Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

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Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When it comes to pedigree, the American League Championship Series is no contest: The New York Yankees have won an astounding 40 American League pennants while the Texas Rangers are fresh off their only postseason series victory in franchise history.

Still, past accomplishments aside, this figures to be a compelling series. During the regular season, the two teams split eight games.

The Rangers will have home-field advantage, though the exact edge gained there is questionable. In their respective Division Series, the Rangers lost both home games and won all three road games while the Yankees won their two road games.

A look at the keys for both teams:

THREE KEYS FOR THE YANKEES:

1) Have CC Sabathia dominate.
Sabathia was the unquestioned MVP for the Yankees last October, when he continually took the ball on short rest and pitched the Yanks to a title.

The Yankees won't be asking as much from him this year, but his starts are still must-wins for the defending champs because of the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the rotation.

Andy Pettitte seemed to answer any remaining questions about his effectiveness with his start in the first round, but Phil Hughes is a relative unknown on this stage and who knows what -- if anything -- the Yankees will get from the enigmatic A.J. Burnett.

That means Sabathia's starts are virtual must-wins if the Yanks are to return to the World Series.

2) Continue to hit left-handed pitching.
If the ALCS goes the seven-game disance, the Rangers could start four of the seven games with lefty pitchers.

Even though their lineup features righty bats (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and switch-hitters (Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher),the Yankees had difficulty against lefty pitching during the regular season. Even MVP candidate Robinson Cano hit 50 points lower against lefties than righties during the season.

Things got better in the ALDS, as the Yankees posted wins against Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing of the Minnesota Twins.

It helps that Curtis Granderson has come around against lefties, showing a much better approach in the final month of the season.

3) Limit the exposure of all relievers not named Rivera.
The Yankees need innings from their starters. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are proven postseason horses, which is a good thing for the Yanks. They'll want their starting pitchers to take them at least through the seventh, so they don't have to rely much on the set-up crew, which is largely unreliable.

If the Yanks can shorten the bridge from their starters to Mariano Rivera, their chances to win the series will grow expontentially.

THREE KEYS FOR THE RANGERS:

1) Get Cliff Lee the ball twice.

This will be, of course, easier said than done.

Thanks to his start Tuesday night in the Game Five clincher in the ALDS, Lee won't start until Game Three in New York, meaning he probably wouldn't start again -- at least not on full rest -- until a Game Seven.

Lee has been huge in the postseason (6-0, 1.44 ERA in seven career starts) and certainly won't melt at Yankee Stadium. (Remember Game One of
the 2009 World Series?)

The trick will be getting at least two more good starts from the rest of the Texas rotation to get him the ball a second time -- potentially, a winner-take-all Game Seven, in Arlington.

2) Run on Jorge Posada.
Remember the final series of the season between the Red Sox and Yankees? The Sox ran unchecked on Posada, tying a club record at one point for most stolen bases in an inning.

Under Ron Washington, the Rangers have turned into an ultra-aggressive team. The first three runs in their 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday night were the result of taking the extra base.

If the Rangers continue to put pressure on in this series, it will likely pay dividends. Pettitte, who has an outstanding move to first, will make it tough to run on him, but the other starters are vulnerable and the Yankees' bullpen has allowed 51 stolen bases in 54 attempts.

3) Have Josh Hamilton rebound.
Hamilton is the Rangers' best player, but thanks to a rib injury, missed most of September and didn't return to the lineup until the final weekend of the regular season.

He looked rusty in the Division Series against Tampa, collecting just one RBI in the five games.

There are others in the Texas lineup who can do damage -- Elvis Andrus at the top, and Vladimir Guerrero in the middle. But for the Rangers offense to click, they need more sock from Hamilton, who is likely going to be named the American League MVP next month.

THE PICK

Yankees in six games.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- Twins rookie lefty Adalberto Mejia is feeling more comfortable each time he takes the mound.

Mejia pitched 5 2/3 innings in his second straight scoreless start, Max Kepler hit a two-run homer and Minnesota rebounded from two consecutive losses against Boston to beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

"He did a nice job," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about Mejia. "He had to kind of battle. It's kind of becoming a little bit of his MO to burn through pitches, but similarly to his last start, he kept walking off the field with zeros."

Kepler also had an RBI single, and Miguel Sano added an RBI double to help the Twins improve to 24-11 on the road.

Mejia (3-3) allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one in his 11th career start. On Friday night at Cleveland, he held the Indians to two hits over five innings in a victory.

"I feel calmer every time I'm out there," he said through a translator. "I think that's why I did better."

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 21st save.

Boston starter Rick Porcello (4-10) gave up four runs on six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two. It was his 14th straight start going at least six innings, the AL's longest active streak.

"It's not like they're beating the cover off the ball," Porcello said. "It's just a couple things here and there that I've got to clean up. I'm not making excuses for myself. I definitely hold myself accountable for the loss tonight."

Red Sox manager John Farrell was back in the dugout after serving a one-game suspension Tuesday for poking umpire Bill Miller in the chest during an argument Saturday.

The Red Sox stranded 11 baserunners, and at least one in every inning. Farrell thought his team may have been pressing a bit.

"I thought there were times we might have expanded the strike zone a little bit, trying to make something happen," he said.

With Minnesota leading 2-0 in the sixth, Kepler lined his homer off the back of Boston's bullpen.

In the first, the Twins scored a pair of two-out runs when Sano hit his RBI double down the third-base line and scored on Kepler's broken-bat single.

Xander Bogaerts drove in Boston's run with a bases-loaded grounder in the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: LHP Glen Perkins resumed throwing Tuesday after a setback last week following offseason shoulder surgery. Molitor said the club is still formulating a plan for him. He's been sidelined all season and pitched in just two games last year.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game after getting hit by a pitch on the left knee Sunday. "He'll go through a full workday today," Farrell said. "He's feeling improved."

MATCHES OWN RECORD

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia played his 98th consecutive error-less game, matching the best mark in club history he set for a second baseman from 2009-10.

LOOKS FAMILIAR

This season has started like 2015 for Porcello, the AL's reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Two years ago when he struggled badly, the righty lost nine of his initial 13 decisions and finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.

ROSTER MOVE

Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes was activated from the 10-day disabled list and LHP Craig Breslow was put on with rib cage soreness.

Hughes had been on the DL since complaining of a "dead feeling" in his pitching shoulder on May 21. He allowed one run in three innings during three rehabilitation appearances in Triple-A.

Molitor plans to use him out of the bullpen.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.23 ERA) looks to continue his success in Fenway Park in the series finale Thursday. He's allowed only one run over 15 innings in two career starts.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (2-2, 4.76) has won his last five decisions against Minnesota, posting a 1.84 ERA.