New York Yankees-Texas Rangers ALCS Preview: The Road to World Series No. 28

October 14, 2010   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

What’s the best cure for a struggling team entering the postseason? Sweep another team in the first round of the playoffs.

That’s what the Yankees certainly were able to do in the ALDS when they swept the Minnesota Twins and are now moving on to the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.

And for the second straight year, they will be facing an American League West team in the series. This year, it’s against the Texas Rangers, and not the Los Angeles Angels.

The Rangers pulled off what many consider to be an upset when they beat the No. 1 seeded Tampa Bay Rays three games to two in the ALDS and finally won their first playoff series in team history.

Now in new territory, the Rangers will face a team who is experienced in the October spotlight.

In the regular season, the two teams met a total of eight times in three separate series and ended in a tie at 4-4.

From April 16-18 at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees swept the Rangers 5-1, 7-3 and 5-2 in the series.

From August 10-11 at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers won the first game 4-3 and the Yankees won the second game 7-6.

From September 10-12 at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers swept the Yankees 4-3, 7-6 and 4-1 in the series.

In the April series, the Yankees were clearly the better team and the Rangers were off. In the August series, both games were hard fought and the Yankees were able to win the second one when they eventually got past Cliff Lee. In the September series, the Yankees should have won the first two games, but lost both of them due to the bullpen blowing the lead.

In the games played in Texas, the Yankees and Rangers played playoff-caliber type games and many felt it could have been a glimpse of a playoff series. Now in October, it is a reality.

The projected lineups for each team are as follows:

Yankees Lineup

SS- Derek Jeter, .286

RF- Nick Swisher, .333

1B- Mark Teixeira, .308

3B- Alex Rodriguez, .273

2B- Robinson Cano, .333

C- Jorge Posada, .273

DH- Lance Berkman, .500/Marcus Thames, .286

CF- Curtis Granderson, .455

LF- Brett Gardner, .200

Rangers Lineup

SS- Elvis Andrus, .333

3B- Michael Young, .150

CF- Josh Hamilton, .111

DH- Vladimir Guerrero, .263

RF- Nelson Cruz, .400

2B- Ian Kinsler, .444

LF- David Murphy, .143

C- Bengie Molina, .357

1B- Mitch Moreland, .200

The pitching staffs will look as follows:

Yankees Starters

LHP- CC Sabathia

LHP- Andy Pettitte

RHP- Phil Hughes

RHP- A.J. Burnett

Yankees Relievers

RHP- Dustin Moseley

RHP- Sergio Mitre

LHP- Boone Logan

RHP- Joba Chamberlain

RHP- David Robertson

RHP- Kerry Wood

RHP- Mariano Rivera

Rangers Starters

LHP- Cliff Lee

LHP- C.J. Wilson

RHP- Colby Lewis

RHP- Tommy Hunter

Rangers Relievers

LHP- Derek Holland

RHP- Darren O’Day

LHP- Darren Oliver

RHP- Dustin Nippert

RHP- Alexi Ogando

RHP- Neftali Feliz

On offense, both teams look to have very good hitters in the lineup. The only difference is, this will be a first championship series for guys like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz, so they will be leaning on guys like Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina, who are playoff experienced.

While on the other side, this stage is nothing new to Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. For guys like Lance Berkman and Curtis Granderson, this is their first time being in the ALCS with the Yankees, although they have played in championship series in the past with the Astros and Tigers, which again, helps with the experience factor.

As far as pitching goes, Cliff Lee is perhaps the most dominant playoff starter over the last two years, now at 6-0, (4-0 in 2009). Lee won’t be able to start until Game 3 when the series heads back to Yankee Stadium, so it will be up to Wilson, Lewis and Hunter to try and step their games up.

While for the Yankees, Sabathia didn’t have his best performance, but the Yankees still won his game and he was the 2009 ALCS MVP, so Sabathia knows how to pitch well in these types of series.

After CC, Pettitte and Hughes both dominated the Twins in the second and third games. Pettitte is a seasoned veteran with the most playoff wins in history and is looking for more. Andy will not be scared of the playoff stage. Hughes, in his first playoff start, held Minnesota scoreless for seven innings and was dominant. Hughes needs to continue pitching that way.

For the Yankees, the “X-Factor” of the staff is A.J. Burnett, who is slated to pitch Game 4 of the ALCS, depending on how the series goes. Last year, Burnett was the Game 2 starter in every series and now, he isn’t even guaranteed a playoff start in 2010. He’s been so up and down that nobody knows which Burnett will show up, the one who can one-hit a team or give up six runs in two innings. If anything, Burnett does have the experience of pitching last season, so maybe it will help him if he does have to pitch in Game 4.

Bullpen-wise, both teams have stuck to a couple of relievers when they were in the ALDS. Texas stuck to Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver before going to Neftali Feliz in the close games, or they go to Derek Holland if a starter gets knocked out earlier than expected.

The Yankees have used Boone Logan, David Robertson and Kerry Wood before going to Mariano Rivera. Joba Chamberlain has yet to pitch for the Yankees and many wonder if he has really fallen out of favor with Joe Girardi.

Series Prediction

The Yankees seemed to have finally shrugged off the September struggles and gotten back on track for October baseball and it showed in the Twins series. Minnesota was outmatched and the Yankees are four games away from a return trip to the World Series. This is familiar territory for the Yankees and they are very confident going into the ALCS.

The Rangers are playing in their first-ever ALCS and won’t have their most dominant pitcher in Cliff Lee on the mound when it starts because they needed him for the fifth game against Tampa. Texas not having Lee until Game 3 really does not play into their favor, especially considering that Lewis and Hunter were ousted early against Tampa Bay.

In the series with the Rays, Texas used their free-swinging style to their advantage and got the Rays hitters to strike out a lot, but the Yankees are a different case. The Yankee hitters grind out at-bats and work counts better than any other team. If any of the Rangers starters don’t have their command, it will be a short night for them.

I’m not really sure if the Rangers are ready for an ALCS atmosphere, despite having Lee pitching for them. Many players just don’t live up to the bright lights and big stage of October and Texas has a lot of inexperience going for them, which hurts. If they were uptight about playing Tampa Bay in a Game 5, I can only wonder what they could feel like trying to play the Yankees with a trip to the Fall Classic on the line.

With a playoff-tested Yankees team ready, relaxed and well rested, this series looks to be in the Yankees’ favor, and in the end, the experience factor will prevail.

I am picking the Yankees to beat the Rangers four games to one and advance to their second straight World Series.

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