The 2009 American League Championship Series is set to begin tonight (weather permitting) at Yankee Stadium with the New York Yankees hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Yankees and Angels are no strangers to each other in post-season play. They faced in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005 with the Angels prevailing on both occasions. In fact, the Angels are the only team in the AL that has had a winning record against the Yankees since 1996.
Methinks things won't be different this time around either.
Yes, the Yankees have an unbelievable lineup where seven players have hit 20 or more homeruns this season. Derek Jeter, one of the two players in the lineup not to have 20 homeruns in 2009, is a strong candidate for the AL MVP.
C.C. Sabathia is a bonafide ace. Andy Pettitte is still very good after all these years and so is Mariano Rivera. The presence of both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain as set up men for Rivera makes them that much more dangerous.
Yet the Angels managed to win despite not having either Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup for nearly two months. The Angels know how to get on base and more importantly they know how to score. Guys like Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar are every bit as dangerous in a playoff game as A-Rod and Teixeira. Speaking of Teixeira, the Angels didn't lose a beat with Kendry Morales. The presence of former Yankee Bobby Abreu in the Angels lineup should give the Yankees pause as well.
The Angels starting rotation is deeper than the Yankees - John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir. If they have a weak link it is their closer Brian Fuentes. Although he led the AL in save with 48 he also blew seven saves. However, the lefty-righty set up combination of veteran Darren Oliver and rookie Kevin Jepsen is as good as Hughes and Chamberlain.
Mike Scioscia is as good a manager as any in MLB. He belongs in the class of LaRussa, Cox and Torre.
And I can't emphasize enough there's the spirit of Nick Adenhart. A death of a teammate would have crushed most teams. Not this one.
Angels in five.