The Yankees have been belting home runs all season long, but none were bigger than the pair of solo shots that backed an outstanding start from A.J. Burnett in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.
Burnett gave the Phillies a dose of what the Yankees had suffered through at the hands of Cliff Lee a night earlier, pounding the strike zone and dominating the opposition.
While much of the media focus was on Pedro Martinez, it was Burnett who delivered the headlines in Game 2. There is no question that this was the kind of start the Yankees were hoping for from Burnett, who picked up his first postseason win with seven innings of one-run ball. Burnett allowed just four hits and walked just two men while striking out nine.
After scoring 915 runs in the regular season and 49 more in the playoffs prior to Game 2, the Yankees offense had to find a way to support Burnett’s effort. Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui answered with solo homers. Teixeira’s game-tying blast came in the bottom of the fourth, while Matsui stung one down the right field line to give the Yankees their first lead of the series.
Game 2 was a complete reversal of the night before as the Phillies offense struggled to start scoring rallies and find their way on base. The top four men in the line-up, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard went a combined 1-for-13 with six strikeouts – four of those K’s belonging to Howard.
Pedro Martinez turned in a “quality start” in his first outing at the new Yankee Stadium by lasting into the seventh inning before running into a New York rally that would end his night. Still, allowing only three runs over six innings to this Yankee offense was fine work by the veteran righty.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera converted a two inning save chance, but had to throw 39 pitches to do so. Friday’s off-day comes at a good time to allow the veteran reliever to recharge his batteries and be ready if needed in Game 3. Let’s not kid ourselves though, if there is a save situation in the game for New York – there will be one name asked for in the call the pen, the man they call “Mo.”
Looking ahead to Game 3
The venue changes as the Phillies play host for the next three games. Philadelphia picked up the deciding wins in last year’s World Series triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays, but it will take another three game home sweep to accomplish that feat this time around.
Andy Pettitte, who became the winningest pitcher in postseason history with ALCS victory against Los Angeles last time out, draws the start for the Yankees and will seek to put his team ahead in the series. Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels will take the ball in yet another big game situation, but he has been far from the pitcher who brought home World Series MVP honors a year ago.
In three starts against the Rockies and Dodgers, Hamels has allowed 11 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings of work. More troubling for Hamels is the pace that the ball is leaving the yard. His second start against the Dodgers in the NLCS included three homers allowed; that following his prior start in which Los Angeles belted a pair of homers.
Pettitte has been doing his usual postseason work and I expect nothing less from the Yankee lefty. Games at Citizen’s Bank Park aren’t always pretty, but one of these two big offenses is going to come out on the better end. Given they way this October has gone, I’d have to think Cole Hamels is under the most pressure to find a way to channel some vintage 2008 and keep the Phillies from falling behind in the series.
Prediction – Yankees roll over Phillies, 6-4.
TIll next time,
Look no further than last season’s American League Cy Young Award Winner, Cliff Lee,
if you are searching for a reason the Phillies dominated the Bronx
Bombers to open up the series.
Lee’s complete game effort (which featured
10 punch-outs against zero walks) set the tone, while the Philadelphia
offense found a way to ding CC Sabathia and the Yankee bullpen for six runs.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be a Cleveland Indians fan – or
front office executive for that matter – and watch Lee out duel
Sabathia in a battle of former Indians aces. Both men were traded in
the season to follow their Cy Young campaigns, and both men have not
only found their way into the playoffs but into a Game 1 starts in the
Lee’s start was the stuff of postseason legend. The lefty allowed just
four hits over eight shut-out frames before the Yankees cobbled
together an unearned ninth inning run. Lee answered by capping the game with consecutive
strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada to finish with a flourish.
Taking a look over the New York line score tells the story of the night. Captain Derek Jeter
went 3-for-4 and scored the only run for the Yanks, but the rest of the
order went a combined 3-for-28 with nine strikeouts. Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira each went 0-for-4 and fell victim for five of Lee’s 10 K’s.
Despite the offense being put into deep freeze, all was not lost for
the Yankees on the night. Sabathia allowed just two runs on four hits
over seven innings. Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley victimized
Sabathia for a pair of solo homers to provide the lift Lee would need
to secure a series opening victory, while the late struggles of the New
York bullpen helped widen the margin of victory.
The all-too-important pitch-count department saw Lee use 122 pitches
(80 strikes) during his complete game, while Sabathia tossed 113 (70
strikes) over seven frames. Five New York relievers tossed another 57
pitches in allowed four insurance runs over the final two innings. For comparison’s sake the Yankee relief line serves to underscore exactly how economical Lee was over a full night’s work – and against one of the toughest offenses in all of baseball.
Utley has been a postseason hitting machine, setting a record by reaching base for the 26th consecutive playoff game with his third inning homer last night.
Looking ahead to Game 2:
The pitching match-up will feature
A.J. Burnett of the Yanks taking on Pedro Martinez for the Phillies.
It’s hard to say who has the edge based purely on name value alone. Burnett was
battered around by the Angels in his last start and was trailing 4-0
before he recorded his first out of the game, while Pedro blanked the
Los Angeles Dodgers for seven innings in his only postseason start.
New York will be counting on Burnett to resemble the pitcher with
electric stuff who earned the big money deal last winter and turned in
back-to-back quality starts this postseason before coming off the track against the
Angels in Game 5 of ALCS.
The Phillies will ask Pedro to reach into his
bag of tricks and pull out a big game performance in a city he knows
all too well from previous wars while a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Offensively, the Yankees will have to find some production after Jeter
in the batting order. Lee was brilliant in Game 1, but the Yankees
offense has been brilliant at home throughout 2009.
Career match-ups see A-Rod pacing the
Yankee regulars with a .291 career average off Martinez, but Rodriguez has
tallied just three extra-base hits (one homer) and four RBI’s in 55
at-bats against him. Jorge Posada is hitting just .183 with 33 strikeouts in 60 career
at-bats against Pedro, but leads the team with four homers and 10 RBI’s
against the righty. Teixeira has faced Martinez only six times (1-for-6, 3 K’s).
Philadelphia’s bats will look to continue what they were able to
do in Game 1. Seven different Phillies collected at least one hit, totalling nine
on the night to go along with six walks. No team has scored more runs
than the 61 plated by Phillies this postseason (New York is second with
49). Philadelphia went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position, the
hallmark of a team that makes the most of its opportunities.
Game 2 Prediction:
The Yankees just don’t strike me as a team that will lose back-to-back games of a World Series at home. Sure, the 1996 World Series is a fine example of their ability to bounce back, but the Yankees will be looking to even things up behind A.J. Burnett this evening. If the Phillies can take a 2-0 lead back home, then it may be all down hill from there. Frankly, I believe the Yankees will bounce back sooner than later.
FINAL SCORE: 4-1, Yankees
Till next time,
Back from my sabbatical in the world of Minor League Baseball, it’s time to put a nice tidy bow on what was a 2009 season that was a step in the right direction for the Atlanta Braves. In contention into the season’s final week, the Braves put a 72 win 2008 campaign behind them and gave their fans reason to be hopeful in 2010.
2009 Year in Review: Atlanta Braves
2009 World Series analysis
Of course, those will precede a big helping of Hot Stove goodness that will begin promptly after the Fall Classic. Frank Wren and the Braves will begin their search for the missing pieces and you can catch the blow-by-blow right here!
Till next time,