If the Phillies weren’t feeling the pressure before, then they most certainly are now. Johnny Damon‘s legs and Alex Rodriguez‘s bat helped the Yankees break a 4-4 tie with a three-run ninth inning rally that propelled New York to a 7-4 victory in Game 4 and a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
Baseball can show you something each night that you have never seen before, evidenced by Damon’s adventurous base running during that ninth inning.
Damon executed an unorthodox double-steal by anyone’s standards, taking advantage of a poor throw from catcher Carlos Ruiz and Philadelphia’s defensive over-shift to steal both second and third base on one play. The Phillies had moved three infielders to the right side during Mark Teixeira‘s at-bat, leaving usual third baseman Pedro Feliz to cover second base on the attempted steal.
The short-hop throw by Ruiz was not only late, but also pulled Feliz off the bag and allowed Damon pop out of his slide and head toward an unattended third base. Damon’s heads up base running started Phillies closer Brad Lidge down a familiar path of destruction, though for the first time this postseason.
Rodriguez, who was no doubt looking to make the Phillies pay for plunking him on three occasions over the past two nights, drilled a fastball into the left field corner to chase home Damon and put the Yankees ahead 5-4.
Jorge Posada drove home two more a two-out double to give New York a three-run lead. Prior to those three runs scoring, Lidge was just one pitch away from escaping the inning, but Damon’s at-bat proves how quickly the momentum can swing back in the other direction.
Just one inning after Feliz tied the game at 4-4 with his solo-blast off Joba Chamberlain, the stunned Philadelphia crowd could only watch in horror as the Yankees took the lead and then placed it in the more than capable hands of Mariano Rivera, who recorded his second save of the series.
Lidge had previously converted all 10 postseason save opportunities in his two-year Philadelphia career, but the blown save on Sunday has put the Phillies at a distinct disadvantage in the Fall Classic. There have been 33 teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in the World Series and only five have rallied to win it, the last being Kansas City in 1985.
As I said yesterday, if Alex Rodriguez wakes up at the plate then the Phillies are going to be in trouble. It was A-Rod who turned the tide in the ninth inning with his clutch two-out run-scoring double to put the Yankees back in the lead.
CC Sabathia was less than his best, but then again the lefty ace is better than most hurlers in baseball even in that scenario. Regardless, Sabathia kept his team in the game and departed with the lead in the seventh inning.
Looking ahead to Game 5:
Philadelphia has their work cut out for them as Cliff Lee takes the hill for the second time in this World Series. Some questioned Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for not having Lee going on short rest in Game 4, but Lee had never started on less than full rest in his career which underscores the fact that Philadelphia wasn’t quite ready to hit the panic button.
From here on out, it’s a different story.
Ryan Howard has been unable to make an impact during the series and Yankees left-handers have consistently kept the big slugger quiet. Without their clean-up hitter to pose a definite threat, Philadelphia’s line-up can be broken down and contained. A big night from Howard against righty A.J. Burnett would be just what the doctor ordered to keep the Phillies alive and well in this World Series.
Burnett will take the mound for the biggest start of his career, holding in his hands a chance to help the Yankees clinch their 27th World Championship. Burnett was filthy in his Game 2 start at Yankee Stadium, getting ahead of hitter after hitter and putting them away with his assortment of wicked breaking pitches. He will need to channel that success to match up with the 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner in Cliff Lee.
One injury note forced the Yankees to make a move prior to Game 5. Melky Cabrera came up limping following his final at-bat Sunday and was replaced by Brett Gardner in the field in the sixth inning. Because of a strained left hamstring, New York has deactivated Cabrera for the remainder of the series and added infielder Ramiro Pena to the roster. Gardner will get the start in centerfield in Game 5.
Prediction: Phillies stay alive with a 5-2 victory
Till next time,
What a difference a year makes. The Phillies were perfect at home in the 2008 World Series and Cole Hamels was named the series MVP.
The Yankees 8-6 win in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series wiped out any
notions that Philadelphia may have had about ending the Fall Classic at
home, and Hamels suffered through yet another rough start this October.
On the mound for New York, Andy Pettitte added to his postseason
legacy by gutting out six innings for his 17th career playoff victory.
The lefty even got into the action at the plate, nailing a game-tying
single as part of a three-run fifth inning.
What would the World Series be without a little instant replay?
Saturday was a fine example of New York doing what it does best. Alex Rodriguez
belted the replay reviewed two-run homer and found his way on base four
times after struggling to an 0-for-8 to start the series. The instant
replay homer gives A-Rod the distinction of not only being the first player in baseball history to have a home run awarded via review, but also the first in the history of the Fall Classic.
