- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

NEW YORK | It was a practical choice, made for the sake of giving fans at Yankee Stadium something to watch before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, but it carried a twinge of irony.

On this night, when the New York Yankees took batting practice before their first ALCS game since 2004 and manager Joe Girardi’s first contest this deep in the playoffs, the center-field scoreboard at Yankee Stadium didn’t show the second-year manager - at least not while his team was on the field. It showed the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were playing Game 2 of the NLCS against Philadelphia, and Girardi’s predecessor, Joe Torre.

Though unintentional, it was somewhat appropriate. Until Girardi wins the World Series, he’ll be in Torre’s sizable shadow.

Getting to the ALCS brings a measure of vindication for Girardi, who last season presided over the first Yankees team in the wild-card era to miss the playoffs. But he’s still chasing the postseason success that Torre found so many times, the experience that makes legends in New York.

“The way, for me, that I’ve always dealt with that type of pressure or big games is by preparation,” Girardi said. “And if you’re prepared, you know what you want to do.”

Torre won four championships and reached the World Series six times in 12 seasons, achievements that could land him in Monument Park someday. As for Girardi? He chose No. 27 when he came to New York, signifying he wanted to lead the Yankees to their 27th title, but he knows only when that happens will he be able to stand on his own merits in New York.

“When managers or players are part of World Series championship teams, it seems to validate their career more,” he said. “Growing up in Chicago, you would always hear that Ron Santo and Ernie Banks weren’t part of World Series teams. Those were players I followed very closely. … People look for World Series to validate careers.”

Padilla’s ‘emotional’ day

Lost amid the late-inning chaos and heroics at Dodger Stadium was a gallant performance from Los Angeles right-hander Vicente Padilla. He nearly matched Philadelphia’s Pedro Martinez pitch for pitch but was in line for the loss until his teammates rallied in the eighth to even the series at 1-1.

The 32-year-old, released by the Rangers in August, resurfaced in Los Angeles and has been a huge addition. He went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight regular-season appearances, then tossed seven shutout innings in the NLDS against St. Louis.

Padilla’s lone mistake Friday was a fourth-inning curveball to Ryan Howard, who drilled it to left-center for a solo homer. Otherwise, he was brilliant, surrendering only three singles in 7 1/3 innings. He departed to a standing ovation and doffed his cap to the crowd of 56,000.

“It’s my first time playing in front of a big crowd like this in a game that’s more important than I’ve ever pitched in my life,” said Padilla, who never appeared in the postseason in 10 seasons with the Diamondbacks, Phillies and Rangers. “I was very emotional.”

Padilla dazzled Philadelphia’s lineup with a wide-ranging repertoire that included a 97 mph fastball and a 54 mph breaking ball that looked straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

“He has been a horse,” Torre said. “He was unbelievable. He was something. He was really something.”

Mark Zuckerman reported from Los Angeles.

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