By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Playoff Previews: The ALCS
Season Series: Split, 4-all.
Yankees: SS Derek Jeter (.270, 10 HRs, 67 RBIs, 18 SBs, 111 runs), RF Nick Swisher (.288, 29, 89), 1B Mark Teixeira (.256, 33, 108, AL-high 113 runs), 3B Alex Rodriguez (.270, 30, 125), 2B Robinson Cano (.319, 29, 109, 41 2Bs, 200 hits), C Jorge Posada (.248, 18, 57), DH Marcus Thames (.288, 12, 33 in 212 at-bats) or Lance Berkman (.248, 14, 58 with Astros and Yankees), CF Curtis Granderson (.247, 24, 67), LF Brett Gardner (.277, 5, 47, 47 SBs, 97 runs, .383 on-base percentage).
Rangers: SS Elvis Andrus (.265, 0, 35, 88 runs, 32/47 SBs), 3B Michael Young (.284, 21, 91, 99 runs, career-high 115 strikeouts), CF Josh Hamilton (major league-leading .359, 32, 100), DH Vladimir Guerrero (.300, 29, 115), RF Nelson Cruz (.318, 22, 78 in 108 games), 2B Ian Kinsler (.286, 9, 45), LF David Murphy (.291, 12, 65), C Bengie Molina (.240, 2, 19 in 57 games since acquired from San Francisco), 1B Jorge Cantu (.235, 1, 2 in 30 games since acquired from Florida) or Mitch Moreland (.255, 9, 25 in 47 games since called up from Triple-A on July 29).
Rangers: LH C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35, 3 CGs in 33 starts), RH Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72 in career-high 201 innings), LH Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18 ERA, 7 CGs in 28 starts, 185 Ks, 18 walks, 212 1-3 innings; 4-6, 3.98 in 15 starts since acquired from Seattle on July 9), RH Tommy Hunter (13-4, 3.73).
Yankees: RH Mariano Rivera (3-3, 1.80, 33/38 saves, 61 games, 39 hits in 60 IP), RH Kerry Wood (2-0, 0.69 ERA in 24 games with Yankees after being acquired from Cleveland; 3-4, 3.13, 8 saves in 47 games overall), RH David Robertson (4-5, 3.82, 64 games), LH Boone Logan (2-0, 2.93, 51 games, 38 Ks in 40 IP), RH Joba Chamberlain (3-4, 4.40, 3 saves, 71 hits in 71 1-3 IP), RH Dustin Moseley (4-4, 4.96 in 16 games, including 9 starts), RH Sergio Mitre (0-3, 3.33, 1 save, 27 games, 3 starts).
Rangers: RH Neftali Feliz (4-3, 2.37, MLB rookie-record 40 saves in 43 chances), RH Darren O’Day (6-2, 2.03 in 72 games), LH Darren Oliver (1-2, 2.48 ERA in 64 games), RH Alexi Ogando (4-1, 1.30 ERA in 44 games), LH Derek Holland (3-4, 4.08; 2.53 in 14 games, 10 starts), RH Dustin Nippert (4-5, 4.29 in 38 games, 2 starts).
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was a catcher on New York teams that eliminated Texas in first round of playoffs en route to World Series titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Rangers dropped final nine games in those matchups, their only playoff appearances before beating Tampa Bay 3-2 in best-of-five division series this year. This is first time Rangers have home-field advantage in a postseason series. … Texas is in ALCS for first time. Yankees, seeking 41st pennant and 28th World Series crown, are 11-2 in ALCS. Only losses came in 1980 to Kansas City and 2004 to Boston. … Yankees went 1-4 in Texas this season, including three-game sweep by Rangers from Sept. 10-12. New York earned three-game sweep at home from April 16-18, before Texas acquired Lee. October ace beat Yankees twice for Philadelphia’s only two wins in World Series last year and is sensational 6-0 with 1.44 ERA and three complete games in seven postseason starts. He lines up to start Game 3 and potential Game 7 on full rest after throwing six-hitter Tuesday night to finish off Rays. Wilson likely to pitch opener after tossing two-hit ball for 6 1-3 shutout innings in Game 2 at Tampa Bay. Yankees struggled to beat left-handed starters down the stretch. … New York has its own ace in Sabathia, who was MVP of ALCS last year against Angels. Pettitte is 19-9 with 3.87 ERA in postseason. He holds records for wins and starts (41).
… Hughes took no-hit bid into seventh inning at Texas in second big league start in 2007 before straining left hamstring. He has never allowed a run against Rangers, yielding three hits in 15 1-3 career innings. … Granderson has picked up his game of late and often bats second against right-handers. … Right-handed hitting Jeff Francoeur (.340, 2, 11 in 15 games after acquired from Mets) started in RF for Rangers both times they faced LHP David Price in first round. Francoeur could play against Sabathia and Pettitte, too, moving Cruz to LF and making Murphy a capable bat on bench. … Rangers signed Rodriguez to then-record $252 million contract in January 2001.
