By Michael Tapia
The ALCS is here and the 27-time World Series Champion New York Yankees will face off against the upstart Texas Rangers this Friday evening.
As division winners, the Rangers earned the right to home field advantage, which means the series first two games will be in Texas. The following three games will be played in NY, while the last two will be back in Arlington. The regular season series split at four games apiece – with the Yankees sweeping the first three games series at Yankee Stadium – splitting at Texas, and the Rangers sweeping the final series at the Ballpark in Arlington. With those numbers, it’s difficult to pick an overwhelming favorite.
An interesting aspect of this series will be how the pitching match-ups play out. Due to the Tampa/Texas series extending to Game 5, the Rangers will not start their ace Cliff Lee until game three because they want to pitch him on full rest. The Yankees have opted to swap their Game 2 and 3 starters, which means that Phil Hughes (Game 2) and Andy Petitte (Game 3) will reverse the previous rounds order. The Yankees will feature CC Sabathia in Game 1 on Friday and A.J. Burnett in Game 4. The Rangers will open the series with C.J. Wilson followed by Colby Lewis, Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter.
It will be interesting to see the Yankees win against Cliff Lee who has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason. Another interesting factor will be Burnett’s performance and his ability to win. For those two reasons, many analysts argue that Burnett should have been simply matched up against Lee. By matching up Lee and Burnett in different games, the Yankees are potentially setting themselves up for three losses. Luckily, for the Yankees, this is a best out of seven series, so three games will not be enough to get the Rangers to the next round.
Although the Yankees do have the pitching advantage, they will need to look out for clever players like Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz who have been red hot lately. Also, we can’t forget about offensive threats like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. For the Yankees to succeed, they will have to contain the Rangers’ offense to a minimum; as their pitching was dismantled by Texas in their last series. On the other hand, the Yankees will need sluggers like Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada to produce as well as contact hitters like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. The offense driven Rangers do have the potential to beat the Yankees, but experience will play a big role in this series.
Because success in the postseason is so dependent on pitching and the Yankees have the advantage, Cliff Lee not being able to pitch the first game will give the Yankees a shot at a 28th world title, in a series that should go 7 games.
Please check back tomorrow for the NLCS preview.