Speedsters dominate ALCS matchup
Both clubs also rely on speed to be successful
CHICAGO -- It seems only fitting the American League Championship Series will be contested by the two most complete teams on the circuit from start to finish.
With the Angels' victory over the Yankees on Monday night in Anaheim, the official ticket has been punched for Tuesday's first game to be played at U.S. Cellular Field. This series pits the speed of the Angels, led by Chone Figgins, against the speed of the White Sox, led by Scott Podsednik. The two leadoff hitters topped the American League in stolen bases.
This series pits the deep pitching staff and equally strong bullpen featured by Los Angeles against the top-notch starting five and solid relief crew possessed by the South Siders. Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, John Lackey and Jarrod Washburn? Current Angels' closing sensation Francisco Rodriguez or former Angels prospect and current White Sox closer Bobby Jenks? Take your pick because you can't go wrong.
During head-to-head matchups from the 2005 regular season, the Angels held a 6-4 edge. The White Sox split four games in Anaheim and lost four of the six contests played in Chicago, including Los Angeles' three-game sweep at home from Sept. 9-11.
Neither Vladimir Guerrero nor Rodriguez was available to the Angels during the first seven games of this season series, due to injuries. But both individuals contributed during the three straight victories at U.S. Cellular.
"They are a lot like us," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of the Angels. "They are a very balanced team, with great pitching, a great bullpen, speed and then Vladimir. Very balanced, and they don't beat themselves."
"The Angels have a big three-four punch with Vlad and Garret [Anderson]," third baseman Joe Crede added. "So you try to contain Vlad and Garret at the plate and try to contain Figgins on the bases."
Ervin Santana shut out the White Sox in Anaheim on May 29, in probably the best-pitched game of the series. Santana was scheduled to start Game 1 of the ALCS for the Angels, but was called into action during Game 5 of the Division Series when Colon left with a shoulder injury.
With Colon's status uncertain and John Lackey unavailable until Game 3 in California, the White Sox appear to have the ALCS edge. It doesn't hurt the cause that the Angels traveled from New York on Sunday to Anaheim on Monday and back to Chicago on Tuesday.
But aside from the travel and pitching problems, there was one other major plus to the Angels serving as the White Sox opponent in this next round of playoff action. It's a matter of climate.
"If there was one thing, one deciding factor, something you would lean on, it's that the weather in Anaheim is better," center fielder Aaron Rowand said with a smile. "We've has success against both and struggled against both.
"It just would be nice to play in 70 degrees, though, instead of 35 or 50 or whatever it is in New York right now," Rowand added.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.