Sizzle and chills in coast-to-coast feast
Dodgers in balmy SoCal; Yanks take a cold one in NYC
Both League Championship Series are under way now, and all eyes are on the weather.
A large low-pressure system is hovering around New York and Philadelphia, the sites of scheduled weekend LCS action. The Yankees and Angels made it through Friday night in chilly but dry conditions, and now the question is whether both ballparks can get in their next immediate games.
The Yankees opened the best-of-seven American League Championship Series with a 4-1 victory thanks largely to CC Sabathia and a host of uncharacteristic Angels errors, and the teams are scheduled to play Game 2 at 7:57 p.m. ET today at Yankee Stadium on FOX. There was a 60 percent chance of rain at gametime with increasing probability through the night.
The Dodgers tied their National League Championship Series with the Phillies at a game apiece after Andre Ethier walked with the bases loaded under idyllic afternoon conditions in Los Angeles, and now the teams work out this afternoon in Philadelphia in preparation for an 8:07 p.m. ET Game 3 on Sunday (TBS). The forecast then is 70 percent chance of rain at gametime, staying mostly wet.
Joe Saunders, a good cold-weather pitcher who is well-rested after not pitching in the ALDS sweep of Boston, is scheduled to start for the Angels against A.J. Burnett for the Yankees in Game 2. The next NLCS pitching matchup will be a fascinating one: Hiroki Kuroda, deemed fit to return to the mound after a three-week layoff, going for the Dodgers against Cliff Lee, who was dominant in Games 1 and 4 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies.
In both cases, even if the skies allow for baseball on both or either days this weekend, cold-weather gear will continue to be the rule in stark contrast to that picture-perfect scene you just saw at Chavez Ravine. It is great weather for a classic college football weekend. It is not going to be the best weekend for baseball, but that is one reason they invented groundskeepers.
"It was about as cold as it gets," said Sabathia, in describing his commanding, 113-pitch Game 1 victory -- his first beyond the Division Series level. "I pitched in a couple of games where it snowed in Cleveland. But it was pretty nasty today."
The Angels made only 85 errors this season, fewest in team history, and their .986 fielding percentage matched a club record. They had committed three errors in a game only twice during the regular season, and Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter, who had one of them in Game 1, had made only one error in 252 games spanning 2008-09 entering the contest.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he thought the averse conditions played a role in his AL West champs' sloppy defensive performance in the opening loss.
"We had some plays there that -- I don't think you're going to be able to attribute it to the weather," Scioscia said. "Just the miscommunication on a pop up. A pickoff to first and it just cut a little bit and Kendry couldn't handle it.
"And then Juan (Rivera) came up and tried to alter a throw to second base and kind of just split the difference. That was what happened in that play. So I don't really think you can chalk it up to the weather. On the pop up there was some wind that was pushing that ball back. Either of those guys, had a bead on it and they just miscommunicated."
The weather seems likely to turn this LCS round into a case of extreme opposites. It is East Coast vs. West Coast in both series. Yes, there is still the possibility of the first Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers, an event that could be a baseball tourist's dream getaway, but right now there is some cold reality standing in the way.
"It's back to our weather and our crowd," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who has at least one RBI in each game this postseason. "It's going to be fun being in front of our fans again."
The Phillies already have been impacted by weather in one game this postseason, the only postponement so far in these playoffs. That was Game 3 of the NLDS in Colorado, due to snow. These are the kind of conditions that wreaked havoc with the postseason in 2006, when there were a record four different postseason games postponed, including one at old Yankee Stadium (Yankees vs. Tigers) and at Shea Stadium (Mets vs. Cardinals).
"The weather is obviously great this time of year," Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said with a smile. "The wind was playing havoc on a few balls out there. Possibly the ball in the first inning that (Hideki) Matsui hit. Seemed like everything was being knocked down. The ball that Vlady (Guerrero) hit out to left field, I could have sworn that ball was a home run. And then it just faded back into play. And it started getting cold at the end."
Damon said the first six or seven innings "we were actually all right. But I think the last two innings it started to get a bit colder."
The Angels' concern is more than the weather, obviously. The Yankees are 4-0 this postseason after posting the best record in the Majors during the regular season. In 1999, they started the postseason 5-0. In 1998, they started 4-0. Both years resulted in titles. Is this Yankees club on a course to match those dynasty teams? Perhaps. They are the only club this postseason to start 4-0, and that puts them seven wins away from their 27th world championship.
The Yankees' starting rotation has been reliable, and Mariano Rivera has become something of an aberration in this postseason. As blown saves have become a trend this month -- perpetuated Friday by Phillies reliever Chan Ho Park -- Rivera has remained steady. Despite allowing a leadoff walk, Rivera was his usual cutter self and got the save for Sabathia. Moreover, the Yankees have been error-free amidst a lot of bungling. Through their four postseason games, the error tally is Yankees 0, opponents 5.
"There are conditions you have to play with," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the opener. "I'm not really too concerned because we played tonight. Hopefully we get (Saturday's) game in, but if we don't, we don't."
If they don't, then look for it to precede the NLCS game on Sunday. That is scheduled as the travel day in the ALCS, but it remains to be seen whether anyone will be flying.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.