Yanks, especially Teixeira, set for Halos
Sunday sweeps create matchup between AL heavyweights
MINNEAPOLIS -- You wouldn't call it a guarantee, but Mark Teixeira had something of an inkling that the Yankees might be meeting up with the Angels around this time of year. He hoped so, at least.
The Yankees and the Angels both finalized their date in the American League Championship Series on Sunday by sweeping the Twins and Red Sox, respectively, setting up a battle for the World Series that Teixeira predicted could be on the way.
"I think it's going to be a great series," Teixeira said, his eyes covered in blue protective goggles that dripped with celebratory champagne. "I told Torii Hunter in December, 'I hope to play you guys in the ALCS.' And I meant it. I'm going to get that opportunity, and it's going to be a really fun series."
The Yankees were watching the Angels' comeback against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the visitors' clubhouse at the Metrodome on Sunday, finally learning just whom they'll have to go through to reach their ultimate destination.
Since they wear pinstriped uniforms and cash their checks from a Steinbrenner account, the Yankees need no refresher on the demands. It has been their goal to win the World Series since Day 1 of Spring Training, and as they sprayed champagne and beer around the Metrodome, the Bombers knew that path will include the Angels.
"We are going to celebrate this one and enjoy it, and I am just really happy for our club," Andy Pettitte, the winning pitcher in New York's 4-1 Game 3 victory, said. "We got a lot of young guys that hadn't had an opportunity to see this and to do this, and they have had a lot of growing experience this season. You can see the confidence building in them as we continue to move on."
While the Angels have perennially been a tough matchup for the Yankees to figure, the Bombers should be boosted somewhat by having conquered their Angel Stadium demons, having won a three-game series in Anaheim last month.
The Yankees won two out of three in a set against the Halos from Sept. 21-23, something they hadn't done at Angel Stadium since May 2004, when manager Joe Girardi was still broadcasting for the YES Network and the winning pitchers were Jon Lieber and Mike Mussina.
"They've got a great balance," ace CC Sabathia said. "They've got speed, they've got power, they've got [Chone] Figgins up on top. He gets on base and he's running around, and you're worried about him. We've just got to go out and try to keep those guys off the bases."
A potential playoff meeting was on the Yankees' minds last month, as they finished the season 5-5 in 10 matchups against the Angels in 2009, including a victory that secured New York's 14th postseason appearance in 15 years.
"Last year was a terrible feeling going home so quickly," Alex Rodriguez said. "It's something we're not used to. It feels good to not only make the playoffs but take care of the first round the way we needed to."
But if the playoffs prove anything, it's to expect the unexpected.
"I think the story before Anaheim played Boston was that Boston dominates Anaheim in the playoffs," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "You play the games, man. Whatever happened in the past, throw it out the window, because it doesn't mean a thing."
Push for the pennant
Prompted Sunday in a pregame meeting with the Yankees' beat reporters, Girardi sat in an empty, darkened locker room formerly used by the Minnesota Gophers and briefly allowed himself to look ahead.
Girardi said that the key to defeating the Angels would be not letting their speedsters rattle Yankees pitching, accepting the fact that Mike Scioscia's club is going to run. The onus would be on catchers Jorge Posada, Jose Molina and possibly Francisco Cervelli to call good games and throw well.
"Their lineup is very good," Girardi said. "Up and down their lineup, the guys have become more patient in their lineup. They have power, they have speed and they can score runs in so many different ways.
"Their starting rotation is balanced -- a couple of lefties, a couple of righties. Their bullpen has done a good job. I just think they're a complete team, and they create problems for teams with their team speed."
With the Yankees cleared to book flights and hotel rooms in Orange County, Calif., Girardi said that a major benefit of his club's win on Sunday is that it can align its rotation for the Angels.
Sabathia would have had the ball for a potential Game 4 on Monday in Minneapolis, but Pettitte ensured the ace will be well rested and ready when the lightbulbs come on Friday night in the Bronx.
"Everybody said that we've struggled with them, but this is my first year here, so I don't really know anything about that," Sabathia said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going. ... It's the first celebration of a couple, hopefully, for us, and we're going to try to go out and have a couple more of these."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.