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ALCS Game 5 Preview: New York Yankees

For the first time since 2007 the Yankees face an elimination game in the postseason. They were able to stay alive one more day in that series, no thanks to a gimpy Roger Clemens, but ended up losing the next game. This year the task is a bit greater. In 2007 they were down two games to none in the ALDS, with two home games before a potential return trip to Cleveland. This year they have one more game at home before potentially returning to Texas. Even if they do win the next two, they have a return date with Cliff Lee waiting for them on Saturday.

Today, though, they’ll send their ace to the mound. CC Sabathia has been a bit shaky in his first two 2010 postseason starts, though he has a ready-made excuse. His start on October 15th was his second in 17 days, which constitutes far more rest than he gets during the regular season; the Yankees even lined him up on fairly regular rest after the All-Star Break. But today, October 20th, he’s on his normal four days’ rest. Everything is in order and his team’s season is on the line. There are no excuses.

C.J. Wilson pitched well through seven innings last time, allowing just four hits and walking two. But instead of turning to his setup crew, Ron Washington sent out Wilson, who had thrown under 100 pitches, for the eighth. He and the next three relievers failed to record an out. By the time Derek Holland finally got the first one the Yankees had already taken the lead. Wilson did avoid walking too many hitters, which helped him hold down the Yankees through seven. This time perhaps his bullpen will better support him.

We don’t have stats that measure momentum; we don’t have stats that capture a team’s confidence. We don’t, in short, have stats that offer any insight into any single game. We can use our numbers to set expectations, and in that way we should expect a quality game this afternoon. But in the postseason, with emotions at a season high, it’s tough to expect anything. The Yankees’ offense could rebound. It could bomb. Wilson could go back to walking too many guys and allow five runs. He could repeat his Game 1 performance. It’s frustrating from an analytical standpoint, but it’s true.

The real preview for Game 5: watch it and enjoy it. No amount of analysis can prepare you for what you’re going to see.