Yanks' Damon bounces back in ALCS
Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon struggled in the first round of the playoffs and was awful against the Los Angeles Angels this season. He put all of that behind him Friday night. Damon had two hits, scored twice and made a sliding catch in left during Game 1 of the AL championship series - reversing two disturbing trends for New York. He went 1 for 12 during the Yankees' division series sweep of Minnesota and batted .121 (4 for 33) in eight regular-season games against the Angels. "Sometimes in this game you need to have some luck, but you also need to go out and work hard and try to figure out what went wrong," said Damon, who helped lead the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles in the ALCS opener. New York manager Joe Girardi insisted this week he still felt good about Damon despite his dreadful first round against the Twins. Damon's only hit in the series was a third-inning single in the playoff opener. He struck out four times in Game 3 - three against ex-teammate Carl Pavano. Damon responded by showing up at Yankee Stadium for extra hitting Tuesday and wasted no time getting off to a fast start against the Angels. "You have to remember Johnny is an extremely talented player as well," Girardi said. "You don't expect that to carry over. I commend Johnny. Tuesday he came out when we had the simulated game and got five or six at-bats and hit the ball extremely well." Damon, who turns 36 on November 5, said he worked on staying inside the ball. "Seemed like that game against Pavano I was just jumping out, trying to hit the pitch in front of me instead of waiting for it to get back," he said. The extra work paid immediate dividends on a chilly night in the Bronx. Damon singled to left in the first, moving Derek Jeter to third, and alertly made it to second when Juan Rivera's throw went into the middle of the infield. He came around to score when Hideki Matsui's two-out popup landed between third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar. He hit a leadoff double off John Lackey in the fifth and scored on Matsui's double to give New York a 3-1 lead. Finally, Damon robbed former Yankees teammate Bobby Abreu of a leadoff hit in the sixth with a nice grab on his sinking liner. Batting in the No. 2 spot behind Jeter, Damon hit 24 homers this season to match his career high. But he hasn't gone deep since Aug. 30 and is in the final year of his $52 million, four-year contract with New York.