Another rally and a another victory locked up the ALDS for the Yankees for the first time since 2004 propelling the Yankees to a match up with the Angels for a berth to the World Series. When you look at the blunders by the Twins this series, it is pretty amazing how quickly things could have gone against the Yankees in Games 2 and 3. This Yankee team is designed to capitalize on mistakes though, and capitalize they did.
Now they move on to an opponent with more talent who will not be as inclined to push themselves into mistakes. The Angels have had their number for years. Ever since Mike Scioscia took the reigns out west the Angels have been a constant thorn in the Yankees side, eliminating them from the playoffs in both 2002 and 2005.
From watching the Yankees play the Angels for the past few seasons, it is easy to see that the Angels play a more aggressive style of baseball that is designed to create confusion and mistakes from the defense. With past Yankee teams that aggressive nature was bound to force someone like a Jason Giambi or Alfonso Soriano into a costly mistake. As these Yankees have proven, the are far less likely to make a mental mistake on defense, at least in the infield. Mark Teixeira has changed the dynamic of the infield defense in a huge way. The outfield on the other hand has been a different story.
Brett Gardner is the best defensive outfielder the Yankees have and beyond him the drop off can be rather steep. Johnny Damon can't throw and now has trouble tracking balls. Nick Swisher can be average in field, but every time a low-liner heads his way there is the distinct possibility of disaster. Melky Cabrera can run down most fly balls and he has a cannon for an arm... if only he had a brain. Cabrera constantly falls into the trap of throwing to the wrong base and that is something the Angels will make him pay for.
The one place the Yankees may finally have an advantage over the Angels is the bullpen. The Yankees have a much improved bullpen from '02 and more importantly '05. They now have power arms that strike out batters late in the game. Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera give the Yankees a tough quartet to beat late in games. The Angels on the other hand have been slipping in the bullpen. This season they have yet to find that one shutdown reliever. The Angels ranked 11th out of 14 AL teams in bullpen ERA. The Yankees on the other hand were fifth in ERA and first in opponent batting average.
The Angels wont go down easy, they never do. But the Yankees may be ready to finally undue the hex the Angels have had them under for years. If I had to proffer a prediction it would be for the Yankees in 6.