ANAHEIM -- John Lackey has been warned. The Yankees are eager to beat you, but they don't have to do it in a New York minute. The Yankees waited out Bartolo Colon for a three-run first inning in Tuesday's Game 1 of the Division Series, an early decisive strike in their 4-2 victory. And now they can put a squeeze on the Angels by exploiting Lackey, who even without their help ranked second in the American League in pitches made.
"When you go against a team like the Yankees, you know they like to take a lot of pitches and work counts," said Lackey, who threw 3,489 of them during the regular season, and only Oakland left-hander Barry Zito made more. The idea behind working the count is sticking in the batter's box long enough until the pitch you can handle shows up. That's the Game 1 trap the Yankees set for Colon to take an advantageous position in this five-game series. "We've been doing this for years," Derek Jeter said. "Guys are pretty patient, which doesn't necessarily mean you see a lot of pitches, but that you wait to find a good one to hit. And that's the one you turn into a good at-bat." New York had enough of them to consider being homeward bound with a 2-0 edge. The man who will try to prevent that seems oblivious to pressure. Lackey started and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. On a pyramid of tough assignments, it is hard to conceive of anything higher. "I've done this kind of thing before," he said. "I've done the flyovers and all of that kind of stuff. If you've been through it before, it's not as big of a deal." Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will oppose Lackey, with an opportunity to punctuate his impressive rookie season by giving the Yankees a seemingly comfortable 2-0 series lead. Then again, these are the last two teams that have to be lectured on the fragility of "insurmountable" series leads. The Angels were the only team to ever squander a 2-0 edge in the old five-game AL Championship Series, to Milwaukee in 1982. And the Yanks, of course, fumbled away their 3-0 ALCS lead over Boston last October.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.