So, that was fairly easy. The mismatch that was the Twins-Yankees series played out much like expected, with the tired and undermanned Minnesota roster just not good enough to play with the best team in baseball. Had Justin Morneau been healthy or end of season schedule been a bit different, perhaps it would not have played out the same way, but given the circumstances, the Yankees essentially got a bye into the ALCS.
Unfortunately for New York, they won’t have the same advantage in their upcoming series. The Angels also made swift work of their opponents, dispatching the Red Sox in three games as well, meaning that both teams will be well rested for Game One of the ALCS on Friday. Let’s take a look at the probable pitching match-ups for the first three games of the series.
Game One, Angels at Yankees, Friday, October 16th
Game Two, Angels at Yankees, Saturday, October 17th
Game Three, Yankees at Angels, Monday, October 19th
No surprises here. Both teams will throw their top three starters, all of whom will be well rested since their appearances in the division series. The Yankees have the advantage in games one and three, while two is close to a push. New York has the advantage, but it’s not a huge one.
After those three games, though, the match-ups become a question mark, due to the off-day scheduling. There’s an off-day between the fourth and fifth games of the series, so if either team wanted to go with a three man rotation, they could do it while only having to use their #1 starter on short rest. This would line up both Sabathia and Lackey for regular rest starts in Game Seven as well.
Given the questions surrounding both Joe Saunders and Joba Chamberlain, this seems like an easy call. The expected drop-off of pitching on three days rest versus four days rest is almost certainly smaller than the expected drop-off from giving either Saunders or Chamberlain innings that would otherwise go to Sabathia or Lackey. I’d take a short rest Lackey over a full rest Saunders every day of the week, and I have to imagine so will Mike Scioscia.
So, expect both teams to go with just three starters for the ALCS, allowing them to employ larger bullpens and make more late game reliever swaps. If you’re a fan of long baseball games that go deep into the night, this ALCS should be for you – two good hitting clubs with a huge assortment of bullpen options and games that should be relatively competitive. It’s a recipe for 1 AM finishes.
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