Gleefully, I was wrong about Rays in 5. In accordance, take this synopsis with a pinch of salt, a hint of lime, a chug of a six pack, then wake up Friday night and watch for yourselves.
ALCS rosters won't be set until Friday at 10 a.m. so there could be some tweaks to the Rangers- Yankees before pitch 1 of Game 1 tomorrow at 7:07 in Rangers Ballpark.
Nonetheless, let's fearlessly crunch some numbers, sprinkle in some intangibles and spit out a prediction:
STARTING PITCHER - Cliff Lee beat the Yankees twice in last year's World Series and dominated the ALDS, but he won't start until Game 3 and maybe Game 7. C.J. Wilson vs. C.C. Sabathia is Game 1 is the key to the series. Texas' Colby Lewis was shaky in the ALDS despite not allowing an earned run and Tommy Hunter couldn't get to the 5th inning. Andy Pettite is polish playoff pitcher for NY and Phil Hughes had a quality start in the ALDS. This could, of course, be a prelude to a battle for Lee's services in 2011 and beyond. Edge: Rangers.
RELIEF PITCHER - The middle relievers are balanced and both set-up men - NY's Kerry Wood and Texas' Darren O'Day - can be dominant. The Rangers scored off Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera twice this season to win games late over NY. Still, in the playoffs it's hard to bet against Rivera, especially considering how wild Rangers' rookie closer Neftali Feliz was in the ALDS. Edge: Yankees.
CATCHER - Bengie Molina hit a homer and even stole a base during the ALDS and brings October experience to a team of late post-season newbies, but Jorge Posada has produced bigger hits in bigger moments. Edge: Yankees.
FIRST BASE - Ridiculous comparison. Mark Teixeira is an almost-MVP and a Gold Glove winner for NY, while this position (Jorge Cantu/Mitch Moreland) has been a black hole for Texas all season. Edge: Yankees.
SECOND BASE - Robinson Cano is an MVP candidate, with his 29 homers and flawless defense. Ian Kinsler hit three homers in the ALDS is a Rangers' catalyst, but he's no Cano. Edge: Yankees.
SHORTSTOP - Can't believe I'm writing this, but Elvis Andrus > Derek Jeter. While Jeter, who was on the Yankees' team that beat Texas in the playoffs way back in '96, has lost more than a step, Andrus proved his value in the ALDS with hits and speed and sparkling defense. Edge: Rangers.
THIRD BASE - For all his regular-season exploits and Hall of Fame resume, Alex Rodriguez has been a playoff bust. Still, with the way Michael Young (3 of 20) was flailing and failing in the ALDS, A-Fraud is the better player in the bigger moment. Edge: Yankees.
LEFT FIELD - Brett Gardner isn't a household name, but he's a productive player who plays defense and steals 47 bases. David Murphy has been a clutch hitter for the Rangers the last half of the season. Edge: Even.
CENTER FIELD - Fuhgedduhbouditt. Even though he was 2 of 18 in the ALDS with one cheap RBI on a groundout, Josh Hamilton has the ability to dominate a game, if not a series. Curtis Granderson has 24 homers for the Yankees, but this one isn't close. Edge: Rangers.
RIGHT FIELD - Nick Swisher hit 29 homers with 89 RBI for NY, but a healthy Nelson Cruz is simply a better player on offense and defense. Cruz hit three homers in the ALDS, making him Senor Octubre II. (Juan Gonzalez is the original, of course.) Edge: Rangers.
DESIGNATED HITTER - Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames both hit homers in the ALDS for NY, but Vladimir Guerrero won't be afraid of the bright lights or the big city. He's also a deceptively good base-runner, evidenced by scoring from second on a infield grounder in Game 5 of the ALDS. Edge: Rangers.
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BENCH - Surprisingly, the Yankees are not a real deep team, with only Austin Kearns and either Berkman or Thames as legit weapons off the bench. The Rangers counter with the speed of Julio Borbon or the veteran pop of Jeff Francoeur. Edge: Even.
MANAGER - NY's Joe Girardi has a World Series ring. Despite winning the ALDS, Texas' Ron Washington made some curious "gut" moves that backfired for his team. Edge: Yankees.
INTANGIBLES - The Yankees have won 27 World Series. The Rangers have won one playoff series. New York boasts a website called "The Chase For 28." After its first playoff win, about 400 people met the Rangers at the airport. The Yankees are a world-wide brand. The Rangers were owned by Tom Hicks and get off on "Antlers" and "The Claw". You get the picture. Edge: Yankees.
PREDICTION - The season series was 4-4, including a Texas three-game sweep in September. If this thing goes to a Game 7 in Texas, give me Lee and the Rangers. Anything short of that and I think the Yankees are again in the World Series. Rangers in 7.