East vs. West showdown

ALCS.jpgBy Jon Lane
Yankees fans were able to party early when the Angels rallied off Jonathan Papelbon and eliminate the Red Sox Sunday afternoon. Alas, be careful what you wish for.

En route to their first World Championship, the Angels knocked out the Yankees in four games in the 2002 Division Series and have been a thorn in their side since. Three years later, the Halos took it to the Bronx Bombers again, this time in five games, and have frequently given the Yankees fits during the regular season, owning a 35-23 edge since 2003.

The teams split 10 games this year, the last a thrilling 3-2 win September 23 that secured the Yankees’ first series win in Anaheim since May 2004. But when the Yankees and Angels open the American League Championship Series on Friday, the Yankees own the all-important home field advantage; including the postseason they’re 59-24 at Yankee Stadium in ’09.

“It’s going to come down who is going to pitch best, who is going to hit in the clutch,” said Jorge Posada. “You know, home field advantage is going to help a little bit. I think that’s the key to this series, having four games at home is going to change.”

Another critical difference is the postseason resurgence of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod batted .455 with two homers and six RBIs in the three-game sweep of the Twins. And before you point out he had similar success against them in ’04 before the playoff flame out that dogged him since Game 5 of the ’04 ALCS, consider that Rodriguez was .333-5-9 in 10 games versus L.A. during the season.

The recent and distant past will be moot come Friday, but it’s a different time, Rodriguez is a different person and both are different teams.

“We have a huge challenge in front of us,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “Before we talk about a Freeway Series [against the Dodgers] we’re going to have to beat an incredible team in the Yankees. These guys just don’t give up.”

_______________________

The teams meet in a rematch of the 2005 ALDS, when after winning Game 1 the Yankees lost the series in five games.

Active holdovers from that team: Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, Juan Rivera, John Lackey, Scot Shields, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders.

A snapshot look at the regular season matchup and respective team leaders:

Records
Yankees: 103-59
Angels: 97-65

Season Series: Series tied 5-5

Memorable Game
September 14: A night the Yankees beat the Angels at their own game and marked by Joe Girardi’s unorthodox decision to pinch-run Brett Gardner for Mark Teixeira in the eighth inning. Gardner slid into third on the front end of a double steal and raced home with what turned out to be the winning run on catcher Mike Napoli’s throwing error.

Old Friends
Jose Molina (played for the Angels 2001-07)
Bobby Abreu (played for the Yankees 2006-08)
Juan Rivera (played for the Yankees 2001-03)

Team leaders
Batting

Yankees: Derek Jeter (.334)
Angels: Erick Aybar (.312)

Home Runs
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (39)
Angels: Kendry Morales (34)

Runs Batted In
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (122)
Angels: Kendry Morales (108)

Wins
Yankees: CC Sabathia (19)
Angels: Joe Saunders (16)

ERA
Yankees: CC Sabathia (3.37)
Angels: Jered Weaver (3.75)

Strikeouts
Yankees: CC Sabathia (197)
Angels: Jered Weaver (174)

Saves
Angels: Mariano Rivera (44)
Angels: Brian Fuentes (48)

Projected Pitching Matchups
Game 1 (Friday, 7:37 p.m.): John Lackey (11-8, 3.83) vs. CC Sabathia (19-7, 3.21)
Game 2 (Saturday, 7:37 p.m.): Jered Weaver (16-8, 3.75) vs. A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.10)
Game 3 (Monday, TBA): Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.11) vs. Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.89)
Game 4 (Tuesday, TBA): Sabathia/Chad Gaudin (6-2, 3.43) vs. Joe Saunders  (16-7, 4.60)

3 Comments

Well Jon…no one said it was going to get easier as the Yanks climbed the post season ladder but it’s just wonderful to see that they’re still in it. I felt that the Sox were riding their previous laurels of come from behind wins and sooner or later it did catch up with them. This could be the same with the Yanks previous woes against the Angels. Sooner or later they’re going to figure it out. Tables were turned with the Angels and Sox so maybe they’ll be turned for the Yanks vs Angels too. More serendipity lies between the Dodger vs Yanks series as opposed to the highways series of the Dodgers vs Angels. At least for me my nails have a few days to grow before I start biting them come Friday.

Hope we get to see Rod-zilla again.

I’m nitpicking here but there’s a discrepancy between the stats for team leaders and projected pitching match ups. The projected pitching match ups seem to have stats that were compiled before the last(guessing here, could be 4 or 5 games) series of the regular season. I’ll tell you one guy the Yankees shouldn’t be worried about: Kazmir. I’m hoping Angels start him in game 3, because that would be a big advantage for the Yanks.

You forgot to add Tex to the “old friends” list.

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