Traded him with cash to Yankees in February 2004 for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias.
Yankees: After stumbling to 9-17 finish, New York lost AL East title to Tampa Bay on final day of regular season. Still, wild-card Yankees (95-67) had third-best record in baseball and are trying to become first team to win consecutive World Series championships since winning three straight from 1998-00. … It is Yankees’ 15th trip to playoffs in 16 years. They also were AL wild card in 1995, 1997 and 2007, losing in first round each time. … Yankees mourned death of longtime owner George Steinbrenner this season. … While three-man rotation of Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte was linchpin of playoff run last year, pitching appeared to be Yankees’ biggest uncertainty this postseason. But then, Pettitte and Hughes shut down Twins as New York romped to three-game sweep against familiar foil in division series. Plan was for Sabathia to start on short rest if that series reached Game 4, but Yankees say Burnett will get ball in Game 4 against Texas after 2 1 / 2 weeks off, keeping top three starters on regular rest. Burnett has been a mystery most of season. He cut his hands smacking a door in frustration and sported curious black eye while struggling on mound. … New York has fought through injuries all year, losing Rodriguez, Granderson, Posada, Berkman and Thames for long stretches. Five days of rest before ALCS should help Swisher (knee), Gardner (thumb) and Teixeira (broken toe, sprained thumb). … Offense led majors with 859 runs, despite Jeter’s drop-off. … Rodriguez celebrated his 600th homer and reached 30 home runs for 13th straight year. … Cano emerged as MVP contender. … Yankees traded for Berkman and OF Austin Kearns in late July to boost bench.
Also added Wood, who excelled in setup role before inconsistent performance against Minnesota.
Rangers: AL West champions were only current major league franchise that hadn’t won a playoff series until first-round victory over Tampa Bay. Lee beat 19-game winner Price in Games 1 and 5 of series in which visiting team took every game — a first in major league history. … Texas (90-72) grabbed first place for good June 8 and had at least seven-game lead over final 63 games. … Season began with team for sale, a drawn-out process that included bankruptcy before Hall of Fame pitcher and team president Nolan Ryan‘s group finally won an auction in mid-August with bid valued at $590 million to buy club from Tom Hicks. There also was manager Ron Washington‘s admission in spring training that he used cocaine once during 2009 season. Washington offered to resign, but Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels stuck by him last year and again when it became public. … Rangers have increased win total each year under Washington, who is in fourth season. … Despite financial constraints, Texas acquired Lee from Seattle when it looked as though he was headed to Yankees. Daniels also made midseason deals for Molina, Cantu and Francoeur. … Daniels and Ryan have transformed team known for power hitting and poor pitching into athletic club with quality arms.
Just look at how Rangers beat Tampa Bay. … Team ERA of 3.93 was club’s lowest since 3.83 mark in 1990. … Rangers led majors with .276 batting average, though 162 home runs were their fewest since 1992. Their 986 strikeouts marked first time since 2000 that they had fewer than 1,000 — after having at least 1,200 each of past three seasons. … Hamilton had MVP-caliber season, though he missed 24 games in September because of two broken ribs.
He was sore but feeling OK after three-game comeback before playoffs.
But he struggled against Rays, going 2 for 18 (.111) with throwing error in Game 5. … Cruz was limited to 108 games because of hamstring problems, but became only second major leaguer with five extra-inning homers. Three ended games, and his clutch hitting continued with three homers, two doubles and .400 batting average in division series. …
Kinsler batted .444 with three homers and team-high six RBIs in first round.
– Mr. Lee: After struggling in August, Lee finally had an injection in his sore back and took nearly two weeks off before returning to allow two hits in eight-plus innings of 4-1 win over Yankees on Sept. 12. He’s been unbeatable in October — against everyone. New York’s patient and gritty hitters like to work pitchers, run deep counts, extend at-bats and draw walks. Lee, however, rarely misses. He has 54 strikeouts and six walks in 56 1-3 postseason innings. He struck out 21 and did not walk a batter in two starts covering 16 innings against Tampa Bay. Even though 24-year-old Hughes has enjoyed success against Texas, there’s no way Yankees want to wind up facing Lee in Game 7. They’d much rather see him once, move on to World Series and offer him big bucks as a free agent in the offseason.
– Bullpen Breakdown: New York appears to have an edge in late innings, with power arms in the ‘pen and Rivera looming. He saved two games against Minnesota, increasing his postseason record to 41 and overall total to 600. Texas has a rookie closer who looked shaky against Rays, as did other Rangers relievers.
– Jeter Meter: The 36-year-old shortstop had an uncharacteristic season, sinking to career lows for batting average and on-base percentage (.340), and hitting just one homer after Aug. 1. He worked with hitting coach Kevin Long in Texas when he was given Sept. 11 off and batted .342 with .436 OBP after that. Now, the Yankees captain is trying to live up to billing as one of the most clutch performers in postseason history (.312, 20, 56).
He was 4 for 14 (.286) with an RBI in first round but did not walk or score.