Yankees vs. Angels ALCS Preview: New York Aims to Get Rally Monkey off its Back

Jordan Schwartz@jordanharrisonSenior Writer IOctober 14, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: (L-R) Mark Teixeira #25, Alex Rodriguez #13, Derek Jeter #2 and Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees celebrate a win over the Minnesota Twins in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Among the 134 pitchers Derek Jeter has faced at least 20 times in his Hall of Fame career, he has the lowest batting average against Scott Kazmir (.111) and Jered Weaver (.118).

That's not a good sign.

What is a good sign is the way the Yankees beat the Angels the last two times they played them on Sept. 22 and 23 in Anaheim—previously a graveyard for New York victories.

The Halos ousted the Bombers from the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, but this year, the two teams split the 10 games they played and were first and second in the Majors in runs scored.

All of that adds up to a heck of a best-of-seven American League Championship Series set to kick off between the two clubs on Friday.

Let's take a look at the pitching match-ups for the first four games.

Game One: Friday, Oct. 16, CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.37) vs. John Lackey (11-8, 3.83)

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Sabathia was sharp in his Game One start against the Twins.  He allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits and no walks, while striking out eight over 6.2 innings to pick up the 7-2 win.

That improved his career postseason record to 3-3 and dropped his ERA to 6.54.  The big lefty has started two games in the LCS round, losing both to the Red Sox when he was with the Indians in 2007.  He surrendered 12 runs on 17 hits and seven walks in just 10.1 innings.

Sabathia was 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA against the Angels this season and is 5-7 with a 4.72 mark in his career vs. Los Angeles.

Howie Kendrick has killed the southpaw over the years, going 8-for-12 (.667) with a double, and Maicer Izturis is 5-for-10 (.500) with two walks against Sabathia.  Torii Hunter (20-for-68) has more doubles (eight) and RBIs (17) off of CC than any other batter he's faced.

Don't expect Gary Matthews, Jr. (5-for-26, 10 K) to start against the left-hander.  Sabathia has also had success facing Vladimir Guerrero (3-for-15).

The Yanks' ace was 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA at home during the regular season.

Lackey, meanwhile, was brilliant in his ALDS start against the Sox.  He pitched 7.1 innings of four-hit, shutout ball to earn the 5-0 victory and improve his lifetime postseason mark to 3-3 with a 3.02 ERA.

The right-hander faced the Yankees twice during the 2005 ALDS, yielding just three runs on seven hits and striking out nine through 11 1/3 innings, but he also walked nine and didn't pick up a decision.  Lackey also pitched three shutout innings of relief against New York in the 2002 Division Series.

This year, the soon-to-be 31-year-old saw the Bombers only once, picking up a 5-4 win in Anaheim on July 12, when he was charged with two runs in seven innings.  Lackey is 5-7 with a 4.66 ERA in 16 regular season starts against New York, and he is 3-3 with a 3.76 at Yankee Stadium.

Eight Yankees have at least 19 at-bats vs. the righty, so there shouldn't be too many surprises.  Jorge Posada is 12-for-29 (.414), Mark Teixeira is 19-for-49 (.388) with 11 RBI, Melky Cabrera is 9-for-25 (.360), Derek Jeter is 15-for-44 (.341) with six doubles, and Johnny Damon is 16-for-48 (.333), so hopefully he'll be able to break out of his current slump.

However, Robinson Cano is just 6-for-26 (.231), Alex Rodriguez is 9-for-51 (.176) with an astounding 23 strikeouts, and Nick Swisher, who was 1-for-12 (.083) against the Twins, is only 5-for-43 (.116) with 17 Ks against Lackey, so maybe Jerry Hairston Jr. (3-for-9, 2B, HR) should get the start.

Game Two: Saturday, Oct. 17, A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) vs. Joe Saunders (16-7, 4.60)

In his first career postseason start Burnett struggled a bit with his control but pitched well overall.  The right-hander allowed one run on three hits and five walks, while striking out six in six innings against the Twins.  He earned a no-decision, while the Yankees won, 4-3, in 11 innings.

Manager Joe Girardi had Jose Molina catch Burnett in that game and he should keep the same battery for Game Two of the ALCS.  Batters hit .221 against Burnett this year with Molina behind the plate, as opposed to a .270 clip with Posada catching.

The No. 2 starter allowed four runs in seven innings with Posada behind the plate in a no-decision against the Angels on April 30, and he surrendered two runs with 11 strikeouts over 5.2 innings pitching to Molina in a victory at Anaheim on Sept. 23.

Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, and he was 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA at home during the regular season.

Chone Figgins is 5-for-12 (.417) with two extra-base hits vs. the righty; Kendrick and Mike Napoli are both 4-for-11 (.364); and Bobby Abreu is 20-for-64 (.313) with six doubles, 11 RBI, and 12 walks.

Burnett, however, has had success against Guerrero (9-for-42, 11 K), Matthews Jr. (2-for-13), and Hunter (2-for-23, 7 K).

Saunders is an interesting Game Two start for the Angels, considering he is their fourth best pitcher, but the club wants to throw at least one left-hander at Yankee Stadium in order to neutralize the short porch in right field.  This also allows Jered Weaver to pitch at home, where he has had more success this season.

