By 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:
Season Series: Series tied 5-5
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.
Jose Molina (played for the Angels 2001-07)
Bobby Abreu (played for the Yankees 2006-08)
Juan Rivera (played for the Yankees 2001-03)
Yankees: Derek Jeter (.334)
Angels: Erick Aybar (.312)
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (39)
Angels: Kendry Morales (34)
Runs Batted In
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (122)
Angels: Kendry Morales (108)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (19)
Angels: Joe Saunders (16)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (3.37)
Angels: Jered Weaver (3.75)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (197)
Angels: Jered Weaver (174)
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)