Time: 8:07pm ET
Series: 2-1 Texas
TV Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, John Smoltz, Craig Sager
Radio: ESPN Radio
Radio Announcers: Jon Miller and Joe Morgan
Umpires: Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, Angel Hernandez, Fieldin Culbreth, Jim Reynolds, Tony Randazzo
MLB.com Gameday: Link
Sure, you could argue that the Rangers should be up three games to zero right now. Were it not for their big Game 1 collapse, who knows. But they managed to get a home split of the first two before handing the ball to Cliff Lee in Game 3, and Lee turned in exactly the kind of start everyone figured. So at the end of the day, though the Rangers have already blown a five-run lead, they're still up 2-1 in the series and only need to win one of the next two games to go home with a 3-2 advantage. All in all, they're looking pretty good. Everything the Yankees have done well, the Rangers have done better. Which team is the inexperienced one again?
(1) The Yankees are in the situation they never wanted to face - behind in the series and turning the ball over to A.J. Burnett. Over Burnett's last 12 starts of the regular season, he posted a 6.61 ERA, and he hasn't actually gotten into a game since October 2, so one can't expect him to be fresh. Ask fans in New York and they'll tell you they have zero confidence in the guy. Look for Joe Girardi to get the bullpen stirring at the first sign of trouble, after Andy Pettitte went seven in Game 3 and with CC Sabathia starting Game 5. He won't push his luck. And look for Ranger hitters to sit curve when Burnett gets ahead, because he's a two-pitch pitcher who can end up being pretty predictable.
(2) The good news for the Yankees is that they won't be going up against Cliff Lee in Game 4. About the other thing Lee and Hunter have in common is that they both throw cutters. Hunter very much fits the Twins mold of pitchers, in that he pounds the zone and tries to succeed with deception and weak contact. He isn't like Lee and his perfect location. He isn't like C.J. Wilson or Colby Lewis, who nibble and never give in. Hunter wants the batter to hit the ball, and that's a recipe that's worked out well for the Yankee hitters in the past. An aggressive approach would be the right one, and Hunter is a guy they could jump on. As much as Ron Washington trusts Hunter, look for him to start warming Derek Holland if and when Hunter gets in trouble. Holland has thrown well, and he'd give the hitters a different look.
(3) Game 4 isn't a must-win game for the Yankees, because Game 4 isn't a potential elimination game. However, a loss puts the Yankees behind 3-1 in the series going up against the Rangers' top three starters, so it'll be interesting to see if Girardi manages it like the biggest game of the season. And, in turn, it'll be interesting to see if Washington manages it like the biggest game of the season as well. How short a leash will the starters have? How long a leash would Mariano Rivera have? Will Girardi try to play for one run early to get out ahead? Rivera is the Yankees' big edge. The Rangers don't have an answer. I wonder if we might not see Rivera for a very extended relief appearance, even if just to preserve a tie or narrow deficit.