I talked to my mom earlier today, and she had this to say about the World Series:
“I lost any respect I had for Charlie Manuel after what he did yesterday. He knew he couldn’t beat CC with Joe Blanton, so instead of trying to win by the power of their own offense, they compromised CC’s comfort by immediately hitting A-Rod and effecting the warning to both benches. Whatever else happens in the remainder of the series, the Phillies don’t deserve to be the champions. If that’s how they’re going to try to win, they just plain don’t deserve it.”
Amen, Mom. Amen.
(And as I mentioned yesterday in my preview, parents are always right.)
Tonight, AJ Burnett will get the ball for New York, while mega-ace Cliff Lee tries to force the series to go back to the Bronx. After all the murmurings about CC getting the nod on short rest yesterday, I’ve heard little dissension about the decision to start AJ with the same handicap. While CC has a proven track record of starting with limited rest in big games, AJ hasn’t done this feat all year. He does, however, have a 4-0 record with a 2.33 ERA in 4 career starts on short rest.
“To be honest, it’s a little different, obviously, in October,” says Burnett. “But I feel good right now. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take the ball.”
Hm. Not exactly inspiring heaps of confidence, AJ. But we trust you. In his last start, he outdueled Pedro Martinez on a 4-hit, 1-run game, striking out 9. Unbelievably, Lee topped this in Game 1, blanking 10, and allowing only 1 unearned run in a complete game victory.
The thing about both of these performances from both pitchers is that they’re not easy things to repeat. In fact, almost impossible. One of them is going to flounder. Odds say that the goat is going to be AJ–for the first time this series, NY is the underdog, with Philly favored to win at 60%.
I wouldn’t be too sure about that, bookies and haters alike. Philly looked demoralized yesterday, and even earlier today, my hard-to-hate Phils fan buddy echoed this:
Alex: im just hoping we havent thrown up our hands as a team
Sorry, can’t say I hope the same, Alex.
It’s an uphill battle for the Phils. Of the 42 teams overall to take a 3-1 lead, 36 went on to win the crown, and if they did actually topple the Yanks, they’d be first team since the 1985 Kansas City Royals to overcome the 3-1 deficit.
My coworker today said, “I’m just gonna go on record with this: pitching AJ on short rest is a bad idea.” ARGGGHH. This is not time to take that turn to negative town, Yankee fans. I’m not a big proponent of this practice, which some may call “going on the record” but I call “hedging your bets.” I think we owe it to Girardi right now to put our utmost faith in his decisions. He’s earned that.
(Actually, according to my mom, there are more sinister forces at hand: “I think for your game preview, you should photoshop a picture of Joe Girardi in some Faust-like scene. Because he definitely made a deal with the Devil.”)
Most of the “short rest” second-guessing is stemming from the Phils’ fanbase, who will undoubtedly point to the decision to pitch Blanton over Lee in Game 4, as the turning point in the series. There are always a million moments that allegedly “altered the face of the game.” I don’t think this is one of them.
Nothing’s been won or lost yet, and I may be a minority on this one, but I would very much prefer to see the Yanks close it out tonight, despite the appeal of christening our new stadium at home. If someone could promise me that forcing a Game 6 would still end in the Yanks’ favor, then giddy up. Let’s go 6.
But for my money, I could do without the uncertainty.
“Oh, come on, Kris. You don’t want to see Pedro pitch again at Yankee Stadium? And win against him?”
Not really, Mom. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. As it turns out, we fans have very little choice in the matter.
Four more hours til Game 5 is underway. It’s surreal to think that this could be my last game preview of the baseball season. But then again, I could be going through this all again on Wednesday. Either way, I think the Philadelphia newspapers should slow their roll a little bit.
Here we go, Yankees. ONE MORE.
Nine innings til New York can celebrate a genesis of heroes.
Twenty-seven outs til New York is the champion once again.
Kick ass and take names.
Read 2009 Baseball Throwdown coverage for the New York Yankees.