EVAN GRANT’S MATCHUPS

Three things that will determine the outcome of the American

League Championship Series:

Rangers’ running game big part of

success

Will the

Rangers run like a deer or be hunted

like them?

In winning the division series, the

Rangers served notice they will be

aggressive on the basepaths when presented with the opportunity.

The Yankees already knew that. In a

Rangers’ three-game sweep in

September, Texas stole five bases without being caught against

Jorge Posada, who will probably start vs. lefties, and Francisco

Cervelli.

The question is whether they can continue to run now that the

entire nation is familiar with the sign of the antlers.

If anything, the success in the division series is only likely

to make the

Rangers more aggressive on the

basepaths. They led the majors in times going from first to third

on a single this season, and were seventh in the majors in stolen

bases, but they were also among the leaders in “unforced

baserunning errors,” which tries to calculate how often a team ran

into outs on the bases.

The Yankees pay attention to details. Last year, they faced the

equally aggressive Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS. The Angels stole

four bases in five attempts. And they still went home in six

games.

Expect the

Rangers, who have stolen 33 bases in

39 attempts since Sept. 1, to try to put pressure on the Yankees in

the same fashion they did against Tampa Bay.

If the

Rangers are successful, expect them

to keep doing it until the Yankees show them they are capable of

stopping it.

Crime problem

The Yankees ranked last in the AL in caught-stealing percentage,

a stat the

Rangers may try to exploit in the

AL Championship Series. A look at the bottom five steal-stopping AL

teams by percentage and how the

Rangers ran against them:

Opponents

Rangers Team SB Pct SB CS Pct. New

York 132 88.0 8 0 100 Boston 169 85.4 22 5 81.4 Oakland 88 83.8 12

7 63.2 LA 133 82.6 20 6 76.9 Chicago 105 82.0 4 3 57.1

Is Josh Hamilton ready to produce?

Josh Hamilton believes he’s ready to return as a force in the

Rangers lineup. The way he’ll do

it: He’ll try to do a whole lot less.

With Hamilton, less is often more. Less effort plus less thought

equals less stress and that equals far more production.

Hamilton said the problem with his swing during the AL Division

Series was not so much his fractured ribs – oh, they’ll be sore for

several more weeks after the end of the season – but rather his

desire to immediately step in and try to be a key run producer

after missing 25 days in September. Hamilton ended up going

2-for-18 during the ALDS. He had just one RBI. That came on a

groundout, and he only got credit for it because Elvis Andrus

dashed all the way from second to score.

“The swing feels the best its felt all year,” Hamilton said. “I

feel good at the plate, mechanically. The biggest thing has been

trying to do too much. The past couple of games, I tried to start

focusing back on seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and not

letting too much adrenaline build up. I feel like I saw the ball

well in the last couple of games.

The ALDS also offered a “perfect storm” of bad statistical

splits for Hamilton.

He is far better at night, than during the day, but four games

were played in daytime hours. He’s far better at home than on the

road, but the majority of the games were played in St. Petersburg,

Fla. And he’s far more successful in Yankee Stadium than he has

been at Tropicana Field. If the series goes seven games, the

majority of games will be at night and in Arlington.

Throw strike one … and strike two

Against Tampa Bay, which led the AL in strikeouts, simply

getting ahead of the hitters was enough to give

Rangers pitchers a distinct

advantage.

With the Yankees, you’ve got to further.

While the Rays’ batting averages and on-base percentages dropped

sharply after pitchers got ahead 0-and-1 or got to two strikes, the

Yankees make it much tougher on pitchers to get the out even when

the pitchers are ahead in the count.

The Yankees drive pitch counts higher and higher and force

starting pitchers to work harder and harder. It often forces early

exits by starters, allowing the Yankees to prey on the weakest part

of every club – the middle of the bullpen. C.J. Wilson, for

example, led the

Rangers in innings pitched during

the season, but he averaged less than five innings per start

against the Yankees.

“The thing that hurt me in all three of my starts was just the

high pitch count from walks and stuff like that, from falling

behind in the count,” Wilson said. “I think I’m just going to get

that knuckleball over the plate first pitch and see where we go

from there. This is obviously a good hitting team and they are

prepared.”

Wilson walked three in each of his starts against the Yankees.

Colby Lewis, whose Game 2 start will be his first outing against

the Yankees , walked five in Game 3 of the division series on

Saturday.

Unlike the Rays, the Yankee hitters make pitchers earn every

out, by putting pressure on every pitch.

Strikingly different

A look at how the Yankees’on-base percentage changed in certain

pitcher-friendly counts compared to Tampa Bay and the AL average in

2010:

Team Overall After 0-1 With 2 strikes Yankees .350 (1) .302 (1)

.289 (1) AL avg. .327 .271 .257 Rays .333 (6) .264 (8) .249 (9)