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.

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.

Oct 09

Pedro wants the ball ….

I’m not second-guessing the Mets’ decision not to bring back Pedro Martinez. I thought it was time to move on also. However, in light of the collapse of the Mets pitching staff, Martinez’s success with the Phillies shows they might have made a mistake.

Martinez finds himself in position where he could get the ball in the pivotal Game 3 of the Phillies’ NLDS at Colorado tomorrow.

The decision will be announced between Martinez, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ. Martinez thinks it will be him.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s my turn,” Martinez said. “I’m supposed to get some action in there. And I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to help this team. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that.”

Martinez was 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA this season in a couple of months with the Phillies. If used the right way, meaning as a back end of the rotation starter, he could be valuable, and his numbers will get him a job if he wants to pitch again.

Did the Mets make a mistake?

Aug 24

About yesterday …. no moral victories.

An unassisted triple play is rarer than a perfect game, and rarer still is for one to end a game.

Somehow, it was the perfect way to end a game in this imperfect season.

Before we get carried away about the Mets’ character in coming back from a 6-0 first-inning deficit – and it was an important aspect of the game – we must first acknowledge the game was a microcosm of this season, and to some degree their off-season and this weekend.

On a grand scale, the Mets had high expectations heading into the season, and this was supposed to a magical weekend with the honoring of the 1969 Mets. However, injuries and poor play sabotaged the season, and the grandest team in franchise history was treated to the spectacle of bad baseball. Does anybody really expect Bobby Parnell to out-pitch Cliff Lee to salvage a split.

As injuries have sidetracked this season, there is no telling what might have happened had the Mets even had one of their core bats in the game let alone for. Mets fans will forever be haunted by the what could have beens from this season.

Even still, there are 25 professional players on the team, but despite their spirited comeback, they played to the themes that really have cost the Mets this season: poor starting pitching and situational hitting, and overuse of the bullpen. There was also a questionable managerial decision or two.

Oliver Perez gave up six runs and didn’t get out of the first in another dismal performance that brought to questions of whether he’ll ever tap into his potential, and why the Mets bothered to re-sign him in the first place. As the home runs flew it was a reminder of the organization’s inability to fix its greatest need in the off-season.

Yes, it was an exciting comeback and excruciating ending, but let’s not forget the Mets twice had a runner on third with less than two outs and couldn’t score and they were hitless in their first eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Perez’s inexcusable outing piled 8 1/3 innings onto a bullpen that needs the rest. Three runs in that span is acceptable, but not when one of them is on a wild pitch. Sean Green, an off-season acquisition that was supposed to bolster the pen, has had a terrible season.

One thing preyed on my mind as Perez’s pitch count mounted to Jason Werth: This guy is going to hit a home run.

How could Jerry Manuel not be thinking the same thing? And, as Perez continued to struggle, it became apparent he wasn’t going to turn it around, so why keep him in to give up a second three-run homer?

Kind of makes you wonder what Manuel saw on the ball-three pitch to Pedro Martinez that he missed earlier.

Yes, the Mets showed some degree of pride yesterday in coming back. Perhaps they were so fed up and embarrassed about Perez. Whatever the reason, what’s left of this team has to maintain what’s left of this season.

It’s not impossible, but .500 or even a winning record is attainable and should be the goal. Reaching it would mean an improvement in play, including fundamentals, which have been sorely lacking.

Let’s face it, the Mets are playing for next year, and that begins now.

Aug 19

Perez might miss next start

Oliver Perez aggravated his right knee on a play at first base last night and may not be able to make his next start, Sunday against Pedro Martinez and the Phillies.

Perez fell behind 4-0, but despite being ineffective, got the win because the Mets scored eight runs in the fourth inning. He worked the fifth but was replaced for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of that inning. Perez tweaked his knee when he stumbled running to first base. He was on the DL for two months earlier this season with right knee inflammation.

“I want to continue to pitch,” said Perez. “But, I have to take care of my knee.”

Nelson Figueroa or Tim Redding could start if Perez isn’t able.