October 3, 2005

Yankees face Angels in playoffs with Red Sox in mind

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees, still smarting
from their defeat by Boston in last year's American League (AL)
Championship Series, begin a new playoff chase this week that
could bring a rematch with the world champion Red Sox.

The Yankees, who edged Boston for this year's East Division
title, face West winners the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on
Tuesday in the opening game of their best-of-five AL Division

Wildcard Boston plays at the Central champion Chicago White
Sox on Tuesday.

In the National League, the Central-winning St Louis
Cardinals host the West champion San Diego Padres on Tuesday
while the East-winning Atlanta Braves start their playoff bid
on Wednesday at home to the wildcard Houston Astros.

The four winners advance to their respective league
championship series.

At the equivalent stage in 2004, Boston came back to stun
arch rival New York after trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven

The Red Sox then followed up by sweeping St Louis to claim
their first World Series crown in 86 years.

The Yankees, despite being the highest-paid team in
baseball with a $200 million payroll, last won a World Series
in 2000, their third in a row.

Outspoken owner George Steinbrenner has been perplexed with
a franchise that has won 26 World Series titles, nearly three
times as many as the next best ballclub, the Cardinals.

"It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in
baseball would start the season in such a deep funk,"
Steinbrenner said after the Yankees began the campaign 4-8.


He had kinder words on Sunday after the Yankees clinched
their eighth successive AL East title, saying "our team played
like real warriors" in the closing days of the regular season
when the Yankees won 16 of 20 games.

But he also says the East title "is only the first step
toward our goal, a championship."

Pitcher Mike Mussina (13-8) will start for the Yankees
against the Angels's 21-game winner Bartolo Colon.

Alex Rodriguez leads New York's power hitters, topping the
AL in home runs with 48 while hitting .321. Team mates Derek
Jeter and Hideki Matsui also have batting averages above .300.

Vladimir Guerrero, with a .317 average and 32 home runs,
will hope to spark an Angels team that has depended more on
pitching and defense.

Boston's Matt Clement (13-6) goes up against White Sox
pitcher Jose Contreras (15-7).

The Red Sox boast two of the best run producers in the
major leagues. David Ortiz drove in a season-best 148 runs
while hitting .300 and Manny Ramirez collected 144 RBI.

Pitching has been the strong suit for the White Sox, who
won eight of their last 10 games.

The Cardinals, the only major league club to record 100
wins this season, face a San Diego team which finished only two
games over .500.

Pitcher Chris Carpenter (21-5) starts for St Louis against
Jake Peavy (13-7).

Albert Pujols leads the Cardinals with a hefty .332 batting
average. Brian Giles tops San Diego's list with a .301 mark.

The Braves, who have won 14 consecutive division titles,
are likely to open up with pitcher Tim Hudson (14-9) taking on
Andy Pettitte (17-9).

John Smoltz, who had been scheduled to start for the
Braves, has a sore shoulder.