Now that Derek Jeter has finally passed Lou Gehrig as the franchise's all-time hit leader and the Yankees have completed an easy 17-game stretch against four teams with tee times this October, it's time for New York to come back down to earth and focus on the playoffs.
And what better way to do that than to face the second-best team in the league and recent Yankee nemesis, the Los Angeles Angels?
New York and L.A. could be headed for another postseason clash, and the Bombers need to prove to themselves and the rest of the world that they can beat the Angels.
The Yankees have won six of their past seven games against the Wild Card-leading Red Sox and are 5-1 this year versus the probable AL Central champion Tigers, but they're 2-4 against the team from Anaheim and have all too familiar memories of the Angels knocking them out of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005.
Mike Scioscia's bunch has been running circles around the Pinstripes since the mid-'90s with their aggressive first-to-third base running and hot-hitting lineup, so Monday night's make-up game at Yankee Stadium is a good test to see how far the Yankees have really come since being swept by L.A. back in July.
The Yanks and Halos hook up once again in Anaheim from Sept. 21 to 23, but Monday's contest will be the last time they play at Yankee Stadium until possibly Game One of the ALCS.
Monday, Sept. 14—Joba Chamberlain (8-5, 4.45) vs. Jered Weaver (15-5, 3.76)
Chamberlain was 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his first three starts after the All-Star break. Then the Yankees messed with his rest and innings pitched, resulting in a 1-3 record and 7.76 ERA over his last seven appearances.
New York really has no idea what to expect out of Joba once he's finally allowed to pitch a complete start in the playoffs, since he hasn't been allowed to do so since Aug. 25.
Because of this, the Yanks will probably opt to go with the longer, eight-day ALDS series, allowing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to pitch four of the possible five games with Andy Pettitte going in Game Three.
But Burnett hasn't been too consistent lately, so it would be wise to get Chamberlain ready to go six or seven innings in case they opt to go with a four-man rotation in the first round.
Joba's only career start against the Angels came on July 10, when he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits and one walk in 4.1 innings.
Weaver, meanwhile, picked up his career-best 15th win and 162nd strikeout in a 6-3 victory over Seattle on Wednesday. He's 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his last three starts but has been mediocre this season in two appearances against the Yankees.
On May 1 in the Bronx, the right-hander surrendered four runs in six innings to pick up a no-decision in a 10-9 Angels loss. But at home on July 11, he allowed three earned over six frames to pick up the victory, 14-8.
In six lifetime starts versus New York, Weaver is 4-1 but has an ERA of 5.82. He's 2-1 with a 5.62 ERA at Yankee Stadium.
Robinson Cano is 5-for-12 (.417) against the 26-year-old and Alex Rodriguez 5-for-13 (.385) with four homers. Eric Hinske (4-for-11) should get the start over Melky Cabrera (0-for-10), who, much like the rest of the Yankee regulars, struggles versus Weaver.
Johnny Damon is 3-for-15 (.200), Jorge Posada is 2-for-11 (.182), Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher are each 3-for-19 (.158), Jeter is 2-for-14 (.143), and Hideki Matsui is 1-for-8 (.125).
Prediction: Yankees 5, Angels 4
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Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man" is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at email@example.com
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