ALCS Game Five: The Angels Won't Die (or...Shut Up, Tom! Stop Talking!)
Alex Rodriguez is having a career-altering postseason.
Nick Swisher? Not so much.
No matter whether he's hitting left-handed or right-handed, whether he's swinging at fastballs or breaking balls, whether the pitch is a foot outside or right over the middle of the plate and thigh high, he is the surest out in the Yankee lineup right now.
Don't get me wrong—I love the guy. I love the energy he brings, and his goofy sense of humor, and his all-or-nothing approach at the plate...wait, no. Just the first two.
When you're at bat with the bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game, in any three-ball count—meaning, yes, even a full count—your approach has to be simple: you're going to get a strike, and it will be a cookie. Swing free and easy, and try to hit a line drive somewhere.
As the Yankees (and, most notably, the Alex Rodriguez) of 2004-2007 taught us, time and time again, if you swing for the fences you are going to miss.
Bright spots of the Yankees' wasted opportunity last night:
- Robinson Cano is about to get red hot, if he's not already there. If you look at Cano's approach against first John Lackey (the near-miss home run that he got under by a fraction of an inch) and then against Kevin Jepsen, his bat speed is dead-on with pitches around 90-91 miles per hour.
Why do I mention the pitch speed? Well, who else throws about 90 miles per hour? (If you said "Joe Saunders," you've been reading too much of my work this month and I'm getting predictable.)
- Hideki Matsui had two quality at-bats last night against two different left-handed pitchers—an RBI single against Darren Oliver, then a six-pitch walk against Brian Fuentes. That bodes well for him with Saunders on the mound, featuring similar stuff.
- Speaking of Brian Fuentes...is anyone here scared of him in another ninth-inning situation? I'll take it one step further: if anyone else in the lineup was up for that last at-bat, does anyone think we're playing Game Six?
Big concerns going into this weekend:
- Kendry Morales had an absolutely awful first three games in this series, then hit a home run against CC Sabathia and followed that up with two RBI singles in Game Five. If he wakes up, he has the potential to hurt the Yankees in a big way (he hit .500 against the Yankees in the regular season).
- The Angels will not die. And they managed to score seven runs against us yesterday without Howie Kendrick.
- Howie Keindrick plays second base against left-handed pitchers.
- Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves. Our three best relievers have had serious trouble this series against these Angels. Chamberlain's slider looks a little bit flat, and he's rusty enough that he doesn't know where it's going.
Hughes and Aceves both fell behind in counts and were too in love with their fastballs against a fastball-hitting team. Both gave up big hits, both have an L on their record. Bottom line? The only two relievers who did their jobs well out in California are Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte .
But I'm not scared. Not yet...
Okay, that's a lie. I've been scared since this series started. It's been nine years and a fifteen hundred-odd ballgames since I last saw the Yankees win a World Series and I'm getting too old for this. My blood pressure is through the roof. I only got to sleep last night by muttering "Andy Pettitte after a Yankee loss" to myself, over and over again.
So here goes. Tomorrow night, the guy I picked as the rotation's X-factor in January gets to prove me right or wrong, probably for good.
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