Weather permitting, the Yankees and Angels will play Game Two of the American League Championship Series tonight. While the weather tonight shouldn't be any colder than last night, the chance of rain is much greater, as there is a nasty looking storm system sitting southwest of the city and heading towards the Stadium. If they can't go tonight, word is the make up would be scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4:30.
With Game Three currently slated for Monday afternoon in Anaheim at 4:13 EDT, both teams would like to avoid playing Sunday if at all possible. Getting the game in tonight will give the teams a full day to rest following the cross country flight. The Yankees particularly will want to get tonight's game in though, as a rainout tonight would mean that if A.J. Burnett were to come back to pitch a potential Game Five, as is the current plan, he would be doing so on just three days rest. If the Yankees elect not to pitch Burnett under those conditions, it would likely result in Chad Gaudin matching up against Angels' ace John Lackey.
As we saw in Game Five of last year's World Series, Major League Baseball's now-official policy is that once a post-season game begins, it will be played to its completion. So even if the game begins tonight, it may not end until sometime tomorrow. And given that at present tomorrow's forecast is worse than tonight's, I imagine every effort will be made to get this game played this evening. In the post-season starting the game becomes the decision of MLB, not the home team as in the regular season, but I'm confident MLB will roll the dice and try to get this one in tonight.
MLB won't be the only ones taking a gamble with their decisions tonight, as both managers have made unorthodox line up decisions that, if they don't work out, could potentially place them in a media storm as intense as anything brewing in the Tri-State area right now. As we examined on Thursday, Joe Saunders will take the hill for the Halos and Jose Molina will be behind the dish for the Yankees.
As we saw last night, John Lackey struggled to get a feel for his curveball in the frigid conditions. Earlier today, the Yankees Universe predicted that Saunders would have similar problems tonight giving A.J. Burnett an edge, while over at LoHud John Flaherty thinks the weather will have a bigger impact on Burnett's arsenal. So I'm not sure what to think on this one.
Weather aside, I think the Yankees have the edge in the pitching match up. A.J. Burnett posted better numbers than Joe Saunders this year and has a better track record. Again, as we mentioned earlier this week, Saunders gave up the second most HR in the AL this year and had the second highest HR rate. Last night was just the second time in 86 games that Yankee Stadium did not yield a long ball. Maybe the weather supresses power again tonight, or maybe the combination of Saunders and the ballpark makes up for last night.
Saunders faced the Yankees twice this year, both in Anaheim. He allowed 11 baserunners and 5 ER in 5 IP in taking a no decision on July 10th, then went 8.1 IP with just 7 baserunners and 2 ER in getting the win on September 21st, giving him a line of 1-0 with a 4.72 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 13.1 IP. He gave up two home runs to Alex Rodriguez and one to Hideki Matsui. Saunders did not appear in this year's Division Series, but had a disastrous start (4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB) in last year's series against Boston.
A.J Burnett made two starts against the Angels this year, on April 30th in the Bronx and in season series finale in Anaheim on September 23rd. In the first game he allowed 4 ER in 7 IP and received a no decision. In the second he went just 5.2 innings but allowed just two runs, fanned 11, and picked up the win. He made his first career post-season start in Game Two of the ALDS and allowed just 1 ER in 6 IP. He did issue five free passes though after leading the AL in walks this year; look for Bobby Abreu and his minions to attempt to exploit that tonight.
As mentioned, Jose Molina will catch Burnett again. Hideki Matsui remains the DH, which is a wise move since he destroys lefties. This will allow the Yankees to insert Jorge Posada directly into the game when Molina is inevitably pinch hit for at some point. Molina will bat ninth, with Nick Swisher taking Posada's customary six spot and Melky Cabrera moving up to eighth.
This will be an interesting one. If the weather doesn't postpone the game, it still has the potential to delay the game deep into the night and to be factor for pitchers, fielders, and batted balls. Saunders, coming off a lackluster season, gets the Game Two nod over ALDS Game Two starter Jered Weaver and over a better lefty in Scott Kazmir. Jose Molina once again plays over the far offensively-superior Jorge Posada. MLB, Scioscia, and Girardi are all taking their turns rolling the dice tonight. Here's hoping that the Yankees are the ones with the hot hand.
You know the gambler he rides, rides on a fool's train
Trading silver for gold
But his luck will change, time takes its toll
On a gambler's roll