ALCS Game One: Yankees @ Rangers

Six long days after the Yankees dispatched the Twins with ease in the ALDS, the ALCS is finally ready to get underway. For comparison’s sake, just five years ago the White Sox and Angels were already playing Game Four of the ALCS on this date. Something has to happen with all of these off days, two between the LDS and LCS even if it goes the full five games is just too much. It’s baseball, these guys are used to playing every day. Anyway, the wait is over and the Yankees are four wins away from their second consecutive World Series.

Unlike the Yanks, the Rangers aren’t able to send their ace to the mound in the Game One. Cliff Lee had to take care of business in Game Five of the ALDS just to get them here, and he’ll be on the shelf until Game Three on Monday. Getting the ball in his place is another very good lefty, the former closer C.J. Wilson. He described himself as a lesser version of Lee in a press conference of last series, and it’s true. He’ll throw any of his four pitches at any time, all of which are solid but not knockout offerings like Lee, and his command isn’t on the same level either. Then again, whose is? He will walk himself into trouble, so pay attention to his pitch count and the quality of the at-bats early on. If the Yanks are working deep counts the first time through the order, they’re going to do some serious damage the next time around.

CC Sabathia gets the ball for New York, just as planned. He last pitched nine days ago, and overall has thrown just six innings and 111 pitches in the last 17 days. He adjusted his routine from the last long layoff, throwing an extra bullpen as well as another flat ground session. CC said he was too strong against the Twins in Game One of the ALDS, leading to command issues that hindered him all start. Hopefully the extra work in the interim helped him stay sharp. Again, watch the at-bats early. If Sabathia has quick innings and avoids deep counts early on, he’ll be on cruise control soon enough.

Make sure you check out Joe’s preview at FanGraphs, ditto Jeff Zimmerman’s for Texas. Here are the lineups…

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robbie Cano, 2B
6. Marcus Thames, DH
7. Jorge Posada, C
8. Curtis Granderson, CF
9. Brett Gardner, LF

CC Sabathia, SP (21-7, 3.18 ERA)

1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Vlad Guerrero, DH
5. Nelson Cruz, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Jeff Francoeur, RF
8. Matt Treanor, C
9. Jorge Cantu, 1B

C.J. Wilson, SP (15-8, 3.35 ERA)

First pitch is scheduled for 8:00pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Rangers will attempt Death By LOOGY in ALCS

Earlier today the Rangers made a pair of small changes to their playoff roster, dropping righty Dustin Nippert and infielder Esteban German in favor of lefty relievers Michael Kirkman and Clay Rapada. Their bullpen is now seven men deep, with four lefties (Kirkman, Rapada, Darren Oliver, and Derek Holland) and just three righties (Neftali Feliz, Darren O’Day, and Alexi Ogando). Apparently Ron Washington’s plan is to LOOGY the Yankees to death in the ALCS.

Have a shutdown lefty reliever or two is a great weapon in postseason play, but four? It would make sense if the Yanks had a lefty lineup, but on most days they’re split up evenly with three righties, three lefties, and three switch hitters. When Lance Berkman starts at designated hitter, then it’s four switch hitters and two righties. Still, Robbie Cano and Brett Gardner don’t have significant platoon splits, and while Curtis Granderson does, he has improved in that area over the last few months. I’m not sure I get it, but hey, if four of their seven best relievers are lefties, so be it.

More than anything, I’m guess I’m just preemptively annoyed at all the inevitable pitching changes and additional commercial breaks. Grumble grumble.

Hello, Texas. We’ve met before, haven’t we?

Ben Shpigel doesn’t think we should remember the eight games the Yankees and Rangers played against each other this season. Because three of them were in April and three were in September when the Yanks’ regulars weren’t playing, the games, he said in The Times earlier this week, don’t tell us much about the impending ALCS match-up.

As Shpigel notes of the September series, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes did not make a start while Nick Swisher had a bum knee, Jorge Posada a concussion and Brett Gardner a sore hand. The Yankees were left short-handed, and Joe Girardi kept giving the ball, infuriatingly enough, to Chad Gaudin. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera managed to blow a game by hitting Jeff Francoeur with a pitch. It was Bizarro Baseball down in Arlington.

Yet, here we are on the precipice of the ALCS, and these two teams did indeed face each other eight times this year. The Yankees won four out of the first five match-ups before the Rangers subjected the Bombers to the club’s first three-game sweep on the road this year. The clubs played four consecutive one-run games in August and September, and although the players don’t want to read too much into the season series, we’ll take a look at it anyway.

In April, CC shut down the Rangers. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

April 16, 2010: Yankees 5, Rangers 1 (in 6 innings) (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: CC Sabathia
LP: C.J. Wilson
HR: None

The season series started out with a whimper as the Yankees rolled over the Rangers in a rain-shortened game. The best part about this game was a gem Mike penned in our recap: “It’s so easy to like Cervelli with his big doofy helmet and all out hustle and infectious energy, so it was fun to see him single in a run after Granderson’s fielder’s choice.” Fun note: At the time, Nelson Cruz was the AL leader in HR, RBI, slugging and OPS, and little did we realize that these two pitchers would eventually match up against each other in the first game of the American League Championship Series.

April 17, 2010: Yankees 7, Rangers 3 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: A.J. Burnett
LP: Scott Feldman
HR: Nelson Cruz, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez

The second game saw the Yanks behind a solid A.J. Burnett leap out to a quick 5-0 lead they would never give up. After a few weeks of futility, Alex Rodriguez launched his first home run of the season against his former team, and the only bad part of this game was Alfredo Aceves‘ 0.1-inning, three-earned run appearance. The Yankees were rolling.

