But Mother Nature may delay the awarding of the AL pennant even further and potentially cause trouble for the team that captures it.
The weather report for Saturday night in the Bronx calls for a soaking, steady rain. It is expected to stay in the area until the wee hours of Sunday morning and deliver half an inch of rain. That means the first pitch of Game 6, scheduled for 8:07 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, may have to be delayed until the following evening.
If Mother Nature abides, the scheduled starters for Saturday’s Game 6 will be lefty Joe Saunders for Anaheim and southpaw Andy Pettitte for New York. If it does not, the rain could wreak havoc on the Yankees’ pitching staff, leaving manager Joe Girardi with some tough decisions to make.
Should Game 6 be postponed to Sunday, the Yankees could choose either to stick with Pettitte or pitch CC Sabathia on regular rest, in order to avoid a deciding Game 7 at all costs. Girardi would have the precarious task of weighing the potential reward against the inherent risk. If Pettitte wins Game 6, all is well, and the Yankees have Sabathia ready for Game 1 of the World Series. But if Pettitte loses and Sabathia must start Game 7, all hell could break loose on the pinstripes’ prospective rotation if they advance.
If Sabathia has to pitch this weekend or on Monday, he is unlikely to be available for either of the first two Fall Classic games. That would set up a mismatch in the opener between Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett, and worse still, it could force the Yankees to send Chad Gaudin to the mound in a potentially pivotal Game 2, or to pitch Pettitte on short rest.
On the other hand, if the Yankees pitch Sabathia in a postponed Game 6, and he is unable to deliver, Pettitte would have the pressure of Game 7 on his shoulders. And he might be going up against John Lackey, who would be available on three days’ rest if the ALCS drags on until Monday.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are resting comfortably after ousting the Dodgers in five games and locking up the NL pennant on Wednesday. Their Game 1 starter, Lee, will have plenty of time to gear up for the biggest start of his career. Lee — who has been spectacular in the postseason, going 2-0 with a sparkling 0.74 ERA in 24 1/3 innings — could come back to pitch Games 4 and 7 (if necessary) on three days’ rest, and the layover between the NLCS and the World Series gives manager Charlie Manuel a multitude of options as he decides how to arrange his rotation.
Conversely, if the ALCS is either delayed or goes to Game 7 — or both — Girardi could have a conundrum on his hands come World Series time, assuming the Yankees advance.
Despite their stumble in Game 5 on Thursday, the Yankees retain a 3-2 lead in the ALCS and are poised to go on to the World Series. But in a postseason where they are unquestionably the favorites to win it all, Mother Nature could prove to be a formidable obstacle.