Nov 04

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #6

Martinez vs. Pettitte

Martinez vs. Pettitte

Some of the most riveting moments in baseball history have occurred during Game 6 of a World Series. I looked at several this morning and if you haven’t yet, please take a look and, of course, add your comments.

Tonight, it’s Pedro Martinez against Andy Pettitte, with each going 3-3 against the other.

“Two old goats out there doing the best they can and having fun with it,” Martinez said. “I don’t have enough words to describe how excited I am about being here. This is just a great gift to me.”

The objects are simple for each. For Martinez, it is to keep the Phillies’ season alive. He pitched well in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. For Pettitte, it is to bring the Yankees’ 27th World Series title to the Bronx.

Pettitte won Game 3 in Philadelphia. Pettitte got the victory, but was hit for four runs in six innings. That was on normal rest. Tonight he’s going on three days, and how much he has left will be a defining moment to the game and Series.
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Nov 04

Does it end tonight?

Does Pedro Martinez have one more good effort left in the tank? What’s in Andy Pettitte’s tank … can he do it on three days rest?

Martinez feels confident pitching in Yankee Stadium, where he had a quality start in Game 2, giving up three runs on six hits in six innings. He only walked two, but gave up solo homers to Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui.

The crowd will be all over him, but Martinez loves that stuff.

As for Pettitte, he’ll be going on short rest, something he hasn’t done. It is something he’s done 16 times and is 4-6.

Pettitte was the winner in Game 3, giving up four runs in six innings, but he also drove in the game tying run with a single. I’ll never underestimate Pettitte. I can see him losing, but I can also see lights out.

Nov 02

About Last Night …. Yankees imposing their will.

They have the money and they have the star galaxy, but the Yankees are showing grit and resiliency. They are winning this World Series, with a 27th title within their grasp, despite Mark Teixeira not hitting; despite CC Sabathia not winning a game (all right, that’s semantics because he’s pitched very well); and despite Alex Rodriguez’s miserable start.

Many thought, myself included, this would go seven. Two potent offenses and aces on both teams, how could it not? The Yankees can wrap it up in five games tonight.

Bearing down on title 27

Bearing down on title 27


Rodriguez got the game winning hit last night, but wasn’t the game really won on Johnny Damon’s hustle when he stole two bases on one play? With the Phillies in a shift against Teixeira, who only has one hit in the Series, they neglected to cover third. That was closer Brad Lidge’s responsibility.

Rattled, Lidge hit Teixeira and Rodriguez delivered.

“There’s no question I’ve never had a bigger hit,” Rodriguez said.

It really is amazing how the momentum of the Series shifted so suddenly. It didn’t take much, either. After losing the first game, the Yankees were behind in Game 2 when Hideki Matsui tied it with a homer. You knew then the Series was going to be tied.

Down in Game 3, Andy Pettitte’s hit off a Cole Hamels curveball, tied that game and set up a big inning. The Series was now slipping away. Then, there was Damon’s play last night, after which you know what would happen next, and now the Yankees are 27 outs away from their 27th title.

That the Yankees came back last night after the Phillies tied the game in the eighth tells you what you need to know about them.

Like them or hate them, and there’s no middle ground, you must respect them. And, fear them.

Oct 31

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #3 starts with news of Game #4.

GAME 3: Pettitte vs. Hamels.

GAME 3: Pettitte vs. Hamels.

Joe Torre used to say Game 3 was the pivotal game, that it is the game where the momentum swings one way or another. Nine of the last 10 teams to win a Game 3 when the Series was tied went on to win the title.

The Phillies are home tonight, but the Yankees’ might have psychologically off-set that advantage with the announcement CC Sabathia will be the Game 4 starter on three days rest. Joe Blanton is scheduled to go for the Phillies in Game 4, but will manager Charlie Manuel reverse course and go with Cliff Lee?

If he does, the argument would be, and it wouldn’t be wrong, that the Yankees are now dictating what the Phillies will do. Should the Phillies lose tonight, absolutely it wouldn’t be surprising for Lee to be moved up in the rotation. Lee has never pitched on short rest.

SABATHIA: Starts tomorrow on short rest.

SABATHIA: Starts tomorrow on short rest.


That puts the pressure on the Phillies, who obviously can’t relish the idea of facing Sabathia to stay alive in the Series. Let’s face it, if they lose tonight, they are looking at falling down 3-1 and needing to run the table, including two games in New York.

Yes, they do play those kinds of mental gymnastics.

Sabathia has been a horse during the playoffs, going 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four starts, including beating the Angels in Game 4 on three days rest.

“CC has pitched extremely well for us this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said today. “We wanted to see how he came out today, how physically he came out today, and he physically feels good.”

HAMELS: Needs to get back in form.

HAMELS: Needs to get back in form.


Should the Yankees lose tonight they would’ve gone with Sabathia on three days rest anyway. This just takes the doubt out of it, which is probably good for Sabathia’s mental preparation.

If the Yankees lose one of the next two games, count on them also going with AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte on short rest, with Sabathia pitching again on three days rest in a Game 7.

The Phillies can go back dictating their terms, which would include staying with Blanton tomorrow, if last year’s World Series MVP, Cole Hamels, wins tonight. A slamdunk last October, Hamels is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three playoff starts this year. Manuel waited to start him at home because he was reluctant to go with him on the road.

“It’s been a growing process,” said Hamels, who grew up admiring Pettitte. “It’s just coming back and delivering, and I still have an opportunity to help this team out and win some big games.”

Pettitte is underrated as a big-game pitcher, but he shouldn’t be. He won his record 16th playoff game when the won Game 6 of the ALCS against the Angels. He’s 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in these playoffs.

“He doesn’t seem fazed by anything,” teammate Derek Jeter said. “He’s pitched in every kind of big game you can think of.”

Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.