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

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.

 

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

David Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.