To heck with sleep for Angels, Yankees
In winning Sunday's Game 4, the Yankees assured themselves and the Angels of one thing: very little rest. Jim Caple explains.
NEW YORK -- Monday night's Yankees-Angels AL Division Series finale may be the first postseason game in which members of the winning team celebrate by spraying coffee on each other.
No, wait a second. Maybe they'll spray NyQuil. Then again, perhaps it should be Red Bull. Well, who knows what liquid would be most appropriate given the imposing schedule the Yankees arranged by rallying for a 3-2 victory over the Angels in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.
"I don't know what our schedule is, but I'm going to have about three or four vanilla grandes at Starbucks in the afternoon, that's for sure,'' Yankees reliever Al Leiter said while the clubhouse crew hastily packed for a red-eye flight to California. "But with all we've got ahead of us, I don't think there will be too many sleepy eyes at game time.''
Maybe not at game time Monday. But how about Tuesday evening in Chicago when Monday's victor takes on the Chicago White Sox in the American League Championship Series after a second consecutive night of red-eye flights? Jeff Spicoli might be more awake and alert.
That is, if the ALCS opens Tuesday. One Yankees player said he heard the ALCS would be flip-flopped with the NLCS, with the National League starting a day earlier on Tuesday and the American League a day later on Wednesday. Such a switch would make either the Yankees or the Angels very happy, but you probably wouldn't want to be near Houston manager Phil Garner or White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen when they got the news.
If the ALCS schedule remains the same, however, this is the daunting schedule for the Angels and Yankees:
The two teams left Yankee Stadium shortly after midnight ET for the airport, with estimated arrival times in Orange County at around 4:30 a.m. PT (thanks to gaining three hours with the time zones). Give them about an hour to get to their homes and hotel rooms and they probably could get to bed about 5:30 a.m. That gives them six to eight hours to sleep/toss and turn/watch movies before most of them will be at the ballpark to prepare for Game 5's scheduled 5:15 p.m. PT (or thereabouts) first pitch.
Allow for, say, a three- to four-hour game, followed by a victory celebration, and the winning team will get to the airport about 11 p.m. for the red-eye flight to Chicago. If all goes well, they'll get in around 5 a.m. CT (losing two hours with the time zones) and repeat Monday's schedule.
Given that schedule, it would make sense to flip-flop the AL and NL series. On the other hand, the Astros wouldn't like it because they played the equivalent of two games Sunday with the expectation of having two days off for their pitchers to recover. And the White Sox certainly don't need or want to sit a fourth day while the Yankees or Angels gain valuable rest for their best pitchers. As one Yankee said, "That would let us start Randy Johnson on full rest in Game 2 and [Mike] Mussina on normal rest in Game 3.''
So, whenever the series is played, someone is sure to be upset. "You'd like to see a day off after [Games 3 and 4],'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "but we'd like to see a lot of things.''
And heck, this is baseball. They're athletes, they're young (well, maybe not Ruben Sierra) and they're used to playing every day. As Alex Rodriguez said of the flight to California: "I'm really going to enjoy it. I'm going to see the trainer and see that he gives me something good to put me to sleep.''
Besides, both Game 5 starters, Bartolo Colon and Mussina, were already in California to get plenty of rest. The Angels sent Colon back home Saturday even though they knew Jarrod Washburn might not be able to make his scheduled Game 4 start due to a high fever, partly because they felt his aching back could use an extra day of rest. Mussina never even made the trip to New York, instead staying there after the first two games of the series. He's been in California so long the Yankees don't have to worry about him being tired. On the other hand, he's been there so long they may have to worry about him being called for jury duty.
Of course, the Angels could have avoided all this simply by winning Sunday. And they nearly did, taking a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning before their usually reliable bullpen and quality fielding failed them. John Lackey, pitching on three days' rest because Washburn got sick, didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning but gave up a run in the sixth and reliever Scot Shields gave up two more runs in the seventh.
|“||Sleep? Who can possibly sleep at this time of year? ”|
|— Angels first baseman Darin Erstad|
Third baseman Chone Figgins has made some outstanding plays this series, but his hurried throw allowed Jorge Posada to slide in safely on Derek Jeter's bouncer to third with one out in the seventh. That gave the Yankees the 3-2 lead and that was all New York needed behind an excellent start from Shawn Chacon (two runs in 6 1/3 innings), a double-play ball by Leiter in relief and two lights-out innings from -- who else -- Mariano Rivera.
It was a rough night for the Angels. In addition to the bullpen and the bad throw, the Angels' small-ball style also sputtered -- both Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero were caught stealing (the Angels are 1-for-5 in its base-stealing attempts this series). Guerrero is the heart of the Angels lineup, but he has yet to drive in a run this series. He's running out of time to get hot.
So, now it comes to Game 5. Set your alarms, get the Rally Monkey some No-Doz and may the team with the best traveling secretary win. Both starters have some aches (a sore elbow for Mussina, a bad back for Colon), but both will pitch on five days' rest. Both bullpens are in decent shape. After throwing two innings, Rivera may not be totally rested but he's certainly overcome worse. "I can't stop," Rivera said. "If I have to go two, I have to go two. That's the way it is.''
Enter Sandman, indeed. Tonight's winner will go on to another miserable night of sleep. The loser gains something worse -- six months of rest. As Angels first baseman Darin Erstad said, "Sleep? Who can possibly sleep at this time of year?''
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.