At one point, the ALCS appeared as if it might turn into a referendum on
The Yankees, of course, won the ALCS. Now Girardi is matched against
Manuel's Phillies represent a formidable challenge to New York, but here are five reasons the Yankees will win their 27th championship -- starting with their skipper:
As his players exuberantly celebrated their franchise's first AL pennant in five years early Monday morning, Girardi explained how, in his mind, it had come to be. "We've had big players do big things," he said, "and that's why we've got a chance to go to the World Series."
He did remain enamored with the idea of the pinch runner, particularly in Game 5, when he pulled, with two outs in the top of the ninth and a 7-6 deficit, his best offensive player,
The chances that Guzman's speed over that of Rodriguez (who himself possesses above-average speed, and is an above-average base runner) would have allowed Guzmán to tie the game in a situation in which Rodriguez could not -- on, say, a double in the gap -- were minuscule. And if the Yankees had tied the game (which they didn't), they would have had to play the rest of the contest without Rodriguez's clutch bat. Curious, indeed.
Girardi left Guzmán off the World Series roster in favor of the power-hitting
The Yankees' ALCS-clinching victory in Game 6 was important in that it allowed them two full days off before the World Series. It also allowed them to avoid the psychic toll that a winner-take-all Game 7 can have on a club. But it was absolutely crucial in that it enabled them to set an optimal World Series rotation against the well-rested Phillies.
The Yankees' bullpen, due mainly to their incomparable closer
Rivera was better than ever, and his multiple Houdini acts enabled the Yankees' 'pen to enter the Series with a 2.28 ERA. Hughes, on the other hand, who had been the best setup man in the majors since the Yankees made him a reliever in June, had a 5.79 ERA and a 2.36 WHIP in six playoff appearances. Chamberlain, meanwhile, allowed a ghastly seven hits -- four of them for extra-bases -- in just 3.1 innings of work. Contrast that with Lidge, who allowed a single hit over five appearances (three of which resulted in saves) and who leads a group that has been generally solid.
Hughes, though, wasn't quite as bad as his numbers suggest -- he was victimized by a few poorly located pitches, which the Angels and Twins turned into mainly ground-ball singles -- and both he and Chamberlain should benefit from the Phillies' lack of familiarity with them. Only four Phillies hitters have ever faced either Hughes or Chamberlain.
The patient Yankees, however, should have little trouble exposing Philadelphia's relievers -- particularly Lidge, whose slider has become average, and whose fastball has become eminently hittable. Lidge alone should cost the Phillies at least one game in the series, if he even gets the chance.
The Yankees have won seven of the nine games they've played this postseason, but their offense has yet to click. Just three of their regulars are hitting better than .258, and their cumulative OPS of .800 is 39 points below their MLB-best regular season mark. A prime offender has been top-three MVP candidate and first baseman
Teixeira, though, had three hits in his final six ALCS at-bats, including the three-run double that ignited the Yankees' ultimately-for-naught comeback in Game 5. He has also performed well against the Phillies' pitchers -- especially Lee and
Meanwhile, Teixeira's counterpart on the Phillies, slugging first baseman
Both Teixeira and Howard, in other words, appear likely to reverse their postseason fortunes in this series. That's bad news for the Phillies (Howard has hit .355 this October, with 14 RBIs), and good news for the Yankees.
He gives boring answers during press conferences. He sees the ball. He hits the ball. He is not sure why. He hits the ball when games are close. He hits the ball when they are not. He is batting .438 during the playoffs. He is slugging .969. He is in the midst of one of the greatest offensive postseason performances of all time -- the fourth-best, as measured by OPS (1.516). He is Alex Rodriguez. He will not allow the Yankees to lose.