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10/05/05 1:51 AM ET

Lackey prepared to work vs. Yankees

New York sends rookie Wang to hill for Game 2

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.

Wang, the only rookie pitcher in the Series rotation of either team, is as nerves-proof as is Lackey. Win or lose, he's sure to ground the Angels. He lives below the knees and typically gets three out of every four outs on ground balls.

The 25-year-old Taiwanese pitcher's composure caught Joe Torre's eyes even before his stuff did.

"Demeanor-wise, we don't think it will be a problem," the Yankees manager said of giving him such a high-stakes assignment over a couple of more established choices, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small.

Wang can count on the support of a New York team that fired on all cylinders to take the opener. It was only the first step on the postseason trail, but the Yankees could "taste" it, fielding, clutch-hitting and fielding flawlessly.

But it will be up to Wang to continue muffling the Angels lineup the way Mike Mussina & Co. had, primarily by damping their fuse.

Angels leadoff man Chone Figgins went 0-for-4, with two strikeouts. When Figgins doesn't get on base, the Angels have less chance of getting on the scoreboard.

The Angels went 28-8 during the regular season when Figgins both scored a run and stole a base. By doing neither Tuesday, the versatile weapon dug his postseason rut a little deeper.

Figgins' 2-for-14 performance in the 2004 Division Series contributed to the Angels' flat effort in being swept out of the postseason by the Red Sox.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.