April 18, 2010: Yankees 5, Rangers 2 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Andy Pettitte
LP: Rich Harden
SV: Mariano Rivera
HR: Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada

Entering this game, Mark Teixeira was batting .100 with an OPS barely above .400, but he took advantage of an ineffective Rich Harden in the third inning. His solo shot was also his first of the season, and it took came against his former teammates. Andy Pettitte went eight strong for his second win of the season as the Yanks wrapped up a tidy three-game sweep of the Rangers in the Bronx. Texas would, of course, return the favor in Arlington a few months later, but these two teams would go nearly four months between meetings.

August 10, 2010: Rangers 4, Yankees 3 (in 10 innings) (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Neftali Feliz
LP: Mariano Rivera
HR: Alex Rodriguez, David Murphy

This game marked a string of five games against the Rangers that were, by and large, not very much fun. A.J. Burnett, mired in a terrible slump, threw seven innings of three-run ball, but C.J. Wilson held his own. The Yanks rallied off of Frank Francisco to tie the game on an a-bomb from A-Rod, but Mariano Rivera gave up the game in the 10th. The Yanks went just 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on.

August 11, 2010: Yankees 7, Rangers 6 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Kerry Wood
LP: Neftali Feliz
SV: Mariano Rivera
HR: Marcus Thames, Michael Young

The Bombers rebounding from their extra-inning loss with a thrilling game against Cliff Lee. While the southpaw struck out 11, the Yanks touched him up for four runs in just 6.1 innings. Staked to a 6-1 lead, Lee and the Rangers bullpen coughed it up. The Yanks scored twice in the seventh, once in the eight and twice in the ninth against closer Neftali Feliz to grab the game. Rivera made it exciting when Elvis Andrus tripled to lead off the inning, but Mo retired Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vlad to escape that jam.

Yuck. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

September 10, 2010: Rangers 6, Yankees 5 (in 13 innings) (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Scott Feldman
LP: Chad Gaudin
HR: Nelson Cruz (2)

September 11, 2010: Rangers 7, Yankees 6 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Alexi Ogando
LP: Mariano Rivera
HR: None

It’s quite possible that no two games over the course of the Yankee season were as irksome as this pair. The Yanks went 25 for 87 with 18 walks over 21 innings. That’s the equivalent of a .287 batting average and a whopping .421 on-base percentage. But just five of their 25 hits went for extra bases, and the Bombers left a whopping 32 men on base. On Friday night, the Yanks went 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position and left 18 men on base. On Saturday, the team went 3 for 13 with 14 runners on base. Somehow, Chad Gaudin managed to pitch poorly in both games. No one wants to see that happen again.

September 12, 2010: Rangers 4, Yankees 1 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Cliff Lee
LP: Dustin Moseley
SV: Neftali Feliz
HR: None

Cliff Lee faced Dustin Moseley, and the Yanks managed just two hits. No one was surprised.

Banuelos solid in first AzFL start

Apologies for the lack of DotF the last two nights, somehow the Desert Dogs got sucked into two night games this early in the Arizona Fall League season. So late games plus different time zones, yadda yadda yadda, you get the point, the games ended very late. Let’s get you caught up…

Phoenix Desert Dogs (6-3 win over Mesa on Wednesday)
Manny Banuelos: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 29 of 49 pitches were strikes (59.2%) … these starts are short by design, so don’t worry about … starters are limited to five innings max, and something like 75 pitches … they do that just to make sure there’s enough innings to go around

Keith Law was on hand for Banuelos’ start, and posted his take on the lefty yesterday. It’s Insider only, but here’s the good stuff …

… showed a good combination of above-average stuff and command and an easy delivery. He worked at 90-93 mph, locating the pitch to both sides of the plate, with a straight change at 79-81 with very good arm speed. His curveball has an 11/5 break and good depth, and he commanded the pitch about as well as he did the fastball, throwing it for quality strikes and putting it below the zone as needed. He throws from a three-quarters slot and the ball comes out of his hand very easily and deceptively quickly. He’s 5-foot-11 but well-built, certainly strong enough to be a starter; the only concern I’d have off this look was that hitters did square up his fastball when he came toward the middle of the zone, as the pitch has some downhill plane but not much lateral movement.

Banuelos is the Yankees’ best pitching prospect in my opinion, but really we’re just splitting hairs between him, Andrew Brackman, and Dellin Betances. I give Manny the edge because he’s the only one without a major arm injury in his recent past. As for yesterday’s game…

Phoenix Desert Dogs (5-1 win over Scottsdale on Thursday)
Austin Romine, C: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 SB – he even stole a base, look at that
Brandon Laird, LF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K – I’d love to know how the outfield experiment is going, but it’s still too early to say much of anything … he might not have even had a ball hit his way yet
Jose Pirela, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Ryan Pope: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB, 1 WP – 13 of his 20 pitches were strikes … he’s got a lot on the line in the AzFL, basically a 40-man roster spot and a shot at a big league job next spring, whether it’s with the Yankees or not

Some (all?) of the AzFL parks are equipped with the PitchFX cameras and what not, so now it’s just a matter of pulling the data. Brooks had it last year, but he’s away getting married and might not have it for a while, if it all. I could pull it myself, but I’d rather do it all in one shot at the end of the season. We’ll see.