Fear Itself



The Yankees will face the Angels in the 2009 ALCS

With Game One of the American League Championship Series looming and the Yankees in a position they haven’t been in since 2004, the Bronx Bombers are set to square off with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night.

And I have to admit, I am a little scared. But I suppose as a wise man (namely F.D.R.) once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 


The Yanks eliminated the Twins in the first round of the playoffs twice before in recent years (2003-04) and history repeated itself in 2009. The Yankees also had the Twins’ number during the regular season, beating them seven times without losing.


It’s safe to say the history vs. the Twins proved that the edge went to the Yankees in the ALDS. But the Yanks’ history vs. the Angels for the ALCS…not so much in their favor.


In 2002, the Halos took care of the Yankees in four games in the ALDS while in 2005 they took out the Yankees in five games. Not to mention the Yankees are 44-56 vs. the Angels since 2000 and have only won four season series against the Halos since 1987.


The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in the past, that’s for sure.


Consider this: in 2002, the Yankees took game one of the ALDS from the Angels, but after that totally disintegrated. Andy Pettitte had one of his worst postseason starts in game two, and in game three Mike Mussina was beat up and smacked around, blowing a 6-1 Yankee lead.


The Angels had all the momentum after game three, just lit up David Wells in the fifth inning of game four, and went on to knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round. It was also the first time the Angels won a postseason series and they went on to win the World Series in ’02, beating the San Francisco Giants.


There’s no questioning the fact that the Angels just walked all over the Yankees in 2002.


In 2005, the Yankees relied heavily on old and injured players, along with a little bit of an inexperienced outfield. After trading victories in the first two games, Randy Johnson gave up five runs in the first three innings of game three.


The Yankees made their way back to a 6-5 lead, only to have it squirreled away by relievers Aaron Small and Tom Gordon. The Bombers obviously lost game three.


Game four was a thriller; the Yankees won by scoring two runs in the seventh inning with RBI singles from Derek Jeter and good, old Ruben Sierra. Then it was time for the decisive game five.


In the final game, Mussina followed the lead of the Big Unit in game three, allowing five runs in three innings. Plus, center fielder Bubba Crosby collided with right fielder Gary Sheffield, costing the Yankees big time. Bad defense hurt the Yankees in game five and they were never able to catch up.



Bubba Crosby collided with Gary Sheffield, an error that cost the Yankees in 2005 


I’ll never forget the words after that series ending, 2005 ALDS game five loss; one of the announcers said something like, “The Yankees’ $hundred million payroll comes up just a couple bucks short.”


I hated that quote. It infuriated me.


But in all honesty, the Angels outplayed the Yankees in the ’05 ALDS. They outscored them 25-20, out-hit them 46-42, and the Yankees made six defensive errors in that series. The Angels only committed one.


I hate to say it, but the Yankees had no business winning that series.


In 2005, the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs by the Angels in the ALDS 

If you check your calendar though, it’s 2009, not 2005. And only 11 players from those 2005 rosters remain with the Yankees and Angels.    


Along with the history, there are still numbers standing in front of the Yankees. Jeter has a measly batting average against two of the Angels’ four starters; against Scott Kazmir, Jeter owns a lifetime batting average of .111. Against Jered Weaver, the Yankee captain is .118.


That’s not very good, especially considering Jeter is the leadoff hitter, or “table-setter” for the Yankees.


And then there’s CC Sabathia, who will be making quite a few starts in this series since the Yankees have opted to go with a three-man rotation. If skipper Joe Girardi sticks with his idea of a three man rotation, Sabathia would pitch games one, four, and seven. (Game four he would be throwing on three days rest)



CC Sabathia will pitch on three days rest for the first time since 2008 

I think if the Yankees lose this series, everyone will jump on Girardi about the decision to go with a three-man rotation. It will be under heavy scrutiny, no matter what.


Sabathia is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA vs. the Angels in 2009 and is 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA vs. LA lifetime. That’s not a promising sign, if you ask me.


But also think about some of Sabathia’s numbers against individual hitters. Gary Matthews, Jr. (one of the Angels’ key players) is 5-for-26 lifetime vs. the Yankee ace with 10 strikeouts. Vladimir Guerrero, another hitter who makes the Angels go, has not hit Sabathia well. Guerrero is just 3-for-15 lifetime against the big lefty.


Sabathia is also 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA at home this year, which is good because the Yankees have home field advantage in the ALCS. If the series reaches a game seven, he would make the start at Yankee Stadium.


Game two starter A.J. Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, and the last time he faced the Halos on Sept. 23, the tall, lanky right hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs while fanning 11 batters.


There’s a stat that works in the Yankees’ favor.


The Angels will most likely send Joe Saunders to the mound for game two. Although Saunders has not pitched since Oct. 4 (the last day of the regular season) he went 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts after coming back in August from a shoulder injury.


Even though the Angels have dominated the Yankees in the past, the Yanks’ hitting has done some good work against the Angels in the past, too.


Although Jeter has not had much success against the Angels’ expected game three starter (Weaver) Alex Rodriguez has dominated him. In his career, A-Rod is 5-for-15 with four homers off Weaver. And Girardi should keep Eric Hinske in the back of his mind, as Hinske is 4-for-11 with a homer off Weaver.


A-Rod has four career homers off game two hurler Jered Weaver 


Game three will take place at Angel Stadium of Anaheim with Pettitte starting against Weaver.


Pettitte struggled this year, going 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA at Angel Stadium. Not good, especially since game three is in Anaheim. The Yankees also need to watch out for Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar, Guerrero and Matthews, who all own averages well over .300 lifetime vs. Pettitte.



Andy Pettitte is 6-1 lifetime in the ALCS 

On the bright side, Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA against the Angels in his career, six of those wins coming in Anaheim. Oh, and by the way, he is 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA in the ALCS. Pettitte is what everyone says he is: a big game pitcher in the postseason.  


Kazmir is expected to start game four and is 2-1 vs. New York this year, but the only loss came after he was traded from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles. He will obviously be facing Sabathia, in accordance to the Yankees’ three-man rotation.


Scott Kazmir is 2-1 vs. the Yankees this year 


So despite some negativity in history and numbers that work against the Yankees, there is some positive history and numbers that work for the Yankees.


This year the Angels and Yankees split the 10 games they played against each other; the Yankees won five against the Angels and vice-versa.  


But I’m sure Girardi and his Yankees are not thinking about the past or the history between their team and the Angels. They are focusing on the task at hand, which is beating the Angels and then reaching (and hopefully winning) the World Series.


It’s going to be tough. The Angels and Yankees were the two best teams in the American League all year, so I think it’s only fitting that they meet in the ALCS. There’s more margin for error in this series, it being seven games and all. But still, I hope to see the Yankees come out on top when the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled.


After all, the Angels finally stopped their playoff losing streak vs. the Red Sox, beating them in the ALDS. Maybe now it’s the Yankees’ turn to stop their playoff losing streak vs. the Angels in the ALCS.


“To be honest, I think they look down on us. They have had their way with us for some time and now we have something to prove to them. It’s not the other way around.”–Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman


Looks like even the Yankee management knows what’s at stake here.


Well, see you Friday for ALCS Game One (Weather permitting; Friday’s forecast for the Bronx: a high of 45 degrees with an 80% chance of rain…I hope they can get this game in!)


Until then, Go Yankees!!!

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