“After I signed with the Yankees, I said, `You know, good luck to you guys. Hopefully, we’ll see you in the ALCS,”’ Teixeira recalled.
And then he repeated the message when Hunter reached first base during the first series between the teams in May.
“I’m like, `OK, I like that,”’ Hunter told his former teammate. “And now we’re here.”
Having dispatched the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, the Angels meet New York for the first time in the AL championship series starting—weather permitting—Friday night.
Back in the postseason after missing out in 2008, New York swept Minnesota to reach the ALCS for the first time in five years and goes with CC Sabathia(notes), who could get three starts in the best-of-seven matchup.
“Maybe we’re going to face CC seven times this series,” Scioscia joked. “It depends on how much rain we get.”
Sabathia could have been pitching Game 1 for the Angels. When the big lefty was a free agent after last season, Hunter recruited him for Los Angeles. They had gotten to know each other in the AL Central when Sabathia pitched for the Indians and Hunter played for the Twins.
“He’s one of my buddies in the game,” the effervescent outfielder said. “He’s throwing up and in, 97, 98 mph, under my chin, shaving my goatee, and then we go to dinner and talk about it and laugh.”
Hunter praised the Yankees, saying they’re tough because of what he said was their “$10 billion payroll.”
OK, OK. He admitted that’s an exaggeration of the actual $201 million opening-day figure. Still, that dwarfs the Angels’ $114 million outlay.
Not that it’s made a difference on the field. At 73-63, the Angels are the only AL club with a winning regular-season record against the Yankees since 1996.
New York had the best record in the major leagues during the regular season at 103-59, and the Angels were second at 97-65. The teams split 10 games.
“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to measure yourself against an organization like the Yankees. It might take a century before you would get there,” Scioscia said. “But I think our guys feel good at the way they go about their business, the way that they play the game hard, the way that they push the game and the way they bring every aspect to baseball which makes this game beautiful on to the field.”
Speaking of beautiful, the weather won’t be.
New York worked out in a drizzle Thursday morning. The Angels put on red ski caps and red sweat shirts, looking a bit like burglars in Day-Glo, but didn’t hit on the field during the afternoon rain.
Friday’s gametime forecast called for drizzle, a 41-degree temperature and 15-20 mph wind that would make it feel as if it were 25, according to AccuWeather.com.
Definitely a night that could have both teams California dreamin’.
“I’m in LA. It’s beautiful out there,” Hunter said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the longest he would let Sabathia sit during a rain delay and return to the mound would be 45 minutes—unless he keeps throwing every 10 minutes in the fancy new batting cage behind the team’s dugout. Sabathia wasn’t worried about any uncertainty over whether there would be a game Friday night.
“I’m pretty relaxed and hanging out,” he said. “It just gives me lot of time to play RBI,” a reference to a baseball video game he plays on Nintendo.
Alex Rodriguez(notes) hit as if he were an animated player against the Twins, batting .455 (5 for 11) with two homers and six RBIs. That’s a total turnaround from his performance against the Angels in the 2005 division series, when he was 2 for 15 with no RBIs and six walks.
Lackey will start for Los Angeles after pitching 7 1-3 shutout innings last week in the Angels’ postseason opener against Boston. He faced the Yankees once this year, allowing two runs over seven inning in a July 12 win.
“I’m not going to get intimidated by anybody,” he said. “That’s why I’m throwing tomorrow.”
Both starters will have had extra time off. Sabathia will have rested for eight days since beating the Twins and Lackey for seven since defeating the Red Sox.
Sabathia is prepared to pitch Game 4 on three days’ rest in Anaheim next week, allowing the Yankees to go with a three-man rotation that would keep Joba Chamberlain(notes) and Chad Gaudin(notes) in the bullpen. Sabathia made his final four starts for Milwaukee last year on short rest.
“You don’t have your best fastball, you don’t have your best stuff. So you have to stay under control,” he said. “The delivery is a lot better.”
Rain. Or not. Short rest. Or not. It’s a series filled with enough decisions to intrigue a chess grandmaster. But in the end, it usually comes down to breakthrough batting or ominous outs in key situations.
“They keep producing arms. They keep producing players who know how to play the game—they all know how to bunt, make contact. They all know how to take that extra base,” New York’s Johnny Damon(notes) said. “If we can keep them off the bases, it won’t be a problem.”
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