Results tagged ‘ World Series ’

2010 World Series Primer

World Series 2010 Small Logo.jpgAfter spending the last few days hearing the media churn on relentlessly about the lack of a so-called “marquee presence” to add to the World Series appeal, I think I’m finally ready to do my part and help those with questions to wrap their collective heads around the actual point of the postseason. That being:

The team that keeps winning gets to walk home with the trophy.

It’s a remarkably simple concept. And for a league that has preached the virtues of parity for years, this should be a celebration of sorts.

Years of work to help bridge the gab between MLB’s richest and poorest, and even those stuck in the middle, has finally paid off with a Fall Classic that has historic implications.

Despite the fact that the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants have not been as fortunate in October as the dragons they slayed to get to the World Series, neither team was ready to roll over and allow a rematch of last year’s series.

This World Series matchup contains not only great storylines but also great human interest stories.

For Texas, there is the well-chronicled comeback of Josh Hamilton, followed up by Rangers ownership’s faith in manager Ron Washington, who made some poor personal decisions but was allowed to stay the course and lead his team to the World Series.

For San Francisco, there is the clutch hitting of late season waiver claim Cody Ross, Then there’s the slim margins of victory that have led to a brand of baseball that Giants fans have dubbed as “torture.”

And of course there is Brian Wilson‘s beard.

The two teams are not complete strangers. A 15-7 lifetime Interleague mark favors the Giants, who have won seven games in a row over Texas and claimed victory in 11 of the last 12 regular season battles between the two teams.

After 50 years and two cities in the league, the Rangers started this run through October by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win their first postseason series in franchise history. Then they came just one big New York inning away from sweeping the much vaunted Yankees right out of the American League Championship Series.

Mays Catch.jpgStill playing in New York, the Giants last won the World Series in 1954 over the Cleveland Indians. It was in that series against the Tribe that Willie Mays made his historic catch at the old Polo Grounds.

The Giants moved out west in 1958, but have been unsuccessful in three trips to the World Series while in San Fran. A very different Giants club was just five outs away from a winning it all in 2002, before the Anaheim Angels rallied to take Game 6 and then went on to win a decisive Game 7 the next night.

The Rangers first joined the American League in 1965 as the
second incarnation of the Washington Senators, relocating to Texas prior
to the 1972 season.

As you might have gathered, these are two completely different clubs. The Giants are strong on pitching and rely on timely hits, while the Rangers hit the ball with authority, run the bases well and rely on key pitching performances to hold opponents in check.

Texas has left-hander Cliff Lee, one of the biggest weapons on the mound in recent memory. With his October work over the past two seasons, Lee is cobbling together one of the best postseason résumés in the history of baseball.

As good as Lee has been individually, the San Francisco pitching staff has been collectively. Giants hurlers boast a 2.47 ERA in 91 playoff innings and have held opposing hitters to just a .199 average thus far this postseason.

When it comes to offenses, the Rangers appear to have an edge there. Texas hit .276/.338/.419 and scored 787 runs as a club in 2010, while San Francisco’s team slash line was .257/.321/.408 with 697 runs scored.

Since they have the luxury of the designated hitter, the AL team should hold the advantage upon a cursory evaluation of the team offensive statistics. There is a rather vast chasm between the hitting exploits of Vladimir Guerrero and those of Giants pitchers and pinch-hitters. So take it all with a grain of salt.

The Rangers and Giants both hit exactly 162 home runs as a team in regular season. Texas, however, utilizes the speed game more than their NL counterpart, stealing 123 bases to San Francisco’s 55 this year.

Texas has put on a postseason power display while running wild on the basepaths thus far in October. As a team, the Rangers are hitting .281 with 17 homers and 59 runs scored in 11 playoff games. Led by Elvis Andrus‘ seven steals, the Rangers have swiped 15 bases and been caught just twice this postseason. That gives the Texas offense a rare balance of power and speed. 

Offensively, the Giants have not exactly been the biggest run producers in October. Through their first 10 postseason games, San Francisco is hitting .231 as a club and averaging just 3.0 runs per game. Their defining work with the bats seems to come in the clutch, with 15 of the 30 Giants runs coming with two outs in an inning.

Cody Ross has been the man the Giants have turned to throughout the postseason. He’s shown not only a flair for the dramatic, but an ability to give his team a lift when it’s needed the most. Ross has broken up three different playoff no-hitters with solo-homers. His heroics in the NLCS netted Ross series MVP honors.

The Game 1 Pitching Matchup:

Cliff Lee WS.jpgA pair of Cy Young Award winners will lock horns in the opening contest, which pits two distinctly different styles against each other.

