By Keith Glab
White Sox: 99-63 741 RS(9th) 645 RA(3rd)
Angels: 95-67 761 RS(7th) 643 RA(1st(t))
As Iíve mentioned at length, both of these teams are quite similar in composition. The difference right now is that while the White Sox handled Boston with ease and have their rotation set up perfectly, the Angels sustained two unforeseen injuries to their staff that caused them to only scrape by the Yankees.
Chicago has Jose Contreras, arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball (11-2, 2.96 since the break), for games 1 & 5. They also have Mark Buehrle, who has excelled at home (10-2 2.48), for games 2 & 6, both at US Cellular field. Freddy Garcia (10-3 3.40 on the road) and Jon Garland (5-6 3.65 since the break) will divvy up the remaining games, with the most likely scenario having Garland pitching games 3 & 7 to avoid having Garcia pitch at home. While neither pitcher is dominant, they are both solid options that practically match the best that Anaheim now has to offer.
How can that be true? Because the Angelsí leader in wins (Colon, 21, 1st in AL) and ERA (Washburn, 3.20, 4th) are out for the series, and their strikeout leader (Lackey, 199, 3rd in AL) was used on 3-days rest just Sunday, and isnít available until game 3. This leaves the Angels with Paul Byrd (12-11 3.76), who is a quality starter but not an ace for game 1, and Ervin Santana (12-8, 4.65), who pitched 5.1 gutsy innings on Monday, but is hardly a sure bet if he indeed has to go Wednesday for game 2. Another Option is to use Kelvim Escobar (2-2 3.54 as a starter), who has switched between starter and reliever more often than any pitcher in recent memory. Unfortunately, health questions will prevent him from starting game 2, wherte he is most needed, as Sunday and Monday marked the first time he pitched in back-to-back games this year.
Offensively, the usually even scale between the two teams is tilted a little on Chicagoís side, as the Angels are forced to use Steve Finley (12 54 .645) as their everyday center fielder in order to support the makeshift rotation defensively. Finley has remembered how to bunt from his weak hitting days with Houston, but the Angelsí lineup simply cannot afford any more holes.
This should have been an exciting, even series. But then, the Angels should have beaten the Yankees in four games. Freak injuries have sidelined the Angelsí World Series hopes, making the Division Series more exciting, but the Championship Series less so.
Prediction: Chicago in five