ALCS Preview: Angels vs. Yankees

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After convincing sweeps in Divisional Series play, the Angels and Yankees will meet in the ALCS. It’ll be the third postseason series in eight years for the teams. They never played in the first 31 years of the Angels’ existence, but they met in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005, with the Angels winning both series. In 2002, it was a high-scoring series in which the losing team plated at least five runs in all four games. The Angels lost Game 1, then rallied to win three straight, with Troy Glaus hitting three homers in the process.
The 2005 ALDS was remarkably close, with four of the five games being decided by one or two runs. Bengie Molina and Garret Anderson starred in that one, with the former hitting three homers and the latter driving in seven runs.
This is set to be the first seven-game series for the two teams, and MLB has seemingly given the Yankees a nice advantage by spreading the series over 10 days, rather than the traditional nine. That means the teams can go with three starters throughout, with just one pitcher ever starting on short rest.
2009 ALCS Probables
Game 1: John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia
Game 2: Joe Saunders vs. A.J. Burnett
Game 3: Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver
Game 4: CC Sabathia vs. Scott Kazmir
Game 5: A.J. Burnett vs. John Lackey
Game 6: Joe Saunders vs. Andy Pettitte
Game 7: Jered Weaver vs. CC Sabathia
Of course, that’s all tentative. But with ridiculously unnecessary extra day off, a pitcher can starts Games 2 and 5, Games 3 and 6 and Games 4 and 7 on normal rest. Sabathia will be going on short rest in Game 4, but he does have experience doing so.
The Angels probably wouldn’t receive the same advantage by bring Lackey back on short rest, so they’ll go with four starters. Unlike the Yankees, they’ve officially announced their starters through Game 4 as of this writing. It’s entirely possible that they’ll make a change and go with Kazmir in Game 7 if he outpitches Weaver. The Angels pushed Weaver back from Game 2 to Game 3 largely because of his excellent record at home. Game 7, though, will be back in Yankee Stadium and Kazmir would be able to start that one on normal rest.
Even with the heavy dose of CC, the rotation edge likely goes to the Angels. All of that Sabathia may not go as far as the Yankees are hoping anyway. The big left-hander lost both of his starts against the Angels this year, amassing a 6.08 ERA in the process. He’s 5-7 with a 4.72 ERA lifetime against them. Pettitte went 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts this year. Only Burnett was solid, going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA.
Of course, the Angels starters don’t have very good ERAs against the Yankees either. The exception is Kazmir, who went 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA versus the Bombers this season. He’s 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA lifetime. It’s one more good reason to think he’ll be the Game 7 starter if it gets that far.
The offenses
It’s a matchup of the AL’s top two offenses. The Yankees led the majors in runs, homers, OBP and slugging, while the Angels came in second in runs and first in average.
New Yankee Stadium did play a role in the power numbers, but not as large was one might expect. The Yankees still outhomered the Angels 108-83 in road games and outslugged them .466-.434. The two teams hit for the same .283 average on the road.
The Angels had to be as excited to see Vladimir Guerrero come up big in the ALDS as the Yankees were with Alex Rodriguez. Still, Chone Figgins’ extreme lack of production is a concern. He went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts against the Red Sox, leaving him at .182/.214/.273 in 99 at-bats over nine career postseason series.
Howie Kendrick will be another big factor in the series. He’s hit .427 with an 11/12 K/BB ratio in 108 career at-bats against the Yankees. As the starting second baseman against left-handers, he’s due to play in five of the seven games. However, he’s been flat-out brutal in the postseason, all against the Red Sox. In three series, he’s gone 5-for-32 with no extra-base hits and a 10/0 K/BB ratio. That’s a 308 OPS. If he gets off to a poor start, he’ll probably find himself on the bench in favor of Maicer Izturis.
The Yankees weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut versus the Twins. In fact, they were outhit 29-23 in the series, with the difference being that they outhomered the Twins 6-0 while scoring 15 runs between the three games. The important thing was that A-Rod got his groove on, going 5-for-11 with two homers. The Angels figure to try a different strategy against him than that of the Twins, who mostly opted to throw him fastballs over the heart of the plate.
Numbers
Season series tied 5-5
Angels outscored Yankees 65-55
Runs per game
Angels: 5.45
Yankees: 5.65
Runs allowed per game
Angels: 4.70
Yankees: 4.65
Bullpen ERA:
Angels: 4.49
Yankees: 3.91
Defensive efficiency
Angels: 17th in MLB
Yankees: 13th in MLB
Overrated angle
Jose Molina’s presence as the starting catcher for A.J. Burnett
As has been widely discussed, Burnett and Jorge Posada just don’t work very well together, and the Yankees opted to go with Molina as the catcher for Burnett in Game 2 of the ALDS. The pairing will be used again in the ALCS, but it shouldn’t play a huge role. Since the Yankees will keep carrying a third catcher in Francisco Cervelli, they won’t hesitate to have Posada replace Molina as soon as Burnett leaves his two starts.
The over/under for plate appearances for Molina in the ALCS is four. If he hits more than twice in either of his starts, it should mean that the Yankees have scored a bunch of runs or Burnett is working deep into the contest. He came up just once in his start against the Twins.
Underrated angle
The off day advantage for the Yankees.
The Yankees have the best starter. They have the best closer. They have the best setup man. And now they get to use all of them more than they might otherwise because MLB guaranteed itself a little extra revenue by sneaking in an extra off day between Games 4 and 5.
Prediction
Yankees in 6
The Angels should be able to claim a game in New York early with the seemingly even pitching matchups, but I can’t help but think they’ll need both if they’re going to pull off the upset. Weaver’s arsenal isn’t particularly well suited to keeping the Yankees in check, and the Yankees should have as much success against the Angels pen as they did versus Minnesota’s.
The Angels will probably need both Darren Oliver and Brian Fuentes to come up big if they’re going to have a chance. The pair threw four scoreless innings against the Red Sox, allowing just one hit in the process. However, the Yankees figure to put up better fights versus both and steal at least one game against them.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.