A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Brian Murphy
ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers
With a stunning 5-game series win by the Rangers last night, they will host the defending World Series Champions Yankees at home on Friday to kick off the American League Championship Series. I had predicted the Rays to win the series, but noted that if Cliff Lee keeps his postseason success going, the Rangers have a chance. That is what exactly he did, performing at a sensational level. The Yankees do have the postseason experience over the Rangers, who won their first postseason series ever (Texas’ three previous playoff appearances ended with first-round losses to New York, in 1996, ’98 and ’99). The Rangers and Yankees split the season series 4-4 with a couple of great one-run late-inning drama games, this series will be very tense and a lot of fun to watch! Let’s break it down.
Since Cliff Lee pitched a complete game on Tuesday night, he will not be the starting pitcher in game 1, as the Rangers hand the ball over to C.J. Wilson. His opposing pitcher will be Yankees ace, C.C. Sabathia. Both pitchers got a win in the ALDS, however Wilson went 6.1 innings pitching shut-out ball. C.C. struggled a little more than usual but got the win anyway. Sabathia has been the Yankees’ horse in the postseason and he is one of the most consistent pitchers out there. Add Pettitte, the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history, to pitch game 2 and that’s a tough 1-2 starters to face to start the postseason. The Rangers are looking at pitching at Lee in game 2 or 3. Lee dominated the Yankees when he was on the Phillies in the World Series last year and I can’t imagine he will slow down this postseason. Phil Hughes will look to stay hot after his first postseason performance in which he was great. If Hughes doesn’t go up against Lee then he will most likely face Colby Lewis who actually shut out the Rays in 5 innings but the bullpen blew the game and gave him a loss. I would give Lee the edge over any Yankees pitcher in this series, but I like what Pettitte and Hughes can do in games 2 and 3. The wildcard for the Yankees in pitching is A.J. Burnett, who has been announced to pitch game 4. The inconsistent, erratic Burnett had a successful postseason last year but did not even pitch in the ALDS due to a horrible year. If Sabathia, Pettitte, and Hughes pitch the way they have been, I don’t think there will be too much pressure on Burnett if the Yankees get a comfortable lead in the series. If not, Burnett will have a huge part in deciding a crucial game 4. EDGE: Yankees (by a smidgen!)
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It’s no surprise that the Rangers slugging lineup won the ALDS for them. Nelson Cruz was the stud of the ALDS, hitting .400 with 3 HR’s. Hitters like Kinsler, Andrus, Young, and Guerrero also provide a lot of pop and make-up one scary lineup for opposing pitchers. If there is one lineup that can possibly match-up with the Rangers, it is the Yankees. The Yankees big guns (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Posada) were a little below par in their ALDS series to what is expected of them. The role players of the Yankees were the ones that stepped up. Granderson batted .455 and Swisher and Cano each batted .333 in the ALDS. I think in order for the Yankees to keep up with the high-octane offense of the Rangers, players like Cano, Granderson, and Swisher need to continue hitting consistently well. This is a tough call but I think the Rangers sport the advantage as of now because of the way they hit against the Rays in 5 games. EDGE: Rangers (again, by a smidgen)
I did not include the bullpen in the above break-down but I would have to give the edge to the Yankees. Kerry Wood looked the the 20-strikeout ace of the past in the two games he appeared in, and if Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson pitch well, there’s no need to worry about the 9th with Mariano Rivera coming in. Darren Oliver looked great for the Rangers, however their closer Neftali Feliz didn’t look automatic versus the Rays as he gave up an earned run in one of his save opportunities and isn’t comparable to the best closer of all-time in Rivera. Overall, this will be a long, grind-em-out series with pitching being the key because both teams have stellar lineups. I just think with the Yankees postseason experience and the way they got their swagger back against the Twins in the ALDS after a shaky end of the regular season, they should be able to handle the Rangers. Texas needs two victories when Lee starts to have a chance to win this series, and if they do watch out with that lineup!
YANKEES IN 6