As the Yankees return to the field tonight after five days off, perhaps the football connections are appropriate. Fall is upon us. And when C.J. Wilson's first pitch kicks off the 2010 American League Championship Series, it'll be on a Friday night, under the lights, in Texas, where Friday night high school football is akin to religion.
Back here in the tri-state area though, baseball is the predominant sports obsession, and we'll get our fix tonight as the Yanks and Rangers play Game One of the ALCS, featuring a pitching rematch from game one of their regular season series. CC got the better of C.J. in that match-up of initialed southpaws, but Mother Nature got the best of them both, as rain stopped the game after six innings, with the Yankees taking home a 5-1 win. Sabathia wouldn't face the Rangers again during the regular season; Wilson would face the Yanks twice more and fail to record a decision in the two Texas victories.
As Moshe pointed out at TYU last night, there's some irrational pessimism plaguing many Yankee fans currently, as many are assuming that Cliff Lee's two starts and A.J. Burnett's one start essentially guarantee three Texas victories. In that line of thinking, it becomes critical that the Yankees win all four remaining games to ensure a series victory. I certainly don't subscribe to those theories, but with their ace on the mound tonight, it is important for the Yankees to get off to a good start.
(By the way, while Lee does appear to be some sort of post-season savant in the way guys like Mo and Pettitte are, it doesn't mean he's untouchable. He went through quite a rough patch following his trade to Texas. The Yankee offense is good enough to put runs on the board against anyone. And Lee is matched up against certified Big Game Pitcher Andy Pettitte. It may be an uphill battle, but it's certainly not insurmountable. As for Burnett, however unlikely, it's not totally out of the realm of possibility that he might actually pitch well. Even if he doesn't, he's matched up against Tommy Hunter, who the Yankees might easily knock around the yard. But what do I know, I'm the same guy who foolishly suggested that the Rangers should part ways with Ron Washington last spring).
So the waiting is nearly over. No more talk of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (and Marcus Thames for that matter) returning to Texas as if they've never been back since being traded away. No more talk of the largest payroll disparity in post-season history (funny how people forget that the Yankees and the rest of MLB subsidized the bankrupt Rangers mid-season acquisitions of Bengie Molina, Lee, Jorge Cantu, Christian Guzman, and Jeff Francoeur). No more worrying about Burnett and Lee in later games. Tonight it's just about Game One, and Sabathia and Wilson under the Friday night lights of Texas.
I'll leave you with one final thought: The Minnesota Twins began life as the Washington Senators in 1901. They entered the 2010 ALDS with a nine game post-season losing streak against the Yankees. The Yankees swept them to keep the streak alive. The Texas Rangers began life as the Washington Senators in 1961. They enter the 2010 ALCS with a nine game post-season losing streak against the Yankees. I don't think that means anything, but I hope history repeats itself.
So, in honor of this Friday night in Texas, here is quite possibly the lamest song choice in Fack Youk preview history. It's the theme song from the TV show that stars Derek Jeter's special lady friend:
It's the standard lineup vs LHP, with Marcus Thames as the DH, Swisher in the two spot and Granderson batting eighth. There was some speculation that Austin Kearns, who has hit Wilson well, might get the nod over Granderson or Gardner, both of whom have not hit Wilson well. But both lefties have been productive of late and Kearns, who was not played in nearly two weeks now, has not.
Derek Jeter SSRangers:
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Marcus Thames DH
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF
Brett Gardner LF
With C.J. Wilson on the mound for Texas, his usual catcher Matt Treanor gets the nod over Bengie Molina. With CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yanks, righty bats Jorge Cantu and Jeff Francoeur play over lefty swingers Mitch Moreland and David Murphy/Julio Borbon.
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz LF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Jorge Cantu 1B
Matt Treanor C