ALCS 2010 Preview: New York Yankees Get What They Wanted vs. Texas Rangers
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Things have gone exactly to plan for the Yankees so far this postseason.
The Bombers once again easily dispatched of Minnesota in three games, while the AL East champion Rays were taken to the limit before being eliminated thanks to Lee's second dominating performance in the AL Division Series.
Now, not only do the Yanks avoid playing pesky Tampa Bay, which took 10 of 18 from New York this season, but they get to square off against the Rangers, whom they have beaten nine out of 10 times in their previous three playoff encounters in the 1990s. Not only that, but the Pinstripes won't have to face Lee until Game 3.
The only negative is that New York doesn't have home-field advantage and went 1-4 in Arlington this season, including an excruciating three-game sweep in September. Then again, Texas has never won a home playoff game.
So how do these two clubs match up? Let's take a look at the pitchers for the AL Championship Series.
Game 1: Friday, Oct. 15: CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18) vs. C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35)
Sabathia turned in the worst performance of the Yankees' starters in the ALDS, but still earned the win, allowing four runs (three earned) over six innings in Game 1.
The defending ALCS MVP was 10-5 with a 3.34 ERA on the road in 2010, and he dominated the Rangers at home on April 16, yielding just one run on three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts through six frames to earn the 5-1 victory.
The big lefty is 8-3 with a 4.29 ERA in 14 career starts against Texas, including a 4-2 record and 4.71 mark over six outings in Arlington.
The current Rangers roster hits just .188 off Sabathia, with Michael Young (12-for-38, .316) sporting the only average above .261. Vladimir Guerrero is 3-for-17 (.176) and Bengie Molina is 1-for-19 (.053).
The southpaw is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in six playoff starts with the Yankees.
In his postseason debut, Wilson walked just two batters over 6.1 scoreless innings to beat the Rays, 6-0, in Game 2, but the left-hander led the league with 93 bases on balls this year, so he could run into some trouble against the patient New York lineup.
The 29 year old made three starts vs. the Bombers this season, going 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA and walking nine in 14.1 innings. The converted reliever is 0-3 with a 4.12 mark in 20 appearances against the Yanks.
Marcus Thames will certainly get the start at DH in Game 1 because he leads the club with a .455 average (5-for-11) vs. Wilson. Derek Jeter is 5-for-14 (.357) and Nick Swisher is 6-for-20 (.300) with three doubles and a homer.
Austin Kearns is 3-for-7 (.429) with a double and a walk against Wilson, but I don't see him getting the nod over Curtis Granderson (0-for-6) or Brett Gardner (0-for-5).
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 16: Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19) vs. Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72)
Hughes pitched just one scoreless inning against the Rangers this season, but the decision to start him in Game 2 over Andy Pettitte was the correct one because the right-hander was 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA on the road in 2010, and he's surrendered just three hits and four walks with 13 strikeouts over 15.1 scoreless frames in his career against Texas, with all of that work coming in Arlington.
The Rangers' current roster hits a paltry .079 (3-for-38) vs. Hughes, who gave up only four hits and one walk to go along with six K's over seven scoreless innings in a Game 3 win over the Twins.
Josh Hamilton doubled in three at-bats against the 24 year old, but Young, Jorge Cantu, Ian Kinsler, Jeff Francoeur, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus are a combined 0-for-25.
Hughes allowed one run on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 2.2 innings in three relief appearances during last year's ALCS.
Lewis didn't receive a great deal of run or bullpen support this season and that was once again the case when, in his postseason debut, he fired five scoreless innings in Game 3 against the Rays, but took a no-decision as the Rangers fell, 6-3.
The right-hander was 6-4 with a 3.41 ERA at home this year, but did not face the Yankees. He is 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA in three career starts vs. New York, but because Lewis was out of the majors from 2008-09, only three current Bombers have recorded official at-bats against him.
Jeter is 3-for-5 (.600) with two homers, but Jorge Posada is 0-for-6. Lance Berkman is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts, so I wouldn't be shocked to see him sit against a righty.
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 18: Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28) vs. Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18)
All of the questions surrounding Pettitte's ability to pitch well in the postseason following his return from the disabled list were answered when the veteran held the Twins to just two runs on five hits and a walk over seven innings of Game 2.
