ALCS 2010: What To Look for as the New York Yankees Return Home, Tied 1-1
There are a number of things that Yankees fans should be aware of as their team returns home for three games.
The Yankees starting pitching so far has, quite honestly, been brutal. In game one, CC Sabathia lasted just four innings, giving up five earned runs, six hits, and five walks. In game two, Phil Hughes found a way to be even worse, lasting four plus innings, giving up seven earned runs, 10 hits, and three walks.
The Yankees simply cannot afford more starts like this. If the trend of burgeoning ERAs continues, the Yankees won't make it much farther in the ALCS. They can't count on Texas Ranger bullpen implosions every night.
That being said, the Yankees starters are very capable of bouncing back. Andy Pettitte, who's been very good all year, gets the ball in game three at the Stadium. Pettitte has been overshadowed by much of the national media; game three is the first landing destination of Cliff Lee, so naturally, there hasn't been much talk about the Yankees wily left-hander.
Yet Pettitte is just as capable as anyone on the Yankees roster, and has as good a potential of bringing Cliff Lee's postseason unbeaten record to an end.
And CC Sabathia will get a shot at redemption, that's for sure. CC seems to be much better on short rest, for whatever reason, so look for a strong performance in game five (or four).
The Yankees have yet to put together a complete offensive display in either of the two games.
In Game 1, they were absolutely stymied through seven innings, and then exploded for five runs in the eighth.
In Game 2, they managed just two runs on seven hits and seven walks, leaving 12 men on base. Other than Robinson Cano, the Yankees are lacking serious points in the consistency department.
The Effect of the Stadium
So the Yankees haven't pitched well, and haven't hit the ball consistently. Fortunately, some home cooking is the best way to scrape away the rust and get back to playing great baseball.
The Yankees, like most teams, just play better at home. Their 52-29 regular season home record was the second best in the American League this year.
The short porch in right is always a plus, and look for Mark Teixiera to get his bat going. Through two games, Tex is 0-8 with two walks and one run scored. In 2010, Teixiera batted just .227 on the road, but his average jumps to .288 at home.
The Cliff Lee Effect
Unfortunately, the Yankees have to go up against the mighty Cliff Lee in their first home appearance. But the Yankees are a complete, tenacious offensive team. I fully expect them to give Lee their best effort, and even if they aren't able to score a handful of runs off of him, they can get him out of the game early.
However, since Lee is almost always in the strike zone, the Yankees offense has to bring their A game with them. Long at bats and taking advantage of fastballs in the zone will be key in determining the outcome of game three. They can't afford to leave myriad runners on base; they need to take advantage of the baserunners they do get.
The Yankees bullpen has been very good so far. In two games, they have combined for nine innings of work, allowing no runs and just three hits and five walks. While the pen has been a strength so far, the early use could be harmful towards the end of the series, especially if Yankees starters can't give them innings.
A start of seven or more innings from Andy Pettitte in game three would go a long way in conserving the arms of the Yankees pen; they'd have limited use in Game 3, combined with the day of rest as the teams travel to New York.
Yankees Fans Shouldn't Panic
The Rangers are a great team, and there's no shame in splitting on the road. Even if they do have to go up against Cliff Lee, the Yankees are still in great shape to return to the World Series.
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