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Angels not letting rain stall momentum
Angels not letting rain stall momentum
By Lyle Spencer
NEW YORK -- As rain fell on Yankee Stadium and news of the postponement of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series reached Joe Saunders, the lefty vowed he'd be as prepared to deal on Sunday as he was on Saturday.
"When your back's against the wall, I don't think it makes much difference whether it's 100 degrees or 20 degrees," said Saunders, who will face Andy Pettitte at 5:20 p.m. PT on Sunday. "I like cold weather. I'd rather it be 40 degrees than 60.
"Actually, I think it's to both teams' advantage. Some guys felt a little tired down the stretch -- position players and pitchers. I think this is good for both teams. You can wake up when you want tomorrow and come out and play a game. It's a beautiful thing."
The field on Saturday night would have been far from a beautiful thing. A swamp would have been more like it.
"I don't think anybody wants to see a game of this magnitude decided by a fluke play," John Lackey said, "a guy falling down in the outfield, something like that.
Loves to face.: Kendry Morales, 0-for-5, 1 K Hates to face: Erick Aybar, 7-for-16, 2 RBI
Loves to face: Mark Teixeira, 2-for-16, 1 K Hates to face: Alex Rodriguez 7-for-14, 2 HR
Why he'll win: Postseason experience
Why he'll win: Pitched well at Yankee Stadium last time out
Pitcher beware: Has struggled against Angels in his career
Pitcher beware: Allowed 29 homers this year
Bottom line: Can he add to postseason legacy?
Bottom line: Can he continue to pitch well in the postseason?
"We've got to win tomorrow. I'm available. Hopefully, Joe will throw up eight zeros and they won't need me."
Pettitte called Saturday "the longest day ever" and said he was just about to start his pregame routine when he learned of the postponement.
He said he'll repeat his normal routine a day later, adding, "It's just the same."
CC Sabathia is set for the potential Game 7 on Monday, and it could be a duel of king-sized aces if it materializes.
Lackey, the Angels' go-to guy since winning Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, would be working on three days' rest for the first time this season and just the fourth time in his career in a Game 7 on Monday.
But neither the big Texan nor his manager would be talked into talking about any Game 7.
"We've got to get there," Lackey said.
"There are a lot of variables," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll have to wait and see what happens [in Game 6]."
Lackey went five innings (86 pitches) and yielded one run in winning that Game 7 of the '02 World Series against the Giants on three days' rest.
"Seems like a long time ago," he said, grinning. "I was just a kid back then."
The Texan's regular-season experience on three days' rest is limited to two outings. He's 1-1, lasting a total of 9 2/3 innings with a 4.82 ERA in giving up 10 hits and six walks while striking out 11.
Along with Lackey, fellow starters Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana will be ready to operate out of the bullpen in Game 6.
Weaver, who started Game 3 and appeared in one inning of relief in Game 5 on Thursday, tied Saunders for the team lead with 16 wins and led the rotation in innings pitched (211) and strikeouts (174).
After yielding three runs on solo homers in five innings of Game 3, Weaver delivered a perfect eighth in Game 5. He picked up the Angels' only win in the 2008 AL Division Series against Boston with two innings of scoreless relief.
"I'm good with whatever they tell me to do," Weaver said. "Last year [against the Red Sox] helped me out this time, that little experience I got in the 'pen."
Asked -- hypothetically -- if he figured Lackey would be the choice for a Game 7, Weaver nodded.
"Yeah, I would think so," he said. "That's our horse. He's a guy who loves pitching in big games. We all do. He's obviously had a little more experience in that regard. Whatever they do that's best for the team, I'm good with that."
Kazmir hasn't fared especially well in his two postseason starts against Boston and New York, but he has a history of shutting down the Yankees from his Tampa Bay days.
A left-hander with 900 career strikeouts in 870 1/3 innings, Kazmir could be especially useful out of the bullpen against a Yankees lineup deep in left-handed weapons.
"It's all hands on deck," Kazmir said. "I'll throw the way I always do if they bring me in. I'm 100 percent max effort all the time. I'm not holding anything back. It's not going to be any different for me."
He's 6-5 with a 2.67 career ERA against the Bombers. Some prominent Yankees have struggled against Kazmir: Alex Rodriguez (3-for-24, .125), Derek Jeter (4-for-36, .125), Johnny Damon (6-for-36, .167), Hideki Matsui (5-for-28, .179), Robinson Cano (4-for-26, .154).
Only Jorge Posada (11-for-25, .440) and Melky Cabrera (8-for-20, .400) have hurt Kazmir.
Kazmir has made one relief appearance in his career.
"There wasn't much pressure," he said, grinning. "I was a rookie in 2004 and they brought me in with the bases loaded, nobody out to face Gary Sheffield at Yankee Stadium. No pressure at all."
It was Sept. 9, Kazmir's fourth Major League appearance. He got Sheffield to pop up, walked Matsui to force in a run and struck out Posada and Bernie Williams. Lasting three innings, Kazmir yielded one earned run on two hits, walking three and striking out four.
"He's obviously available if we need him," Scioscia said of Kazmir, "either [in Game 6] or Game 7. He's a candidate for that. There are so many variables to determine.
"We'll have Lackey available in the bullpen. His bullpen day is two days after his start. Weaver last year [against Boston] showed his stuff can play at the back end of a game. Weav is a guy we're not going to shy away from using in any situation. He could be very important to us.
"We have everybody available, and there are certain things to look at. Being able to add Kazmir, Weaver, Santana, obviously, in the 'pen, that gives us a lot of options."
All hands on deck, and a much better weather forecast for Sunday in the New York area.
A beautiful thing, Saunders calls it.
Games decided by the athletes, not the elements, always fall into that category.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.