opening night of the AL Championship Series, the Angels made it easy for them.
Whether it was the stakes, the stage or the shivering temperatures, the Angels looked nothing like themselves Friday, making myriad mistakes. And the Yankees looked every bit like the all-around powerhouse they are, taking advantage of just about all of them in a 4-1 win.
"You can't make them in this type of situation against that type of team," said Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, the Brandon High product who was in the middle of the major one. "We made mistakes, and they cost us."
The weather was certainly a big part of the story with a first-pitch temperature of 45 degrees, a biting wind and a feels-like in the 30s and going down, though the predicted rain never arrived.
"About as cold as it gets," Yankees ace CC Sabathia said.
Players tried all kinds of gear — flapped caps, hoods, ski caps — in defense, though some played in short sleeves and no one blamed the difficult conditions.
It's supposed to be worse tonight — up to a 90 percent chance of rain — which could lead to a postponement and shuffling of the series schedule as well as the Yankees' pitching plans.
But things couldn't have worked better Friday as the Yankees got the first of the four wins they need to reach the World Series for the first time since 2003. Sabathia pitched like the ace the Yankees brought him in to be (eight innings, four hits, one run), a performance manager Joe Girardi termed both "tremendous" and "sensational" with the offense clicking, the defense shining, Mariano Rivera finishing and the Angels cooperating.
Their ace, John Lackey, wasn't much, failing to get through six innings and allowing nine hits while throwing 114 pitches. And their defense was worse as they made a season-high matching three errors, a couple of misplays and one very costly nonplay, shortstop Erick Aybar allowing Hideki Matsui's routine inning-ending popup to drop in the first and the Yankees to score a second run.
Aybar, brother of the Rays' Willy, appeared to be set under the ball with Figgins in front of him, but they ended up looking at each other as the ball dropped in an episode of miscommunication Angels manager Mike Sciosica called "ugly." Johnny Damon, on second thanks to leftfielder Juan Rivera's earlier throwing error, scored.
"One of us should have called it and made the play; pretty simple as that," Figgins said.
But even their explanation wasn't simple. Figgins said he yelled "Aybar" — going against what every Little Leaguer knows of yelling only if you're calling it. Aybar said he didn't hear anything and didn't necessarily think it was his ball.
"What happened was bad communication," Aybar said through an interpreter. "No verbal at all."
Scioscia suggested the crowd noise was a factor.
The Angels kept giving. Rivera was caught playing shallow when Damon doubled over his head to open the fifth then scored on Matsui's double. Rivera made an awkward slide to corral the ball but did recover to team with Aybar to nail Alex Rodriguez — who went in elbow up — at the plate.
The sixth was even more of a mess: Lackey's two-out walk of No. 9 hitter Melky Cabrera followed by an errant pickoff throw then centerfielder Torii Hunter's bungle of Derek Jeter's single.
"It was sloppy," Hunter said. "That's just out of character for us."
Said Girardi: "I don't think you can count on that every night. That's for sure."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com