ALDS 2010: Five Things We Learned
So far in the 2010 ALDS we have seen one series dominated by a perennial powerhouse, and another series go back-and-forth between two teams with little postseason history.
The New York Yankees of course finished off another sweep of the Minnesota Twins Saturday, marking the second straight year they did so.
In the other series we saw the Texas Rangers take the first two games on the road only to drop the next two at home to the Tampa Bay Rays. Game 5 is on Tuesday as we will see a matchup of aces Cliff Lee vs. David Price.
Although we do not know yet who the Yankees will be playing Friday in the ALCS, there are a few things we have learned over the course of the last week.
5. The Rays Won't Go Away
After dropping the first two games of the ALDS at home, the Rays appeared headed back to Texas ready for a quick elimination. However this team showed the same resiliency we had seen all year, and fought their way back into this series.
Behind great outings by Matt Garza and Wade Davis, and timely hitting the Rays now head back home with a chance to clinch an ALCS berth. After being shut down in Games 1 and 2, the Rays finally received some big hits from stars Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria.
Now the Rays will see if they can become just the second team to come back and win an LDS after dropping the first two games at home. However there is one big obstacle standing in their way...
4. Cliff Lee Will Continue To Be a Difference Maker
The same man who helped pitch the Phillies to the World Series last year was acquired midseason by the Rangers in the hopes that he could do the same for them. During the season, however, Lee's performance was up-and-down as a bad back gave him some trouble.
In Game 1 of this series, however, Lee appeared healthy and back to his old form. He struck out 10, while scattering six hits and one run in seven innings. Lee out-pitched Cy Young candidate David Price and staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers are so confident in Lee that they held him out until Game 5 in hopes that he will close out the series in Tampa. If his recent playoff success is any indicator the Rangers should still be considered the favorite to advance.
3. The Minnesota Twins Are Still Not Deep Enough To Compete With The Best
Year after year the Minnesota Twins have won the AL Central playing great fundamental baseball for manager Ron Gardenhire. Unfortunately for them the Twins have consistently come up short in the playoffs.
The last two years the season has ended in sweeps to the New York Yankees. This year the Twins believed things were different as they came in with home-field advantage, and the best record in the AL in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately the Twins came up short yet again for a variety of reasons similar to years past. Like last year, the Twins were without superstar first basemen Justin Morneau as his injury kept him out the entire second half of the season.
This left the Twins lineup too thin to compete with the sluggers in the Yankees lineup. In addition the Twins pitching staffed proved to lack depth, as they had to go with Brian Duensing down 2-0 in New York. Duensing is a solid major-league pitcher, but hardly the guy with the stuff suited for the situation.
So it's back to the drawing board for the Twins after another disheartening playoff exit.
2. The New York Yankees Have The Starting Pitching To Go All The Way
Coming into the playoffs the big question surrounding the Yankees was if they had the starting pitching past CC Sabathia to win in the playoffs. AJ Burnett had a terrible year and was left out of the rotation, leaving the Yankees with Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes backing up Sabathia.
Although Pettitte is one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers in baseball history, he had missed a large portion of the second half with an injury and did not appear to have regained his command before entering the playoffs.
In Game 2, however, Pettitte mystified the Twins' bats and looked as good as he had in the beginning of the season. If Pettitte can build off this performance, it will certainly go a long way towards the Yankees repeating as champs.
Phil Hughes also came into the postseason with major questions after an up-and-down end to the season. Hughes answered all these questions emphatically pitching seven shutout innings, and looking perfectly dominant in his first postseason start.
If the ALDS is any indication of what we will see going forward, the Yankees have certainly answered their biggest question and should have a formidable rotation.
1. Mariano Rivera Is Still The Greatest
Yes, most baseball fans already knew this coming in. But given Rivera's struggles in September (three blown saves) people began to wonder if there was a chink the armor of the GOAT.
More importantly people had serious questions about whether or not it was okay to pitch Rivera for more than three outs, something he has done 58 times in his 90 postseason appearances.
So of course in Game 1 Rivera was put in just that situation, brought in to get a four-out save and clean up the mess of the Yankees bullpen. In true Rivera form, Mo immediately silenced the doubters and pitched a dominating inning and a third for another postseason save.
He did not stop there, however, as Mo came back in the next two games to close it out allowing just one bloop hit along the way. Looks like the Yankees still have the greatest postseason weapon of all time in their arsenal, and will continue to have an advantage at the end of the game over every team they play.