American League Division Series

October 01, 2002|By Roch Kubatko

Anaheim Angels vs. New York Yankees

Schedule (best of five)

Today: Anaheim (Jarrod Washburn 18-6) at New York (Roger Clemens 13-6), 8:17 p.m. (chs. 45, 5)

Tomorrow: Anaheim (Kevin Appier 14-12) at New York (Andy Pettitte 13-5), 8:17 p.m. (chs. 45, 5)

Friday: New York (Mike Mussina 18-10) at Anaheim (Ramon Ortiz 15-9), 8:17 p.m. (chs. 45, 5)

Saturday*: New York (David Wells 19-7) at Anaheim (John Lackey 9-4)

Sunday*: Anaheim (Washburn) at New York (Clemens)

*-if necessary; times TBA

Matchups

Starting lineup: Anaheim might be the scrappiest team in baseball, with leadoff man David Eckstein (.293) its poster child. He has been the Angels' catalyst, helping them lead the league in hitting. They lack a true marquee player but get lots of production from outfielders Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad and third baseman Troy Glaus. Anderson tied his career high with 123 RBIs, and Glaus matched his career high with 111. The lineup is littered with unsung heroes such as first baseman Scott Spiezio, second baseman Adam Kennedy (.312) and DH Brad Fullmer - players who have created a chemistry that works. But the fear factor belongs to the Yankees, who are dangerous throughout a lineup that includes MVP candidates Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi. And let's not forget Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Raul Mondesi, Robin Ventura and Nick Johnson. It borders on ridiculous.

Starting pitching: Is there a matchup here that favors the Angels? Washburn (3.15 ERA) has won more games than Clemens, but a Game 1 assignment could prove overwhelming. And Clemens is 27-8 with a 2.50 ERA lifetime against Anaheim. The Yankees are so deep, their 19-game winner doesn't appear until Game 4. They're so deep, Orlando Hernandez has been assigned to the bullpen despite a 3-0 career record in the ALDS and 9-2 in the playoffs. Jeff Weaver joins him there, and left-hander Sterling Hitchcock has been excluded from the roster. The Yankees' starters have a vast knowledge of postseason play, but the Angels have been cramming for an unfamiliar test. Appier is the only member of the 25-man roster who has been in the playoffs, going 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in two ALDS starts with Oakland in 2000. Ortiz ranked among the league leaders with 162 strikeouts.

Bullpen: The Yankees have gotten Mariano Rivera healthy, a critical issue if they are going to return to the World Series. He might be the best ever, especially in October. And unlike last season, manager Joe Torre can call upon Steve Karsay instead of unreliable Mark Wohlers and Jay Witasick. A very deep unit includes Hernandez, Weaver, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton (club-record 79 appearances). The Angels are more anonymous, but it suits them - their 2.98 bullpen ERA led the AL. Closer Troy Percival (40 saves) is the most recognizable face, and he's legit. But manager Mike Scioscia is gambling by keeping only one left-hander - Scott Schoeneweis - and five right-handers. With Dennis Cook inactive, this could present some matchup problems in the late innings.

Bench: Assuming Rondell White starts in left field for the Yankees, Juan Rivera will be available to pinch-hit. So will Shane Spencer, who demonstrated over the weekend that he's recovered from a hamstring injury. Johnson might not start Game 1 because of the left-handed Washburn, but he'll get plenty of at-bats in this series. Enrique Wilson can fill in for Ventura at third base. Scioscia won't hesitate to use Orlando Palmeiro, Benji Gil, Shawn Wooten, Alex Ochoa and Jose Molina. In his system, everyone stays busy. Infielder Chone Figgins also has been included on the ALDS roster.

Outlook: Anaheim won a club-record 99 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 1986. The Angels finished 41 games out of first place last season, a turnaround that hasn't been matched since 1899 and should earn Scioscia Manager of the Year honors. Since 1998, the Angels have the AL's only winning record against the Yankees, 24-21. That's the good stuff. But how will the Angels, even with the league's second-best staff ERA, handle such a potent Yankees lineup or compensate for New York's enormous edge in postseason experience (465 games' worth)? The Yankees, with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, appear too deep and too ready.

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