World Series notes:
— Did Johnny Damon’s dash to third base in the ninth inning of last night’s game take away Brad Lidge’s slider and thus force him to throw the fastball at Alex Rodriguez which turned the game around? (The argument goes that since Lidge’s slider so often winds up in the dirt that he didn’t want to risk a passed ball that would allow Damon to score the go-ahead run.)
The preponderance of postgame commentary says “No,” but as MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds pointed out after fast-forwarding through every pitch Lidge threw with Damon on third, Lidge threw only one slider after Damon reached third, and the pitches that A-Rod and Jorge Posada got their hits on were fastballs.
— I would pay good money to see one of Tim McCarver’s colleagues stop the show and slap him hard in the face. I always feel this way at least once during every McCarver broadcast, but last night I wanted to see it happen twice…
…both times when McCarver went into his “Those weren’t intentional” spiels when A-rod and Mark Teixeira were plunked. In the first place, none of the four HBPs recorded by the Phillies against the Yankees were high and inside, i.e. brushbacks. They were square in the back where a pitcher always intends to hit a batter.
Harold Reynolds, who makes McCarver sound like a pedantic old fart, had the guts to come out and say it: “Hitting A-Rod in the first inning made a point – it took the inside away from [C.C.] Sabathia and the Yankees.” After A-Rod was hit in the first inning, ‘If Sabathia had thrown an inside pitch which pushed someone off the plate, it would be one warning, then out of the game.” All McCarver could offer in defense of his silly argument was “You don’t settle scores in the World Series.” The Phillies weren’t settling cores, they were pursuing a strategy, and a smart one, and they very nearly got away with it.
— Speaking of Reynolds, he was the strongest and clearest of all commentators on why Joe Girardi’s decision to pitch A.J. Burnet in tonight’s game MAKES NO SENSE.
First, it forces Burnett to pitch on three days rest, which is “uncertain territory for him.” Second, it forces Burnett into known territory, which is bad. As Reynolds rightly noted, “Burnett just isn’t as good away from Yankee Stadium as at home.” Reynolds is right. Burnett’s ERA is 3.51 at Yankee Stadium and 4.59 on the road.
Second, said Reynolds, “It changes the entire lineup and takes a hitter, Posada, out of the lineup and puts a weak hitter, [Jose] Molina, in.” Reynolds is right. With Melky Caberera out and Brett Gardner in, the Yankees now have a non-producing last third of a batting order: Molina, Gardner, and Burnett facing a pitcher, Cliff Lee, who is on one of the hottest postseason runs ever.
And, as Reynolds also pointed out, tonight it’s not likely that Mariano Rivera (who has already made three appearances in the first four games and pitches 3 2/3 innings) is going to be available to help bail the Yankees out.
Third, using Burnett on three days rest tonight presses Andy Pettitte’s into service on Wednesday also on three days rest, which is an even more uncertain deal than Burnett on three days rest. If the Yankees, in effect, conceded the game by starting the game with Chad Gaudin, they would at least have Burnett and Pettitte for the final games at Yankee Stadium, backed by Sabathia and a fully rested Mo.
Yes, to those who say “Well, Casey Stengel took chances too.” That’s true, but Casey took chances — using his best relief pitcher before the ninth inning, loading up on pinch hitters early in the game to break it open — when he thought the percentages were in his favor. He wasn’t playing against the percentages on “hunches.” If the Yankees lose tonight’s game, as they are very likely to, and the season runs around, Girardi will rightly be remembered as the over-manager who tried to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place.