Angels benefit more from rainout

We haven't seen scheduling challenges like this since George Costanza worked for the Yankees, writes Jim Caple.

Originally Published: October 8, 2005
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- We haven't seen scheduling challenges like this since George Costanza was the Yankees' assistant traveling secretary.

Yankees Stadium
APExcept for a busy grounds crew, Yankee Stadium was quiet and empty Saturday.
To begin with, starting pitchers Mike Mussina and Bartolo Colon will spend Sunday in California, where they will no doubt have plenty of time to monitor their fantasy teams, enjoy long walks on the beach and ride the Pirates of the Caribbean. That's because their teammates will still be on the other side of the continent at Yankee Stadium for Game 4, which was rained out Saturday afternoon and postponed until Sunday evening at 7:30.

Should the Yankees win, both teams would bus to the airport for red-eye cross-country flights that, with any luck, would get them to bed in Anaheim around 3 or 4 in the morning. Then, they would play Game 5 with a first pitch at 5:19 PDT, with the winner bussing back to the airport that night for another red-eye flight to open the championship series the next day in Chicago (in the event of a Game 5, it is possible the start of the ALCS could be pushed back to Wednesday).

Somewhere, Ozzie Guillen is smiling.

Of course, the Angels could make things easy on themselves by winning Game 4 and closing out the series.

Armed with a 2-1 advantage, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that his team will stick to the original rotation, pitching Jarrod Washburn. That not only gives Colon an extra day's rest if he's needed for Game 5, it leaves him available for a possible opener against the White Sox if Anaheim beats the Yankees in Game 4. Colon flew home Saturday to avoid a possible red-eye flight midnight Sunday.

"Bart can use an extra day," Scioscia said. "It's been a long season for a lot of guys. We're going to have Bart and back him up with John Lackey if we need him in Game 5."

The Yankees also will stick with their original rotation because they have no option. There is no possibility of starting Mussina in Game 4 because the veteran stayed in California after the first two games so that he would be well-rested (at the least) if needed for a fifth game back there. Sheesh, maybe Costanza is back with the Yankees.

Leaving Mussina in California was a case of way over-thinking the situation and pampering the starting pitcher. It's not as if Mussina was going to have to walk to and from California. He could easily have flown back to New York with the team and then returned to Anaheim on Saturday in plenty of time for a spa treatment. Instead, the Yankees limited their options, thereby forcing them to start a pitcher with no postseason experience instead of someone who has pitched 20 postseason games.

Granted, Chacon has pitched very well since the Yankees acquired him (7-3, 2.85 ERA), but he never pitched in a situation remotely like this with the Rockies. Asked whether he could have imagined starting such a game for the Yankees back in spring training, he replied, "I would never have thought that this spring, no chance."

He's not alone there. When they traded for Randy Johnson and signed Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano during the winter, the Yankees probably didn't expect they would be seeking pitching help from the Rockies. Then again, they probably didn't expect to see Johnson allow five runs in three innings as he did in Game 3, either.

The rainout at least offers Johnson the possibility of backing up Mussina if there is a Game 5.

"I guess anything is possible but that hasn't been suggested to me," Johnson said. "I think I could pitch today if I had to. Everything else goes out the door. This is what we play for and we're at a crossroads. We have to win a couple more games and anything I can do to help, I will."

You just accept whatever comes down, because if you start getting lost there, you're going to wind up getting distracted and using it as an excuse, and this is no time for excuses."
Yankees manager Joe Torre

So who does the rainout favor more? Probably the Angels, who gained a day of rest for catcher Bengie Molina, who has been the most productive hitter of this series with a home run in each game. Molina left Game 3 after being hit on the elbow by a pitch and the arm was stiff and sore Saturday. "I would have played today but it was going to hurt like a freaking ... thing," Molina said. "The extra day will help. You get an extra day, it always helps."

While both teams used virtually their entire bullpens in Game 3, the Angels also probably benefit from the rainout more because their middle relievers have been more effective and important to their overall success.

"We'll cut right to the chase. It's big for us. This day off is big for us," Scioscia said. "We have to be able to shorten a game against the Yankees and the only way to do that is to have Scot Shields and Brendan Donnelly and Kelvim Escobar and Francisco Rodriguez where they need to be. They were [in Game 3], and you saw we needed every bit of it and we got it done. Today, we probably would not have had as much of that, and it could have influenced some things.

"But I think the same could be said for the Yankees as they are going to kind of reset a little bit and maybe bring in Tom Gordon a little earlier if they have to and have Mariano Rivera for one-plus [innings]. It will work for both clubs."

Plus, the Yankees went through this travel nightmare before in 2000 against Oakland and wound up winning the World Series

"You just accept whatever comes down," Torre said, "because if you start getting lost there, you're going to wind up getting distracted and using it as an excuse, and this is no time for excuses."

Plus, it gives Mussina time for a proper pedicure.

Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," was published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE