Baserunning, bullpens keys to Game 1, ALCS

Updated: October 12, 2009

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Chone Figgins led the Angels with a .395 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases.

Both the Angels and the Yankees swept the first round without a problem and both teams can go "mano y mano" with their No. 1 starters: John Lackey and CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday.

These teams match up very well. The Yankees definitely have more power, but the Angels hit for a better average. They always say great pitching dominates great hitting. Even though Lackey and Sabathia are competing at a high level, we won't be able to see if that statement is true until the second time around the lineup.

The key for both pitchers is to dominate the first three innings, and after that their strategies will have to change. We're going to see how quickly the Angels hitters and Yankees hitters will be able to adjust to each pitcher.

Both the Yankees and the Angels are very patient at the plate, so the pitch count might be elevated. We know Lackey and Sabathia are both workhorses. They can go deep into games, but I actually don't see either of them going deep into this game. It's going to be a battle of the bullpens, and that's going to be the deciding factor in Game 1 as well as the rest of the series.

The Angels are truly the Yankees' nemesis. The Bronx Bombers have struggled against them in the past, losing the last two times they met in the postseason, but don't bank on history to be the story of Game 1, or the series. Bobby Abreu said it best when he said, "Our game plan is to score a lot of runs." Everyone recognizes that the Yankees score a lot of runs, especially in Yankee Stadium. They hit home runs at will, and there were only two games in which they did not hit a home run at home. I think we're going to see a couple of long balls, but at the same time it's whoever scores and keeps scoring. No pitching can hold the Yankees' lineup consistently; it's too complicated from the beginning to the end.

Baserunning will be huge. The Angels will have the upper hand because they are basically a National League team playing in the American League, with the ability to win in the American League. They do it with their legs and by putting a lot of pressure on the defense. The Angels will look to bunt a lot, especially since Sabathia does not come off the mound that quickly. He's slow to get to first, so we'll find out if the Angels can exploit that. We will also find out if Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is given enough time to have an opportunity to throw out runners. All of these things play into the equation. But here's the thing -- you can't steal first base. You still have to get on base, and that's what Sabathia is capable of shutting down.

Game 1 could literally come down to the last inning, and the bullpen is going to be a big factor.

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Likely Game 1 starter Cole Hamels has six career starts, all in the past two seasons, against the Dodgers, and all six resulted in quality starts (the Phillies are 4-2 in those six Hamels starts).

Hamels is 4-0 in his career against the Dodgers and has averaged at least 7 1/3 IP in each start, with 39 strikeouts to only eight walks.

Cole Hamels: Career vs. Dodgers, including postseason
Starts 6
Quality starts 6
Record 4-0
CG shutouts 1
Average IP 7 1/3
ERA 1.64
WHIP 0.93
K-BB 39-8

-- ESPN Stats & Information

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Each night throughout the postseason, "Baseball Tonight" will remember some of the postseason's best pitching performances.

Oct. 13, 1984 -- Jack Morris pitches a complete-game five-hitter, as the Tigers beat the Padres 4-2 to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series. In the last 25 years, Morris has the most postseason complete games of any pitcher, with five. Curt Schilling and Orel Hershiser each have four. Josh Beckett and Randy Johnson are the active leaders with three complete games.



Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the number of quality closers who blew saves in the Division Series alone.

Theme of the LDS
Notable Closers Who Blew 9th Inning Lead
Closer Opponent Reg. Season
Huston Street vs. Phillies
Game 4
Jonathan Papelbon vs. Angels
Game 3
Joe Nathan vs. Yankees
Game 2
Ryan Franklin vs. Dodgers
Game 2



• Jayson Werth came through with two clutch hits for the Phillies in Game 4. First, he blasted a solo home run in the sixth inning to put the Phillies up 2-0, and then his RBI single after Ryan Howard's two-run double scored the go-ahead run in the ninth to seal the victory.
t• Huston Street had an opportunity to close out Monday's Game 4 and send the series to Philadelphia for a decisive Game 5. Instead, the Phillies rallied for three runs off the Rockies' typically reliable closer. who suffered his second loss of the series.