Rain unlikely to affect Yanks greatly
With chance to start Sabathia, New York sticks with Pettitte
NEW YORK -- As rain poured down outside the clubhouse walls early Saturday evening, several Yankees milled about after hearing that Game 6 of the American League Championship Series had been postponed -- pushed back to Sunday night at 8:20 p.m. ET.
Andy Pettitte sat behind a microphone and spoke about how the extra day of rest may help him, given his age. Nick Swisher held court at his locker and discussed how the rainout certainly couldn't hurt him, considering the depth of his current funk. Mariano Rivera stood halfway across the room and insisted that it would not affect him -- after all, hardly anything does.
Though the Angels may have been silently pumping fists in the visitors' clubhouse, knowing that the extra day would allow them to start John Lackey in Game 7, if necessary, or even use him in Game 6 if they got desperate, the Yankees headed out to their cars knowing that, at least internally, the postponement of Game 6 from Saturday to Sunday would not alter their plans.
The Yankees -- leading the series, 3-2 -- are not willing to think about Lackey, because they have no reason to consider the prospect of a Game 7. They're not concerned that the rain may force them to endure a quick turnaround before the World Series against the Phillies, because they're not interested in talking about the World Series just yet.
All they know is that Pettitte, scheduled to pitch on Saturday, will instead start Game 6 on Sunday night. Ace CC Sabathia will still start Game 7, now scheduled for Monday at 7:57 p.m., if necessary. And the Yankees, through it all, remain just one win away from clinching their first World Series berth since 2003.
"You worry about Game 6 for us," manager Joe Girardi said. "Our focus is completely on Game 6. Does it give one team an advantage or not? I don't know. Maybe the extra day helps us more. I'm not really sure. I'm sure there will be a lot written about it, depending on what happens tomorrow night. But I don't know."
It is a game that's almost certain to be played. Early forecasts called for abundant sunshine throughout the tri-state area Sunday, with clear nighttime skies and overnight lows in the mid-40s.
And the matchup will remain Pettitte vs. Joe Saunders -- the exact same game, 24 hours and 23 minutes later.
"I know a lot of guys were really excited to play today," Swisher said. "But the big man upstairs didn't think it was the right time for us to play, so we'll get back out there tomorrow. No big deal."
Certainly, the players were prepared for this. Heavy rains had been in the forecast since the Angels won on Thursday to force a Game 6, and many players and fans came to the ballpark doubting that a game would be played. It was dangerous thinking, considering similar forecasts for Games 1 and 2 of this series turned out to be much tamer in reality. But this latest storm had a fair bit of bite to it, dumping heavy amounts of rain on Yankee Stadium beginning in the late-afternoon hours.
With the forecast calling for only increasing rainfall throughout the evening, Major League Baseball announced the game's postponement at 6:05 p.m., roughly two hours before its scheduled first pitch.
"The one thing is you don't want to stop and start," Girardi said. "I don't think any of us are exactly sure when the rain is going to get out of here or how late it's going to be, so I respect the decision that they made. I'm sure both clubs would have loved to have played. The weather is not permitting."
Then came talk of strategy. The rainout made it possible for the Yankees to start Sabathia on regular rest in Game 6 rather than wait to use him in a potential Game 7. But doing so would have ensured that Sabathia would not be ready for a World Series Game 1 assignment. So the Yankees stuck with Pettitte for ALCS Game 6, hoping that he can win and render Game 7 irrelevant.
The Angels, meanwhile, have not announced their Game 7 starter, and they likely won't until they see how they use their pitching staff in a must-win situation on Sunday night.
POSTSEASON POSTPONEMENTSSince Wild Card era began in 1995
|1996||ALCS, Gm. 1||BAL at NYY|
|WS, Gm. 1||ATL at NYY|
|2003||ALCS, Gm. 4||NYY at BOS|
|2004||ALCS, Gm. 3||NYY at BOS|
|2005||ALCS, Gm. 4||LAA at NYY|
|2006||ALDS, Gm. 2||DET at NYY|
|NLCS, Gm. 1||STL at NYM|
|NLCS, Gm. 5||NYM at STL|
|2008||WS, Gm. 5*||TB at PHI|
|2009||NLDS, Gm. 3||PHI at COL|
|2009||ALCS, Gm. 6||LAA at NYY|
For the rest of the Yankees, there is no telling whether or not the extra rest will help or hurt. Perhaps it could aid Swisher, who was in Saturday's original starting lineup despite going hitless over his past 11 at-bats. Perhaps it could hurt Pettitte, who called it "frustrating" that he could not pitch on his regular fifth day.
"Each guy is different," Girardi said. "It could be helpful. It could be hurtful. You are really not going to know. One thing you know is certain guys react different to different circumstances. And that's the one thing that, as a manager, you can't really predict. I don't know if it helps our guys, hurts our guys. Only time will tell."
What Girardi does know, however, is that he has a veteran core to his team and that those players are unlikely to be affected by this unexpected rest.
"Our guys know how to handle it," Girardi said. "The interesting thing is we've had a lot of rain in New York this year. So we've been through this a lot."
"It's not the first time it's happened to us," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We've just got to go home, and we'll come back tomorrow."
And so they did go home. Eventually. Rivera, roughly 15 minutes after the game was postponed, was unaware the game had been pushed back until a clubhouse visitor informed him.
After learning of the postponement, the Yankees' closer simply shrugged.
"We have to come back tomorrow then and bring the same mentality," Rivera said. "We have to play hard. We have to win tomorrow."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.