The left-hander allowed just two runs on four hits in eight innings to beat the Rangers, 5-2, at home on April 18, but he is 11-9 with a 5.24 ERA in 23 career starts against Texas, including an 8.22 mark in Arlington, so it made sense to push Pettitte back to Game 3 in the Bronx.
The current Rangers roster hits .310 off the 38 year old. Francoeur is 5-for-8 (.625) with a double and a homer, Murphy is 4-for-11 (.364) and Vlad is 9-for-26 (.346).
Kinsler, however, has a rough time against Pettitte, going 3-for-14 (.214), as does Nelson Cruz, who is 1-for-11 (.091).
The southpaw is 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA in the playoffs, including a 7-1 mark in the ALCS, so despite his struggles vs. Texas and at Rangers Ballpark, most Yankees fans would be pleased to have him start a possible Game 7.
New York doesn't want it to get that far, though, because the prospects of facing Lee in a decisive game are not favorable. Just ask the Rays.
The left-hander, who led the league with a 1.00 WHIP and seven complete games this season, held Tampa Bay to just one run over seven innings in Game 1 and one run through nine frames in Game 5. He struck out a total of 21 batters and didn't issue a single walk in the two starts.
Lee was 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in three outings against the Bombers in 2010, but is 6-4 with a 4.42 in 12 career regular season starts vs. New York, including a 2-0 record and 2.40 mark at the new Yankee Stadium.
The 32 year old went 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in last year's World Series, so the Bombers have to win one of the first two games in Arlington and definitely cannot allow this ALCS to go the distance.
Jeter should have a good series, as he is 15-for-36 (.417) with four doubles and a triple against Lee, and Mark Teixeira is 10-for-30 (.333) with five doubles and a homer.
Just like in Game 2, I'd throw the natural matchups out the window and start Berkman (3-for-8, .375, 2 2B) over Thames (7-for-36, .194, 15 K's).
Game 4: A.J. Burnett (10-15, 5.26) vs. Tommy Hunter (13-4, 3.73)
I agree with starting Burnett in Game 4 because you can't ask Sabathia to start on three days' rest in back-to-back starts (assuming he'd also pitch Game 7) and then expect him to pitch two or three more times in the World Series. The only way I'd change my mind is if the Yankees were down 3-0 in the ALCS.
The right-hander went 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA over the final two months of the season, but he was 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts against the Rangers and sported a more reasonable 4.59 mark at home.
Burnett is 4-3 with a 3.66 ERA in his career vs. Texas, and the current roster hits just .207 off him, with no one other than Matt Treanor (1-for-1) batting over .300.
Guerrero is 12-for-50 (.240) with 12 strikeouts and Cruz is 2-for-14 (.143) with eight K's, so this could just be the perfect matchup for Burnett, who made three great starts and two terrible ones in last year's playoffs.
Hunter was pitching pretty well, allowing three runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts and no walks over four innings, before manager Ron Washington decided to pull him from Game 4 of the ALDS, which the Rangers eventually lost, 5-2.
The right-hander yielded two runs in five frames at home against the Yankees on Sept. 11, but he went 6-4 with a 4.48 ERA on the road this season. He is 0-1 with a 6.75 in two career starts vs. New York and has never pitched in the Bronx.
The Bombers' roster hits .364 off Hunter. Granderson is 4-for-6 (.667) with a homer and Berkman is 2-for-4 (.500). However, Alex Rodriguez, Swisher and Gardner are a combined 0-for-9.
Starting Francisco Cervelli in Game 4 makes sense because he is 1-for-1 with an RBI and a walk against Hunter, and Burnett has a 4.66 ERA with Cervelli behind the plate as opposed to a 7.28 with Posada back there. In addition, Posada gets some rest with a Game 4 night affair being followed by a Game 5 afternoon start.
The Yankees have favorable pitching matchups in the first two games, and while I don't expect them to beat Lee, they even have a good matchup with Burnett against Hunter in Game 4. I'll take the Yanks in 6 and Derek Jeter to go 10-for-24 (.417) en route to MVP honors.
Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison. Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. 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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