Even after they announced that they’d use a four-man rotation in the ALCS, the Yankees could have ordered their starters any number of ways: Tack A.J. Burnett onto the end of the ALDS rotation; start CC Sabathia in Games 1, 4, and 7, and pitch Burnett in Game 5; or flip-flop Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, and then tack Burnett on at the end. Yesterday, they announced that they’ll go with Option 3. In order, the Yankees will start Sabathia, Hughes, Pettitte, and Burnett in Games 1 through 4 against Texas.
Why this order? A few reasons: It allows them to split their left-handed pitchers against a lineup with a lot of right-handed bats, thus alternating lefties and righties for all seven games. It allows Phil Hughes to start on the road — overall, he’s pitched better this year away from Yankee Stadium — and more specifically, allows him to pitch at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where in fifteen-and-a-third innings over three games, he’s allowed just three hits and no runs. (That includes his 2007 injury-shortened no-hit bid in just his second big-league start.) Hughes’s terrific outing in Game 3 against the Twins likely made their decision just that much easier.
And, of course, if the series goes to a Game 7 — one in which the Rangers would be lined up to pitch Cliff Lee — the Yankees can counter with the veteran Pettitte.