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ALDS: Yankees vs. Indians, Game 1
The Bronx Bombers have some burn in them too. Johnny Damon stole 27 bases this season and was caught three times; Bobby Abreu was 25/8, Alex Rodriguez, 24/4, and Derek Jeter can run too, though he posted an uncharacteristically poor stolen base ratio of 15/8. Victor Martinez led the Indians in OPS (133) this year and is a wonderful hitter, but his defense has often left something to be desired. His throwing, in particular, has been a vulnerability for years. In his first three full seasons behind the plate, Martinez threw out 25 percent, 23 percent and 18 percent of runners. So it's a cinch that the Yankees will run over and over again on Martinez in this series, right?
Maybe not. Martinez threw out 32 percent of runners this year, by far the best mark of his career, while Jorge Posada posted a career-low in the same category, throwing out just 24 percent of runners (last year, Posada had his finest year, throwing out 37 percent). Their respective pitching staffs also have something to do with the results as Martinez threw out 33 men in 103 attempts, while Posada threw out 32 runners in 134 chances. Last year, Posada threw out 38 runners in 102 attempts.
Maybe it'll be Grady Sizemore (33/10) running wild on Posada, and perhaps Martinez will be able to control the Yankees' running game. Veteran sports writer Terry Pluto thinks that Sizemore will be the Indians player that the nation will discover during this series (that is if they haven't already -- Sizemore was featured on the cover of SI earlier this year):
Tribe fans love him, he sells twice as much merchandise as any other player on the team, according to the marketing department. But the nation still hasn't seen him, especially on a big stage against New York. Sizemore's season was almost greeted with a yawn, but he batted .277. He led the team with a .390 on-base percentage. His 24 HRs were one behind team leader Victor Martinez. A year ago, he had a staggering 101 extra base hits. He had 63 this season, and stole 33 bases in 43 attempts. Fans sometimes dwell on his 155 strikeouts, but he does so much, so well -- it's not a huge negative. He plays with such passion, look for him to have a big series.
In the final analysis, the key for the Yankees will not be stealing bases, though that might be part of their attack. It will be working the count, driving the starting pitcher's pitch count up early, drawing walks and hitting home runs. Alex Rodriguez belted six dingers in six games against Cleveland this year. Granted, he never faced C.C. Sabathia and only saw Fausto Carmona once, but as versatile as New York's offense can be, they are not the Angels, and will need to go yard if they are to beat the Indians.
The rub is that Sabathia and Carmona will not mince around. Murray Chass reports in the New York Times:
"They're two power pitchers who come right after you," Ron Guidry, the Yankees' pitching coach and once a power pitcher himself, said before the Yankees worked out at Jacobs Field yesterday. "They don't seem like they waste a lot of pitches. They try to get ahead of you early, they try to stay ahead, and once they get ahead, they can make quality pitches...You have to keep close to them to be able to have a chance to win. You can't get very far behind because you don't figure they're going to give up a lot, not the way they pitch."
It will be interesting to see if the late afternoon sun plays a role in the early innings tonight. Sabathia pitching out of the shadows must be a frightening thought for New York's hitters. The Yankees have struggled against lefties this year, but that isn't stopping Joe Torre from going with Hideki Matsui and a whole lot of left-handed hitters tonight.
As the series unfolds, be sure and check out the following blogs -- just a sampling of the fine partisan blogs you can find for either team:
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AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)