The Phillies’ bullpen, and perhaps Charlie Manuel’s slow trigger, made it far more dramatic than it should have been. But the Phillies extended the World Series with a 8-6 victory in Game 5 last night in the final game of the season at Citizens Bank Park. Cliff Lee wasn’t as good as he was in his first four playoff starts, but he was more than good enough. And the Phillies’ offense finally broke out, in spite of Ryan Howard tying the Major League record for strikeouts in a single postseason.
The series returns to New York for Game 6 on Wednesday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Thursday. I predicted Yankees in 6 before this series started and have no reason to think differently now. I don’t think Pedro Martinez will fool the Yankees again like he did for much of Game 2. And while Andy Pettitte will be on short rest, he and the Yankees offense should be good enough.
After two good performances and one mediocre one in his first three playoff starts, A.J. Burnett delivered a gem last night when the Yankees most needed one, pitching seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball with nine strikeouts in the Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series. It was his first career playoff win.
Amidst the expected taunts of “Who’s Your Daddy?” from Yankee fans, Pedro pitched well himself, certainly much better than I expected from him. He left two batters into the seventh inning, allowing six hits and only three runs (one of which scored after he left) and striking out eight. But solo home runs by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui and Burnett’s own dominance were too much to overcome.
Of course, there were more umpiring blunders. Ryan Howard turned a line-drive double play despite replays showing he fielded the ball on a hop. And Chase Utley was called out at first to end the top of the 8th inning despite replays showing he beat the throw to first.
The series moves to Philly for Game 3 tomorrow.
The 2009 World Series begins tonight at Yankee Stadium. And I believe the two best teams in baseball are playing for the title.
I also believe the Yankees will end up winning that title.
If the Phillies’ pitching staff were the same as last year, I’d really like their chances. But right now, they have only one reliable starting pitcher (Cliff Lee), and he’s going to be matched up against the Yankees’ best pitcher in C.C. Sabathia. In other words, a Phillies win there is anything but a sure thing. And the rest of the Phillies’ rotation? Cole Hamels has been very ordinary all season and has continued that in the postseason. Pedro Martinez was great against the Dodgers in a day game in warm Los Angeles. I doubt he’ll be nearly as effective in colder weather at night against the Yankees’ lineup. Joe Blanton certainly isn’t going to scare the Yankees’ lineup. And while the Phillies’ bullpen (especially closer Brad Lidge) has pitched better in the playoffs, it still hasn’t improved enough to make me think it can shut down Jeter, Texieira, A-Rod and company late in the game.
For the Yankees, while A.J. Burnett has also been rather ordinary in the playoffs, Andy Pettitte is solid and steady, and we all know about Sabathia. Lefty relievers Damaso Martie and Phil Coke will likely play big roles in this series – both will have to get late-inning outs against Phillies sluggers Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez.
The Phillies are no pushovers and have proven their toughness over the last three seasons. They won’t self destruct the way the Twins and Angels did in big spots. But the Yankees are a bit deeper in the starting rotation, have a much more reliable closer and will be a little too much offensively.
Yankees in 6.