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ANGELS VS. NEW YORK YANKEES

HOW THEY MATCH UP

Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna breaks down the Angel-Yankee series:

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Oct. 5, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 05, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Major League baseball -- A chart in Tuesday’s Sports section that rated how the Angels match up against the New York Yankees said Hideki Matsui led Yankee regulars with a .315 average with runners in scoring position. Gary Sheffield led the team in that category with a .364 average.

* First base: Darin Erstad is a Gold Glove winner with no fear of diving for a grounder or crashing into a railing in front of a dugout to catch a foul pop. Though he lacks the power of a prototypical first baseman, he has a history of elevating his play in the postseason, batting .370 with nine runs batted in in 19 games. Jason Giambi’s resurgence after spending last winter under the cloud of a steroid scandal gave the Yankee offense a huge boost, and Tino Martinez has provided veteran stability at the position.

Edge: Yankees

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* Second base: Adam Kennedy is a top-notch defender with outstanding range and the ability to turn tough double plays, and his .354 on-base percentage has given the Angels another table-setter out of the No. 9 spot. Kennedy recovered enough from off-season knee surgery to steal 19 bases in 23 attempts. Robinson Cano is a top rookie-of-the-year candidate who made such an impression on the Yankees that he batted second for a while this summer before being dropped in the order.

Edge: Angels

* Third base: Alex Rodriguez hits for average and power and stole 21 bases, and the former shortstop is a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman. Against right-handers, the Angels will start utility player Chone Figgins at third. Figgins, who led the major leagues with 62 stolen bases, has become a proficient defender and, more important, has become one of the game’s most effective leadoff hitters. Against Randy Johnson, the only left-hander expected to start for the Yankees, the Angels will go with Robb Quinlan, a rough-around-the-edges defender with offensive upside, or Maicer Izturis.

Edge: Yankees

* Shortstop: Not only is Orlando Cabrera one of the most consistent and reliable defensive shortstops in the game, he has the experience of playing in the toughest postseason conditions, having helped the Red Sox end their epic drought and win their first World Series since 1918 last October. But no major league shortstop has as much playoff experience as Derek Jeter, who has anchored the Yankee infield since 1996 and has been one of baseball’s best big-game performers since.

Edge: Yankees

* Catcher: Bengie Molina has done a masterful job handling an Angel pitching staff that finished with a 3.68 earned-run average, third-best in the league, and has provided considerable offense, doing some of his best work in the clutch. Yankee catcher Jorge Posada is a switch-hitter with some power, but he had trouble controlling the running game of the Angels, who were successful on 21 of 27 stolen-base attempts in 10 games against the Yankees.

Edge: Angels

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* Left field: It appears Garret Anderson, relegated to designated hitter because of stiffness in his lower back in late September, will be sound enough to play left field, which could bode well for the Angels. The veteran is a .314 hitter with 16 home runs and 81 RBIs as an outfielder this season and .199 hitter with one homer and 15 RBIs as a DH. The Yankees’ Hideki Matsui has emerged as one of the league’s top run-producers and closed the season with 12 hits in his last 24 at-bats. He led Yankee regulars with a .315 average with runners in scoring position.

Edge: Yankees

* Center field: Steve Finley was a huge bust after signing a two-year, $14-million deal with the Angels last winter, but the 40-year-old veteran, who probably will start against right-handers, hit two big late September home runs to key a pair of Angel victories and plays a solid center field. Against Johnson, Figgins, who has been shaky at times in center, will start in the outfield. Bernie Williams’ long and distinguished Yankee career is about to come to a close, and he has slipped on offense and defense. That’s why Bubba Crosby, a better defensive player, will see plenty of action in center.

Edge: Angels

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* Right field: The Angels have one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters in the free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero, who slipped a bit from his most-valuable-player season in 2004 but still was a force in 2005. Guerrero, who has one of baseball’s strongest outfield arms, also had more walks (61) than strikeouts (48) and led the league with 26 intentional walks. Gary Sheffield, a vicious line-drive hitter, was even more productive for the Yankees, but because he is so well-protected in the lineup, he was intentionally walked only seven times.

Edge: Angels

* Starting pitching: For years, the Angels lamented the lack of a dominant starter to lead the rotation; this season they have two, ace Bartolo Colon, the AL’s leading Cy Young Award candidate, and right-hander John Lackey, who had 199 strikeouts. There also is quality depth with right-hander Paul Byrd and left-hander Jarrod Washburn. Yankee ace Johnson, who threw 123 pitches Saturday against Boston, is expected to get only one division series start, which means the Yankees will be relying on Mike Mussina, who has had elbow problems, rookie Chien-Ming Wang and playoff neophyte Shawn Chacon.

Edge: Angels

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* Bullpen: Closer Francisco Rodriguez, who has one of baseball’s nastiest sliders, has converted 45 of 50 save opportunities, including his last 18 dating to Aug. 5, and setup man Scot Shields appears to have regained his form after a rocky August. Since returning from elbow surgery in September, former starter Kelvim Escobar has a 1.89 ERA in nine relief appearances and took pressure off Rodriguez and Shields. The Yankees’ Mariano Rivera is still baseball’s best closer, despite blowing the save in the pivotal fourth game of the AL championship series against the Red Sox last October.

Edge: Angels

* DH/Bench: Ruben Sierra can provide pinch-hit power from both sides of the plate in the DH spot, speedy Tony Womack is available as a pinch-runner, and Mark Bellhorn’s postseason experience could be valuable to the Yankees. Juan Rivera, who started the last 17 games of the season, batting .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs, will DH for the Angels and spell Anderson in left when needed, and left-handed Casey Kotchman and the right-handed Quinlan are attractive pinch-hit options. Backup catcher Jose Molina is a top-notch defender.

Edge: Angels

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* Manager: With the Angels lacking power all season, Mike Scioscia has had to push the envelope on offense, relying even more on “little ball” and the stolen base and often starting runners from first to avoid double plays. With right-handers, including several who have had considerable success against left-handed batters, in his top four bullpen spots, Scioscia’s pitching changes are usually dictated more by situations than individual matchups. Joe Torre has guided the Yankees to eight consecutive AL East championships and four World Series titles since 1996, and his ability to remain calm in the eye of the media storm that surrounds the Yankees in October seems to have a soothing effect on his players.

Edge: Even

* Mike DiGiovanna’s prediction: Angels in five games.

*

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Best-of-five series; all times Pacific (x-if necessary)

TUESDAY, 5:15 P.M., CHANNEL 11

* New York (Mike Mussina 13-8) at Angels (Bartolo Colon 21-8)

WEDNESDAY, 7 P.M., ESPN, CHANNEL 13

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* New York (Chien-Ming Wang 8-5) at Angels (John Lackey 14-5)

FRIDAY, 5:15 P.M., ESPN, CHANNEL 13

* Angels (Paul Byrd 12-11) at New York (Randy Johnson 17-8)

SATURDAY, GAME 4

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* Angels (Jarrod Washburn 8-8) at New York (Shawn Chacon 7-3)-x

SUNDAY, GAME

* New York at Angels-x


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