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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Updated: October 23, 1:18 AM ET
Angels victory would only prolong the inevitable

ESPN.com

Howard Smith/US Presswire

John Lackey understands big-game pressure, having pitched Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

By John Kruk, ESPN

The New York Yankees sit just one win away from a World Series berth as they head into Game 5 of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels.

Don't expect this game to be a high-scoring blowout like Game 4. The Angels' John Lackey didn't pitch poorly in Game 1; CC Sabathia was just better. Remember, the Yankees' A.J. Burnett pitched great in Game 2 as well, so this pitching matchup will provide the recipe for a low-scoring game.

The Yankees have the advantage in this matchup. Look, the Yankees are pitching better, hitting better, and running the bases aggressively. When the Angels try to be aggressive, it has resulted in silly outs. New York has the most talent and is playing better fundamentally so that's why the Yankees are leading the series 3-1.

The Yankees don't have anything to prove. But it seems they are trying to prove to themselves that no matter what kind of game the Angels want to play, they will astutely find a way to match it. The one thing the Angels should not do is try to match the Yankees' power because that would be virtually impossible.

ALCS GAME 5:
YANKEES AT ANGELS

Coverage begins at 7:10 p.m. ET on ESPN Radio

The biggest difference between Burnett and Sabathia is that Burnett is not as polished as Sabathia. Sabathia is able to get through six innings with 50 or 60 pitches, while Burnett's pitch count might be at 90 in the fifth inning. The Yankees' catcher, Jose Molina, will have to keep Burnett in the game and make sure he's dialed in.

Just because the Angels are down 3-1 doesn't mean the suspense is gone from this series. You don't have a record like the Angels' without being capable of winning. Don't be surprised if the Angels win Game 5, but baseball fans everywhere would be shocked if they win Game 6 back in New York. The talent the Yankees have right now is better than any team in baseball, and when they play smart by getting clutch hits like they did in Game 4, they are almost impossible to beat.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 20 | Oct. 19 | Oct. 16 | Oct. 15 | Oct. 14

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Alex Rodriguez struggled in his last three trips to the postseason, hitting just .159 with one RBI as the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS each time. This year has been a much better experience, as he's hitting .407 with five homers and 11 RBI in seven games.

He's done it by punishing fastballs much more frequently that he did in his last three October visits. Rodriguez hit .306 against fastballs in the 2009 regular season, but has hit .471 with four home runs on postseason fastballs. And after missing on one-third of his swings against fastballs over his last three postseasons, he has missed just once on 32 swings this year.

Alex Rodriguez Vs. Fastball: Postseason, Past 5 Years
2005-07 2009
Batting Avg. .138 .471
Miss pct. 33.3 3.1
Runners on *.000 .444
* = 0-for-14, 8 K

-- ESPN Stats & Information

BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Chris Singleton,
John Kruk, Bobby Valentine
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Chris Singleton,
John Kruk, Bobby Valentine

THIS DATE IN "THAT'S NASTY" HISTORY

Each night throughout the postseason, "Baseball Tonight" will remember some of the postseason's best pitching performances.

Saberhagen Oct. 22, 1985 -- Bret Saberhagen pitches a complete-game six-hitter, as the Royals beat the Cardinals, 6-1, in Game 3 of the World Series, cutting the Cardinals lead in the series to 2-1. Saberhagen is the last AL pitcher to throw two complete games in the same World Series.

BBTN MINUTE: ALCS GAME 5 PREVIEW

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at some key numbers for both teams in the NLCS heading into Game 5.

Inside The Series: Yankees lead Angels, 3-1
Yankees Angels
Runs 22 10
Home Runs 8 3
Stolen Bases 2 2
*BA of 3B .375 .125
BA w/ RISP .156 .138
* = Alex Rodriguez vs. Chone Figgins

BREAKING DOWN PHILLIES' GAME 5 WIN

WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
• Seven home runs were hit at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, but two came off the bat of Jayson Werth, a three-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the seventh, leading the Phillies to their second straight National League title. Werth, who hit a career-high 36 homers during the regular season, finished the game with three hits, three runs and four RBI.
WORST
• The Dodgers needed a big start from Vicente Padilla, but it turned out to be too much to ask. Padilla, a cast-off from Texas who'd been the Dodgers' most consistent starter in the playoffs, left the game with no outs in the fourth inning, surrendering six runs on four hits -- two of them home runs -- and walking two.