The American League Championship Series moves to the Bronx tonight as the Yankees and Rangers are locked up at one game a piece. The pitching matchup of Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee should be a great one.
However, there may be a matchup that is just as important.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte must keep the Texas base runners from running wild. The Rangers got the Yankees in an early hole in Game 2 after stealing three bases, including a steal of home in the first inning.
The Rangers are a very aggressive team on the base paths. Manager Ron Washington has his club thinking about the extra base at all times. The Yankees could be one of the easiest teams to do that on.
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada’s defensive skills have diminished greatly the past couple years. He has had trouble throwing runners out all season and that has carried into the playoffs. Posada is also having some trouble blocking balls in the dirt of late.
The combination of Posada’s struggles and the aggressiveness of the Texas base runners will be a challenge for Pettitte.
Pettitte is known as one of the best pitchers in baseball at holding runners on and keeping them guessing. The lefty has a variety of pick off moves and runners are not able to get big leads.
Texas finished the regular season with 123 stolen bases, seventh in all of baseball. So far in the playoffs, they have already swipped 11 bags. In the first two games of the ALCS they have stolen five bases while being thrown out just once.
The Rangers do have a tendency to be thrown out due to their aggressiveness. Texas base runners were thrown out 48 times this season, the sixth most in MLB.
Elvis Andrus leads the team with 32 steals. As a team, five players had over ten stolen bases this season; Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Julio Borbon, Ian Kinsler, and David Murphy.
It will be on Pettitte to keep the runners guessing and make it uncomfortable for them. Yankees backup Francisco Cervelli has not been any better than Posada this year, so switching catchers would not make any sense.
Cervelli has committed 13 errors this season, the second most amongst MLB catchers. Posada had the sixth most with eight.
Cervelli threw out just nine of 64 attempted base stealers while Posada threw out just 13 of 85. Posada also had eight passed balls in 2010, the fourth most in baseball.
As you can see, the Yankees catchers are not doing much to help the pitchers. With the Yankees facing Cliff Lee tonight in Game 3, it will be extremely important to keep Texas off the scoreboard as much as possible. Holding runners on base is a big step toward doing so.
Pettitte will need to be on top of his game tonight, both pitching and keeping runners close. If Texas continues to run all over the Yankees, New York likely will be ending their season without defending their World Series Championship.
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