Nov 02

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #5; will the bubbly flow?

Game 5: Burnett vs. Lee.

Game 5: Burnett vs. Lee.

The Philadelphia Inquirer printed an ad congratulating the Phillies on winning the World Series. It was a three-quarter page ad that said “Back To Back World Champions.”

Down 3-1, it will take a monumental Yankees’ collapse for that to happen. The Phillies would have to win tonight with Cliff Lee and then win two in New York. The 2004 Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit to win, including Games 6 and 7 at Yankee Stadium.

It’s possible, but who is running to their bookie? I didn’t think so.

The Yankees’ approach is simply to score early to deflate the Phillies even further and take the crowd out of the game. The Phillies have had leads in this Series but have been unable to put the Yankees away.

These are tough games to watch because most everybody has written off the Phillies and believe the suspense is gone.

Nov 01

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Game #4; Sabathia trying to put Phils in hole.

Game 4: Sabathia vs. Blanton.

Game 4: Sabathia vs. Blanton.

The New York Yankees made CC Sabathia the richest pitcher in history for moments like tonight.
Working on three days rest for the second time in the playoffs, Sabathia, who signed a seven-year, $161-million free-agent deal last winter, has an opportunity to pitch the Yankees to a 3-1 edge in the World Series.
Sabathia was 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA this summer and the heavy favorite to win his second Cy Young Award. He is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in the playoffs, and was the ALCS MVP.

Sabathia is a horse. He is 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in eight starts throwing on short rest. The Phillies decided not to start Cliff Lee on three days rest, instead opting for Joe Blanton. Lee has never worked on short rest.

SABATHIA: Trying to put the hammer down.

SABATHIA: Trying to put the hammer down.


“It feels good for them to have confidence in you, especially in these situations,’’ Sabathia said about working on short rest. “It gives you confidence when your team has confidence and the guys want you out there and everybody is asking: ‘Are you pitching today?’ and ‘Are you pitching tomorrow?’ ’’

Should the Phillies extend this to a seventh game, Sabathia would get that start in New York.

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 31

Rodriguez off to slow Series start ….

He sizzled against the Twins and Angels, but has come up cold against the Phillies. However, in the interest of fairness, so too, have most of the hitters – from both teams – in the first two games of the World Series.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.


Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were on in Game 1, but stifled in Game 2. Rodriguez is hitless in eight at-bats with six strikeouts. Horrible at any time, but this is Rodriguez we’re talking about, and afterall, weren’t we just talking a couple of days ago how he shed his October label?

“It’s eight at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not concerned at all. … Everything right now is magnified.”

The Yankees, of course, will keep him in the line-up. It’s not like benching Hideki Matsui or Nick Swisher. Rodriguez carried the Yankees during the first two rounds with a combined 14 hits, .438 average, five home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs in the first two rounds. He’s strong enough, and streaky enough, to do it again.

There was no way the Yankees were going to beat Cliff Lee, and maybe they got lucky against Pedro Martinez. The Phillies are happy with the split, that was their goal. The Yankees will take the split because they know it could have been worse.

Truer words were never spoken when Rodriguez said: “The fact that I’m oh-for-the-Series and we’re 1-1 and the guys picked me up makes me feel really good about going into Game 3.”

Oct 29

Phillies take early control ….

When you’re only playing seven games at best, every game is important, with tonight’s Game 2 falling into the critical category for the Yankees. I don’t see them climbing out of two-game hole.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed Pedro Martinez over Cole Hamels for tonight, citing the former’s big-game presence and experience in New York and the later’s numbers pitching in Philly. In a duel of aces, Cliff Lee out-dealt CC Sabathia, and with the support of two Chase Utley homers, the Phillies gained early control of the series.

LEE: Accepts congratulations after whipping Yankees.

LEE: Accepts congratulations after whipping Yankees.


The victory put the Phillies, win or lose tonight, in position of not having to return to New York if they run the table at home. That’s doable.

Lee was magnificent last night while Sabathia was good enough to win, but also a bit rusty. Sabathia had his rest. Now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi must decide whether to pitch him in Game 5 on normal rest or Game 4 on short rest. Sabathia pitched well on short rest before, but how long before he’s gassed?

Meanwhile, the Phillies, who have a fourth starter, have the luxury of using Lee any manner they desire, and if they go short it would be for Game 7. Regarding starting pitching, the Phillies are deeper.

The Yankees’ vulnerability in the bullpen surfaced last night to the tune of four runs. Phil Hughes is not the answer. When given the opportunity, the Phillies went for the throat last night. The game could have been an even greater blowout had they taken advantage of several early chances against Sabathia.

The Yankees are dangerous when down, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get to Martinez tonight. However, it also wouldn’t be a shock for Philadelphia to rough up AJ Burnett.

Yes, the Yankees can still win, but it means doing so on the road. They’ve won at Minnesota and Anaheim so far in the playoffs, but the Phillies are a clearly better team.