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Sports Then and Now

Yankees and Angels Ride Brooms To The ALCS

Posted on October 12, 2009 by Don Spieles
Game 2 ALDS - Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels

Erick Aybar and the Angels swept the Red Sox to earn a date with the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

With Halloween approaching, it seems only fitting that the Angels and Yankees should ride brooms into the ALCS, sweeping Minnesota and Boston respectively.  Based on those performances, baseball fans are in for a postseason that is markedly different from the recent past.

The Angels, who have left the dance early in ’04, ’07, and ’08 – all to the Red Sox – finally found a way to beat the Boston bunch.  Pitching turned out to be the answer for the Halos, held the sometimes potent Boston line-up to a .186 batting average as they blew past them for a berth in the ALCS.

John Lackey and Jered Weaver, combined for some impressive numbers over the first two games.  A combined ERA of .062, 7.1 innings in each of their starts allowed only one single run. And while Darren Oliver’s game three performance was lack luster, the Angels put together a come-from-behind win, compliments of a timely single by Vlad Guerrero.

Guerrero played a part in the game two win as well.  Boston’s Josh Beckett, who had pitched excellently for the first six innings began to get in trouble when he walked Vlad in the seventh.  Of batters with over 400 plate appearances, Guerrero had the third fewest walks the league in 2009, garnering only 19 free passes.  His game two “BB” began a mini rally that eventually gave Anaheim the win.

For New York’s part, winning any playoff round is something new, at least recently.  Since their record setting collapse in 2004 when they blew a 3-0 lead over Boston in the ALCS, the Yankees had not won a single playoff series, losing in the ALDS in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

This year a win was particularly important after missing the playoffs all together in 2008, and also considering the huge contracts that the Yankees gave to players like C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira.

Yankees Posada homers during game 3 of the ALDS in Minneapolis

Jorge Posada powered the Yankees to victory over the Twins.

A win is just what they got over the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins, largely considered to be in over their heads after worming their way past Detroit and playing on very little rest in game one, did manage to make things a bit interesting.  They forced the Yankees to come from behind in game two, and, more importantly for New York, to get something out of a normally playoff vacant Alex Rodriguez.

Both things came about.  With a less than stellar performance from A.J. Burnett, the Yankees found themselves in a 3-1 whole as the innings grew to nine.  A-Rod, who hit .455 for the course of the three game series, cranked a two run blast off of closer Joe Nathan to tie the game.  This set the stage for Mark Teixeira to launch a walk-off jack in the 11th.

A game three gem from veteran Andy Pettitte sealed the fate of the Twins and set up what could be a very interesting ALCS between Anaheim and New York.

The Yankees and Angels split the season series at five games apiece, with the sure advantage going to the home team.  While this bodes well for the Yankees who have the home field advantage, the Angels pose the same problems for New York that they do for other teams – they run well.  The Yankees catching tandem is better in that regard than Boston’s, but not by much. Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez posted a combined 13.5% for catching runners stealing.  Jose Molina Jorge Posada each posted 28% (a career low for Molina.) The Yankees catchers, while very respectable, will still find themselves challenged by Anaheim’s speed.

Also, over the two previous seasons the Yankees are 14-6 against the Angels. While this year’s Yankee squad differs greatly from those in 2007 and 2008, baseball is a history conscious sport and is so for good reason.

Don Spieles is a regular contributor to Sports Then and Now.

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