Red Sox

Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

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Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When it comes to pedigree, the American League Championship Series is no contest: The New York Yankees have won an astounding 40 American League pennants while the Texas Rangers are fresh off their only postseason series victory in franchise history.

Still, past accomplishments aside, this figures to be a compelling series. During the regular season, the two teams split eight games.

The Rangers will have home-field advantage, though the exact edge gained there is questionable. In their respective Division Series, the Rangers lost both home games and won all three road games while the Yankees won their two road games.

A look at the keys for both teams:

THREE KEYS FOR THE YANKEES:

1) Have CC Sabathia dominate.
Sabathia was the unquestioned MVP for the Yankees last October, when he continually took the ball on short rest and pitched the Yanks to a title.

The Yankees won't be asking as much from him this year, but his starts are still must-wins for the defending champs because of the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the rotation.

Andy Pettitte seemed to answer any remaining questions about his effectiveness with his start in the first round, but Phil Hughes is a relative unknown on this stage and who knows what -- if anything -- the Yankees will get from the enigmatic A.J. Burnett.

That means Sabathia's starts are virtual must-wins if the Yanks are to return to the World Series.

2) Continue to hit left-handed pitching.
If the ALCS goes the seven-game disance, the Rangers could start four of the seven games with lefty pitchers.

Even though their lineup features righty bats (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and switch-hitters (Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher),the Yankees had difficulty against lefty pitching during the regular season. Even MVP candidate Robinson Cano hit 50 points lower against lefties than righties during the season.

Things got better in the ALDS, as the Yankees posted wins against Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing of the Minnesota Twins.

It helps that Curtis Granderson has come around against lefties, showing a much better approach in the final month of the season.

3) Limit the exposure of all relievers not named Rivera.
The Yankees need innings from their starters. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are proven postseason horses, which is a good thing for the Yanks. They'll want their starting pitchers to take them at least through the seventh, so they don't have to rely much on the set-up crew, which is largely unreliable.

If the Yanks can shorten the bridge from their starters to Mariano Rivera, their chances to win the series will grow expontentially.

THREE KEYS FOR THE RANGERS:

1) Get Cliff Lee the ball twice.

This will be, of course, easier said than done.

Thanks to his start Tuesday night in the Game Five clincher in the ALDS, Lee won't start until Game Three in New York, meaning he probably wouldn't start again -- at least not on full rest -- until a Game Seven.

Lee has been huge in the postseason (6-0, 1.44 ERA in seven career starts) and certainly won't melt at Yankee Stadium. (Remember Game One of
the 2009 World Series?)

The trick will be getting at least two more good starts from the rest of the Texas rotation to get him the ball a second time -- potentially, a winner-take-all Game Seven, in Arlington.

2) Run on Jorge Posada.
Remember the final series of the season between the Red Sox and Yankees? The Sox ran unchecked on Posada, tying a club record at one point for most stolen bases in an inning.

Under Ron Washington, the Rangers have turned into an ultra-aggressive team. The first three runs in their 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday night were the result of taking the extra base.

If the Rangers continue to put pressure on in this series, it will likely pay dividends. Pettitte, who has an outstanding move to first, will make it tough to run on him, but the other starters are vulnerable and the Yankees' bullpen has allowed 51 stolen bases in 54 attempts.

3) Have Josh Hamilton rebound.
Hamilton is the Rangers' best player, but thanks to a rib injury, missed most of September and didn't return to the lineup until the final weekend of the regular season.

He looked rusty in the Division Series against Tampa, collecting just one RBI in the five games.

There are others in the Texas lineup who can do damage -- Elvis Andrus at the top, and Vladimir Guerrero in the middle. But for the Rangers offense to click, they need more sock from Hamilton, who is likely going to be named the American League MVP next month.

THE PICK

Yankees in six games.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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