Because Los Angeles swept Boston, Saunders last start came way back on Oct. 4, when he beat Oakland for his seventh consecutive win in eight starts.

One of those victories came on Sept. 21 at home against the Yankees.  In that game, the 28-year-old allowed just two solo homers through 8.1.  He didn't pitch as well, however, on July 10, when he surrendered five runs in five innings to earn a no-decision.  That start also came in Anaheim.

Saunders is 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA in his career vs. New York and gave up two earned runs over six frames in his only lifetime appearance at Yankee Stadium.

Molina's Game Two start would've worked better if Weaver was getting the call because he's 2-for-5 (.400) with a homer against the Angels pitcher, while Posada is just 2-for-14 (.143) with four strikeouts.

Facing Saunders, however, Molina is 1-for-6 (.167) and Posada is 2-for-4 (.500) with a walk.  A-Rod, meanwhile, is 7-for-14 (.500) with two doubles and two homers and Jeter is 7-for-15 (.467).

But Swisher is just 5-for-21 (.238), Cano is 2-for-11 (.182) and Teixeira is 2-for-16 (.125).

Game Three: Monday, Oct. 19, Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16) vs. Jered Weaver (16-8, 3.75) 

Pettitte completed the Yankees' stellar starting pitching in the first round by holding the Twins to only one run on three hits through 6.1.  He struck out seven and earned the 4-1 win.

The southpaw is now 15-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 36 career postseason starts.  He's 6-1 with a 3.92 in the ALCS, but gave up four runs on eight hits in a three-inning no-decision during the 2002 ALDS.

Pettitte did not pitch well against the Angels this season, going 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts.  He was 0-2 with a 7.84 at Angel Stadium.

In his career vs. L.A., the Texas native is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA, including a 6-7 record and 4.19 ERA in Anaheim.

Napoli is 5-for-9 (.556) against Pettitte, while Erick Aybar is 7-for-16 (.438), Guerrero is 9-for-23 (.391), and Matthews Jr. is 9-for-26 (.346).

Not having as much success are Hunter (8-for-33, 12 K) and Juan Rivera (2-for-11).

Weaver was great in Game Two vs. Boston, striking out seven while only yielding one run on two hits over 7.1 to win, 4-1.  That improved his lifetime playoff stats to 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA.

The 6'7" right-hander faced the Yankees three times in 2009, going 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA.  He was 0-1 with a 6.08 in two games at the Stadium, so pushing Weaver back to Game Three makes sense.  In his career, he is 4-2 with a 5.88 vs. New York and 2-1 with a 5.62 in the Bronx.

In 2009, Weaver was 9-3 with a 2.90 ERA at home and 7-5 with a 4.78 on the road.

Bombers with success facing Weaver include Cano (6-for-15), A-Rod (5-for-15, 4 HR), and Eric Hinske (4-for-11, HR), who the Yanks should consider starting over Cabrera (1-for-12) or Damon (3-for-19, 6 K).

Game Four: Tuesday, Oct. 20, CC Sabathia vs. Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.89)

Girardi said Tuesday that he is considering sticking with a three-man rotation for the ALCS, which means Sabathia would pitch Games One, Four, and Seven.  CC would have to go on three days' rest in Game Four, but thanks to an odd off day between Games Four and Five, he'd pitch on normal rest in Game Seven, and Burnett and Pettite would pitch on normal rest in Games Five and Six, respectively.

I think this is the way to go for the Yankees because it allows them to keep Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin in the bullpen, while using their ace to start three out of the seven games, including the possible decisive seventh.

I would rather have Joba (0-0, 5.40 in two starts this year vs. L.A.) start Game Four over Gaudin (0-1, 11.74 in two starts), but Sabathia—even on short rest—is the best option.

The southpaw is 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA on three days' rest in his career.  Those regular season stats do not include his Game Two start against the Phillies in the NLDS last year, when he gave up five runs in 3.2 innings for the loss, but that was also his fourth consecutive short rest start for the Brewers.  Sabathia hasn't been nearly as overworked down the stretch for the Yankees.

Kazmir looked bad in his Game Three start at Fenway Park.  He surrendered five runs in six innings, but got bailed out when Jonathan Papelbon blew the game for the Red Sox in the ninth.

Kazmir, who helped the Rays to a World Series appearance last year, is now 1-1 with a 4.83 ERA in the postseason.  He had a 4.35 mark in two no-decisions in the 2008 ALCS.

The left-hander went 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA vs. the Yanks this season, but his only loss came after he was traded to the Halos in late August.

Kazmir has always been sharp against New York, racking up a 6-5 record and a 2.67 ERA over the years.

Teixeira hits him well, however, going 7-for-11 (.636) with four doubles and five walks.  Posada is 11-for-25 (.440) and Cabrera is 8-for-20 (.400).

But the rest of the Yankees starters all hit below .200 against Kazmir.  Swisher is 5-for-27 (.185), Hideki Matsui is 5-for-28 (.179), Damon is 6-for-36 (.167), Cano is 4-for-26 (.154), Rodriguez is 3-for-24 (.125) and Jeter is 4-for-36 (.111) with 11 strikeouts.

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison.

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 jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com