A total of 13 runs were scored despite the fact that the two
teams combined for just 14 hits. The Philadelphia bullpen proved
vulnerable while Yankees relievers Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte threw scoreless innings in back of Pettitte. Mariano Rivera did have to come in and quiet the Phillies in the ninth after Jason Werth‘s towering one-out homer against Phil Hughes. A small price to pay when it comes to securing the series lead.
wasn’t the prettiest start for Pettitte, who allowed four runs – all
earned – over six innings of work, but it was good enough to keep the
Yankees in the driver’s seat on the night.
Hamels’ night did not
offer any silver linings. The left-hander could not maintain a
three-run lead and was battered around for five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
A pair of walks and a hit batsman added to the Yankees chances, but
things really seemed to start going downhill for Hamels when the
instant replay of Rodriguez blast revealed it to be a two-run homer.
year ago, Hamels was as sure a thing as there was for the Phillies.
Last postseason saw Hamels go 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings of
work, but his ’09 record stands at just 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA and
opponents have belted seven homers over his four playoff starts.
Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel
was hoping that starting Hamels at home would make for a winning
recipe. Who could blame him based on a look over the split stats that
Hamels piled up over the regular season? Hamels went 7-5 with a 3.76
ERA in 17 starts at Citizen’s Bank as opposed to 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA in
15 road assignments. Safe to say, things did not go according to plan.
Looking ahead to Game 4
The Yankees turn to their short-rest ace CC Sabathia yet again in Game 4 as they attempt to push their series lead to 3-1. Interesting to note, Philadelphia chose not to give ace Cliff Lee his first career start on less than full rest and will instead counter with NLCS Game 4 starter Joe Blanton.
results for Blanton against the Yankees have been far from pretty – 0-3
in four starts with a 8.18 ERA in 22 innings against the Bronx Bombers.
Hardly numbers that inspire confidence, but if Blanton can find a way
to replicate his start against the Dodgers (four runs – three earned –
over six innings of work) then at least he will help take the load off
the bullpen and give the offense a chance to push the series to a 2-2
Sabathia threw seven innings of two run ball against the
Phillies in Game 1, taking his first loss this postseason thanks to
Lee’s complete game gem. It will be no easy task for Philadelphia to
beat Sabathia on two occasions in the same series.
outslugged by the Yankees last night, the Phillies are no strangers to
winning at home and scoring runs. Most nights that you score six runs,
as they did in Game 3, you’d like to find a way to have won that game.
Still, Philadelphia is perhaps the best offensively equipped National League squad to match up with the Yankees. To do that, Ryan Howard will have to find a way curb the strikeouts (nine in 13 World Series at-bats) and start producing runs. Second baseman Chase Utley
has not collected a hit since belting a pair of homers in the Game 1
win and his bat will also be necessary to get the Phillies hitting on
If Alex Rodriguez has just come alive for
the Yankees then the Phillies may be in big trouble. Erasing all memory
of his past postseason failures, A-Rod has delivered big hits in key
spots to get the Yankees into the World Series. A productive Rodriguez
may also translate into more hittable pitches for Mark Teixeira to see
ahead of A-Rod in the three slot.
A quick look at the men each pitcher will be looking to reverse their fortunes against:
Successful Yankees vs. Blanton (Career)
Mark Teixeira —- 9-for-27, 3 HR, 7 RBI
Derek Jeter —— 4-for-12, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Alex Rodriguez — 4-for-7, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Successful Phillies vs. Sabathia (Career)
Raul Ibanez —— 11-for-43, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Chase Utley —— 2-for-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI
Shane Victorino – 5-for-12, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Prediction – Yankees win 5-3
Till next time,
Well, I will say this for the free-spending kingpins of sports in the
free world: When they want somebody, they go out and get them. The New
York Yankees made another bold move to rebuild their rotation, agreeing to a 5-year $82 million contract with righty starter A.J. Burnett on Friday.
This means the Yankees have spent about a quarter of a billion dollars on starting pitching in less that 72-hours. That’s right, billion.
And you thought we were in a recession? Given, they cleared some
salaries (Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Carl Pavano, Bobby
Abreu and Kyle Farnsworth), but that is still more spending that any
other club in baseball could possibly imagine. And it comes roughly
one-year after giving Alex Rodriguez a contract that will be worth over
another quarter of a billion (that’s $250,000,000 for those needing
another illustration of the dynamic we’re talking) by the time it’s
said and done.
Now Atlanta and general manager Frank Wren will
have to find a plan B. Whatever that may be is anyone’s guess, but I
would say it starts with the second tier free agent starters – lead by
left-hander Randy Wolf et al. Perhaps the Braves seek a shorter term
agreement for much less overall money with Ben Sheets, who is the only
real power pitcher left in the free-agent market. Let me go ahead and
say, I don’t think this is going to do anything to revive the very dead
Jake Peavy to Atlanta talks.
