Looking Forward ...
The rain made it feel like eons between Game 5 and 6 in the American League Championship Series, but in terms of setting up the World Series it worked out pretty well.
We'll have to wait another two days for the start of the Fall Classic, but had the ALCS gone seven games we would have had to anyway. Because the Yankees weren't forced to use CC Sabathia for a third time in the series, we get a dream matchup to open the World Series (and potentially twice more).
Sabathia and Cliff Lee will meet in Game 1. Both have Cleveland roots and an AL Cy Young Award in the trophy case. And both are having terrific Octobers. Lee, believe it or not, might have been better than his former teammate in getting Philadelphia to the World Series, allowing just two earned runs in three starts.
Go ahead, complain about the drawn-out schedule. Just don't complain about this doozy.
|In Their Own Words|
|"I couldn't be more excited. I feel like a 10-year-old kid." -- Alex Rodriguez on finally reaching the World Series.
|By the Numbers|
The one (and only) year in which the Yankees and Phillies met in the World Series prior to 2009. Philly won only two pennants before 1980, and New York swept them in the '50 Classic.
|More From FanHouse|
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Olson: Haunting Halo Blunders
The Angels had plenty of reasons to feel somber after the Yankees ousted them in six games, their uncharacteristically poor fundamental play chief among them.
Lower on the list, but still looming, is the imminent breakup of this bunch that has won the AL West three years running.
Leadoff man Chone Figgins, staff ace John Lackey, cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero and right fielder Bobby Abreu are all free agents, with only Abreu (and potentially Figgins) looking likely to return. Pitchers Darren Oliver and Kelvim Escobar will also hit the open market.
The West turned out to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball this year, with all three teams that finished behind the Angels making significant strides. We won't say the window is closing on the Halos, not with what they've done this decade and the money owner Arte Moreno is willing to spend, but if they lose three of those four players, it's hard to see them not taking a step back.
Scout's Eye View ...
When an offense is struggling, particularly a power-hitting one like the Yankees', the problems can frequently be traced back to a pull-happy approach. Despite some early hits against Joe Saunders, New York struggled with runners in scoring position during the first trip through their batting order. Saunders has proved he can induce the back-breaking groundball by staying on the outside part of the plate with his sinking fastball, and much of the reason he has given the Yankees problems in his career is his ability to force their hitters to roll over that pitch. In the fourth inning, Johnny Damon finally made the adjustment.
After rolling over a 90-mph fastball from Saunders and pulling it foul, Damon took the next pitch to left-center field for a big two-run single. It was this adjustment, being able to stay back on a crafty pitcher like Saunders, that finally turned their luck around against him.
Speaking of adjustments, it was clear that the Yankees changed the way they went after the red-hot Jeff Mathis. Much of the damage the Angels catcher did in this series came on the breaking ball. That included his double in the third inning on a 75-mph Andy Pettitte curveball. Hitters who hover around .200 and show limited power as Mathis has in his career are not typically players that punish the fastball. It may have been a late adjustment, but he did not see anything off-speed in his next at-bat.
-- Frankie Piliere