Pitching Matchup: Hughes (1-0) vs. Lewis (0-0)
NY: Jeter- SS, C-Grand- CF, Teix- 1B, A-Rod- 3B, Cano- 2B, Swish- RF, Posada- C, Berkman- DH, Gardner- LF
TX (Best guess since my internet connection is still a fucking piece of shit): Andrus- SS, Young- 3B, Hamilton- CF, Vlad- DH, Cruz- RF, Kinsler- 2B, Murphy- LF, Moreland- 1B, Molina- C
3 Things To Watch For:
1) Which Starting Pitcher Blinks First
Both Phil Hughes and Colby Lewis are coming into this game off of great outings in the ALDS. Each guy allowed 0 runs, and while Lewis was solid in 5 innings, Hughes was a stone cold killer through 7 in a series-clinching game and got his team the win while Lewis watched the bullpen cough up what would have been a W for him as well. Something has to give for these 2 today, and it will be worth noting how the first guy to give up a run reacts. People will point out that Hughes has never given up a run in 15.1 IP against Texas, but that should have no bearing on his performance tonight. What he needs to do is keep attacking hitters like he did against Minnesota, but be more conscious of mixing up his pitches because the Rangers are a much better hitting team than the Twins.
2) The Yankees' Approach Against Lewis
Only 4 Yankees have hit against Lewis in their careers, and they have shown over the year that they can look completely lost against pitchers they haven't seen before. And Lewis is no slouch, he was top 10 in the AL in strikeouts and WHIP so he has swing-and-miss stuff, which makes it more difficult for hitters if they fall behind early. But like every other Ranger starter not named Cliff Lee, Lewis does have the tendency every now and then to either lose the zone (as evidenced by his 5 BB in 5 IP against Tampa) or lose his command within the zone and get hit hard. I would imagine the Yankees will stick with what they've done all along so far this postseason and be patient early. But if Lewis is pounding the strikezone with fastballs, expect the Yankees to start swinging earlier and jump in him the 2nd time through the lineup.
3) Ron Washington's Bullpen Plan
Ron Washington certainly has had his troubles in the 'pen so far this postseason, having a quick trigger finger when it comes to going to it even when his starters are throwing well (see: Lewis' start in the ALDS). Yanking Lewis after 5 innings and only 85 pitches proved to be the wrong move in that game, but last night Washington fell victim to the other side of that decision, leaving C.J. Wilson in for a bit too long and then running through a marathon of ineffective middle relievers without ever considering going to his All-Star closer to stop the bleeding. So how will he approach today? Will he give Lewis some more lead on his line after a solid ALDS start and a bullpen meltdown last night? And if it calls for it, will he go to Neftali Feliz for more than 3 outs? Another fuckup by Washington when it comes to late-game bullpen management, and his team could be looking at a 2-0 deficit as they head to the Big Apple.
Player To Watch: Alex Rodriguez
I have no statistical basis for this, I just have a gut feeling that The Horse is due for a big game. He has had some big hits so far, but not a complete game where he just takes over like he did last year. Even on the outs he's made, he's made solid contact, he just seems to be a little swing happy at the plate and might be reaching just a little bit. After his first-pitching swinging 2-RBI single in the 8th last night, he was up there hacking again on the first pitch with Jeter on 2nd in the 9th when he probably should have been taking until he got a strike. If he can stay patient early in the count and get himself a favorable hitter's count or 2 tonight, watch the fuck out because there might be some souveneirs coming.
Well last night was a hell of a way to kick off the series and today the Yankees have a chance to take command of the series before heading home. The earlier start time ahead of the dynamite Halladay-Lincecum matchup that, quite frankly, deserves a primtime slot means that the shadows will come into play today. We saw the "strobing" effect the light-to-dark-to-light shadow pattern had on hitters in the Rangers-Rays series so that could be a benefit for the pitchers. Which lineup can handle the shadows better? We'll find out in a couple hours.
Thoughts five days before Opening Day
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