But now soon-to-be 32-year old A.J.
the same pitcher who has won more than 12 games only once
(last season) and the same pitcher who has pitched 200+ innings on just
three occassions, is going to be raking an average yearly salary of
million for the next five seasons in the Bronx. His history of injury
doesn’t swallow like a bitter pill in New York, since they are the only
team in baseball that could afford to
lose him for a significant amount of time and feel little-to-no effects
on their October aspirations. They can simply buy a new one if he
breaks down, again.
This signing allows the Braves to save what
I believe will be a tremendous amount of money on an arm that already
comes with more than a few red flags attached. The trade market is
still an option, even if Peavy is not the answer. Atlanta lost the
ability to deal Yunel Escobar when Brent Lillibridge was dealt to the
White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal. There are still other possibilities though, many of which have proven to be off the radar when it comes to the Braves.
the Braves went to
Las Vegas and essentially left the table with nothing to show for it,
having been unable to get their ace in Burnett and the power hitting
outfielder they were seeking. But there could be some bargains out
there if the markets
don’t develope for some of the free agents still lurking. The Braves
came into the off-season with more
money to spend than perhaps any other time in the club’s history and
they may be running out of priority players to spend it on.
In other news:
Atlanta non-tendered left-hander Chuck James
on Friday, making him a free-agent. James, 27, went 11-4 as a rookie in
2006 and 11-10 in 2007 before injuries and ineffectiveness put his
career with the Braves in question. Shoulder surgery performed in
September is expected keep James out for most of 2009. Last season,
James went just 2-5 with a 9.10 ERA in seven starts and allowed 10
homers in just 29.2 innings of work. James was sidelined for much of
spring training and spent the majority of last season in Triple-A
Richmond, where he went 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 15 starts.
Till next time
I certainly won’t be the only scribe writing on behalf of a club that will be hard pressed to sign a premier front of the rotation starter, because the New York Yankees are throwing more than their allowance out there to build a strong squad for that new stadium you may have read about.
We’ve seen the Jake Peavy saga cool off considerably, with the Braves publicly stated that they will being “moving on” to fill their needs. At least for the time being. Numerous reports have shown that the Yankees are going to be setting the bar quite high when it comes to Grade-A starters. Take their reported offer to CC Sabathia for example – 6-years and $140 million. How do you think the Milwaukee Brewers feel about that? Not so great, but this is nothing new when it comes to the Yankee way.
Maybe the folks in Wisconsin haven’t been affected directly by the Yankees persuing their free agents, but you can rest assured that all of baseball has felt the effects of big money Bronx deals. You can chalk the Braves up for one tough off-season when it comes to bringing in their new starting pitchers.
The Braves have lost free agent players to the Yankees in the past five years, including Gary Sheffield, Jarrett Wright and Kyle Farnsworth. This year, they will be competing for what looks to be A.J Burnett and Derek Lowe. Reports have right-hander Ryan Dempster heading back to the Chicago Cubs for a 4-year $52 million deal. If you do the math between the Sabathia offer and the Dempster deal, you are starting to get a pretty good idea what the years and the money on Burnett will be. Throw in the fact that he can openly shop that 4-year $54 million deal that Toronto had on the table. It boils down to the simple fact that every agent has to love: If you can get the Yankees involved then you can make your client a rich(er) man.
Never to be outbid, even when they are bidding solely against themselves, the Yankees have taken to the offensive and are preparing an offer that rests somewhere around 5-years and $80 million for Burnett’s services. When reading that the Steinbrenner boys plan to follow in their father’s footsteps of setting the bar rather high when it comes to player contracts, it became apparent that not only were the Yanks going to be players in the free-agent market but that they may well end up owning several of the shiniest pieces this off-season.
The Yankees have taken this route for years, signing free-agents to big deals, rewarding their stars with big deals, trading the farm and taking on big contracts of stars that other clubs seek to unload. Maybe all this started when they purchased Babe Ruth? None of this necessarily should make them the real life pirates of baseball (all apologies to the Pittsburgh franchise). The city and the organization simply likes to win and they have the money to make happen more quickly that every other team in baseball. Put those two things together and it always leads to interesting storylines and sometimes whimsical back-and-forth fun. It also serves to make them easily hateable for many. Hard economic times or not, the Yankees are going to be spending aplenty this winter.
So what does all this mean for Atlanta?
Having somewhat put the lid on the Peavy discussions (believe that if you like), the Braves will have the tough task of assigning a value to their future and signing one of these star pitchers. I’m starting to think that if Dempster signs with the Cubs, Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees, and Lowe opts to go back to Boston (for example), the Braves will have to get creative via trade or start kicking the tires on Ben Sheets.
It could play out the way I just outlined. Or it could turn back around, leading the Braves and Padres back to the table to complete that long-running trade rumor, and Burnett or Lowe to different pastures. Atlanta could end up finding an entirely different trading partner to boost the rotation with. That’s the fun of the the off-season.
Who’s ready for those Winter Meetings?
Till next time,