So much time off between playoff series may have its drawbacks — momentum is lost, hot hitters like Curtis Granderson are more likely to cool off — but it comes with more than enough advantages, too. It’s almost a week of rest for a team that entered the postseason with all sorts of nicks and bruises, and, of course, it allows the Yankees to set up their rotation exactly how they’d like it. As always: Our sincerest thanks, Minnesota.
Factor in that Texas doesn’t have the luxury of properly setting up their rotation, and the Yankees are in the best possible position as the ALCS gets set to begin tonight. Does it, in a way, place more pressure on CC Sabathia (and for that matter, Phil Hughes) to win games early before you-know-who pitches on Monday? Yeah, probably. But the Yankees would sign up for this arrangement ten times out of ten.
Speaking of Sabathia: He’ll face a lineup of eight righties and one Josh Hamilton tonight — yes, Jeff Francoeur will be among them — and though we’re quite certain baseball players can’t be wired to specifically excel in the middle of the three playoff rounds, it’s hard to forget how dominant Sabathia was last year against the Angels. The Rangers may have the unbeatable Cliff Lee, but the Yankee ace isn’t so bad himself. Some quick match-up notes: Ian Kinsler is two for nine lifetime against Sabathia, but both hits were home runs; Michael Young (12 for 38 with four doubles) has had success against Sabathia in the past, as well. Facing Sabathia tonight will be C.J. Wilson, whom you can read all about right here. The Yankees lineup, incidentally, looks exactly as you’d imagine it would.
This series isn’t lacking for story lines, but you can bet TBS plays up the tired “Alex Rodriguez used to play for Texas and now everyone there hates him” angle. More important, however, is the “Alex Rodriguez didn’t have an extra-base hit in the ALDS” angle. But one of the great things about the post-2009 Yankees is that latter fact no longer stands as evidence that Rodriguez isn’t a clutch hitter, or some nonsense like that. (Also, this year’s ALDS is an awfully small sample size. Once again, thanks go out to the Twins.) Instead, knowing now full well how dangerous he can be in October, it means that the Yankees have yet another gear that we haven’t seen in these playoffs thus far.