Well-rested Saunders, Angels feeling loose going into Game 6
NEW YORK -- Before drifting off to sleep at his hotel on Saturday night,
Sweet dreams, Joe.
"I'll probably be thinking about the hitters in bed when I'm tossing and turning," he said after Game 6 was postponed a day by rain.
The Yankees' offense is enough to keep any pitcher, even one as good as Saunders, up at night. But a few less minutes of shut-eye was the only thing Saunders and the rest of his teammates seemed worried about after getting the word that there would be no baseball in the Bronx on Saturday night. Given how few people expected them to get the series back to New York at all after falling behind three games to one and 6-4 in the seventh inning in Game 5, the Angels were remarkably loose on Saturday night. Centerfielder
In fact, most Angels immediately went from worrying about baseball to worrying about football.
Saunders was off on Saturday, too, but unlike the Hokies, he'll be back at it on Sunday. Nobody in either clubhouse wanted to play a game that would be so affected by rain, and with Sunday calling for clear skies and temperatures in the 50s it will be ideal for postseason baseball. Saunders would even prefer if it were a little colder. "I'd rather it be 20 degrees colder," said the Virginia native. "I was raised in cold weather, I've pitched in cold weather all my life."
Indeed, the last time Saunders took the mound, on Game 2 in New York for his first postseason start of the year, temperatures hovered in the low 40s, and he responded with a red-hot performance: seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, five strikeouts. Yet because of two travel days, an off day and now a rain out, it will have been eight days since he last took the mound. In fact, both the Angels and Yankees will now have played just eight games in 20 days, 12 off days in one month after getting roughly 20 off days in six months during the regular season.
"Taking us almost 20 days to play eight games -- I think that's the wrong template for baseball," said Angels manager
Not that anyone was willing to look that far ahead, of course. "I can't even talk about [Game 7]," said Hunter. "I'm not Negrodamus."
"Our focus is not on Game 7 it's on Game 6," said Angels general manager
That could potentially include Lackey, though almost certainly only as a last resort.
In fact, about the only pitcher who wouldn't be available in Game 7 is Saunders. After arriving at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, he had gone over his scouting report, gotten his pre-game work in and felt the potent mixture of nervousness and excitement of such a monumental game start to flow through him. Before long, he would have to turn off that energy and refocus it for Sunday.
"I'm anxious," he said. "I have to shut my brain down. When I get here [Sunday], I'll turn it back on again."
The extra day should have little effect on Saunders, who is at his best with as much rest as possible. He has made 40 starts in his career with four days' rest, with a 5.03 ERA and 1.425 WHIP, 35 starts with five days' rest (3.87 ERA, 1.393 WHIP) and 20 starts with six or more days off. In those games, he is 11-3 with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.228 WHIP.
Of course, how he pitches on Sunday may have less to do with how much rest he had between games than how much rest he had before Game 6 while trying to forget about the Yankees' thunderous lineup. Yet Saunders, displaying the confidence that has surged through his entire team, vowed to be ready.
"Come [Sunday]," he said. "Game on."