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 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

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: World Series, Game #1, CC vs. Lee.

Match-up of aces.

Match-up of aces.

Following tradition, the Yankees and Phillies will play their aces in Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Yankee Stadium with Cliff Lee going against CC Sabathia in a match-up of former Cleveland teammates and the last two AL Cy Young Award winners.

Game 1 sets the tone for the World Series, which is why both managers are going with their best tonight. You always throw your ace first because holding him back for Game 2 is a tacit admission their ace is better. You also throw your ace first because that gives you a chance to use him three times, with the last time on three days rest.

LEE: Phillies' Game 1 starter.

LEE: Phillies' Game 1 starter.


For example, should Charlie Manuel have held Lee back in anticipation of Sabathia winning Game 1, and then have him get lit up in Game 2, then the Phillies would have been in a huge hole even with the Series heading back to Philadelphia.

“This matchup couldn’t have been better,” said Manuel. “This is a big, premier game. I’m looking forward to it.”

This could be a special World Series featuring the two aces – a combined 5-0 this postseason by Lee and Sabathia – and two potent offenses.

“We’re going to see a lot of runs,” said Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.

In Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies have four players with at least 30 homers. Meanwhile, the Yankees had seven players with at least 20.

There are so many players from either team who could find themselves on fate’s doorstep as possible heroes. Derek Jeter, for example, owns this time of year. With the game on the line, I’d want him at the plate as much as anybody when all I need is a single or sacrifice fly.

Would anybody be surprised if this went seven?

Oct 20

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: We have a series in the AL.

There is nothing quite like the drama that is playoff baseball, where seasons fade and stay alive with a swing of the bat. There is an ebb and flow of emotions in baseball unlike any other sport and we saw them all last night when the complexion of both series changed on the game’s final play.

The Dodgers, one pitch away from tying their series at Philadelphia, are now in life support and face elimination tomorrow night. The Angels, who stared at the end of their season at the beginning of last night’s game, have fresh life.

SABATHIA: Going on three days rest.

SABATHIA: Going on three days rest.

Last night Jimmy Rollins sent the Dodgers closer to winter, and hours earlier the Angels turned the ALCS from a blowout to a series that could be for the ages. After gift-wrapping two victories to the Yankees, the Angels are alive and in position where they could knot that ALCS at two games apiece tonight after Jeff Mathis’ two-out double in extra innings Monday.

The Yankees could regain control and send Los Angeles to the brink of elimination with CC Sabathia on the mound or the Angels can get us back to square one behind Scott Kazmir.

“This is the type of series we expected it to be,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

KAZMIR: Pitching to keep Angels alive.

KAZMIR: Pitching to keep Angels alive.


Sabathia, who will be going on three days rest, is 6-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 15 career starts against the Angels. The Yankees are going with a three-man rotation in the ALCS meaning if there is a Game 7 in New York, Sabathia will get the ball.

Kazmir, who represents one of the worst trades made by the Mets, is in position to be a postseason hero for the Angels. Kazmir, who gave up five runs in six innings against Boston in the ALDS, was acquired from Tampa, Aug. 28, and went 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts for Los Angeles. He is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 14 career starts against the Yankees.

Regardless of what happens tonight, Game 5 is Thursday at Anaheim.

Oct 07

Halladay not happening ….

Roy Halladay would make the Mets a better team, but much like Johan Santana, I don’t believe he will put them over the top. Toronto had its chances to trade him last summer but got greedy. Now, the price could go down and it is possible the market could fall back to the Mets.

It’s possible.

However, I still am doubtful the Mets have what it takes to get Halladay in terms of prospects plus the annual salary, which will be in the $20 million range. Hell, he’s better than Sabathia. He’ll cost in prospects and money.

Considering all the Mets’ holes, is he worth it?

I’m saying no, because with what it could cost in just salary, the Mets could fill at least two positions, and maybe more if you throw some of it in the direction of the bullpen and bench.

As far as the prospects are concerned, the Mets have them, but are they willing to part with both the quality and quantity to get such a player as Halladay? I’m thinking, because Halladay by himself won’t put the Mets over the top, that they should spend their resources plugging a variety of holes rather than making the spectacular buy.