Trying to write economically about Cliff Lee’s postseason career is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Where do you start?

How about his absolutely unheard of 34/1 K/BB ratio this postseason. Or maybe his six game postseason winning streak, second only to Bob Gibson in baseball history. Or maybe the fact that Lee (1.26) possesses the third lowest ERA among all pitchers with at least five postseason starts, trailing the likes of Sandy Koufax (0.95) and Christy Mathewson (1.06).

Lee (3-0) tamed the Yankees bats as a member of the Phillies World Series squad last year and did it again for the Rangers in this year’s ALCS. He brings a streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings into tonight’s start, and has struck out 10 or more batters in each of his three playoff outings with Texas. One more 10+ K performance would give Lee the most in MLB postseason history (6).

Tim Lincecum WS.jpgTim Lincecum has been putting together a fine playoff run of his own for the Giants, twirling a dominating two-hit shut-out against Atlanta in Game 1 of the NLDS before splitting a pair of decisions against the Phillies in the NLCS.

Lincecum (2-1) has piled up 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings so far this postseason The aptly dubbed “Freak” is a former first round draft choice who has been silencing critics throughout his career. Nine teams passed over the hard throwing yet slightly built Lincecum in the first round of the 2006 draft, fearing his body would never be able to hold up under the incredible strain of his mechanics. If his early results are any indication, Lincecum is doing just fine, thanks.

Two Cy Young Awards later, the 26-year-old Lincecum is anchoring the pitching staff which turned in the best ERA (3.36) in all of baseball this season. Lincecum will need to channel the same kind of electric performance that he turned in against the Braves in the NLDS to get keep the high-powered Rangers offense in check. That makes a nice segway to the…

Series Keys:

San Francisco — The Giants will need more strong pitching from Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and rookie Madison Bumgarner in order to lay the foundation for success in the series. Texas has Hamilton, Guerrero, and Nelson Cruz among other very capable sluggers who can turn the game around with one swing of the bat.

If they can avoid a barrage of Rangers longballs and maintain some semblance of order on the basepaths, then there is a chance that San Francisco could minimize damage long enough for their offense to produce the necessary run support. I wouldn’t count on the bats breaking out in a big way for the duration of the series, but the Giants should be due for at least one big scoring night.

Freshman catcher Buster Posey has made himself right at home in his playoff debut, racking up a franchise rookie record with 11-hits so far this October. Veteran bats Aubrey Huff – who led the Giants in most offensive categories, Pat Burrell – who enjoyed a renaissance after returning to the NL at midseason, and Pablo Sandoval will all need to do their part to help generate the support that Lincecum and company will need.

San Francisco has one of the deepest bullpens in the NL, and have used it to their advantage throughout the playoffs. Anchored by the bearded-wonder Brian Wilson, the Giants got seven scoreless innings out of the pen in the NLCS clinching win against Philadelphia. Suffice it to say, manager Bruce Bochy would like to avoid doing that on a nightly basis.

The Giants have gone 4-1 on the road this postseason, but they want to grab the early series lead in order to make the most of the homefield advantage that was provided by the NL’s victory in the All-Star Game. The Giants can ill-afford to see the series shift to Texas with the hot-hitting Rangers up 2-0.

Texas — If Lee and/or C.J. Wilson can give the Rangers an early lead in the series, then there is a chance the Rangers can bring the series home and do some real damage. Hamilton hit .390 with 22 homers and 57 RBI’s in Arlington this season and is coming off ALCS MVP honors. His presence in the lineup will be a clear and present danger to the Giants hopes of quieting the Rangers run scoring attack.

The Rangers red-hot lineup will force Bochy and the Giants to pick their poison. Nelson Cruz (.371-13-42), Vladimir Guerrero (.315-16-63), and Michael Young (.307-16-55) likewise enjoyed the home cooking for a Texas club that batted .288/.352/.447
at home during the regular season. Luckily for the Giants, this series starts with the Rangers playing the visitor’s role.

I mentioned the Giants had the lifetime advantage against the Rangers during Interleague matchups, but the Rangers enjoyed their slate of games against the NL in 2010. Texas went 14-4 in Interleague play, while the Giants finished 7-8 against the AL this season.

At the back of the bullpen for the Rangers is the electric right arm of 22-year-old rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who strangely enough has not registered a save in the postseason. His early work was definitely shaky, with five walks and a home run allowed over his first three appearances. Feliz bounced back with scoreless frames in his final two outings against the Yankees, but if the Rangers are going to edge the Giants in close contests then Feliz must be ready to slam door.

World Series Game 6: Yankees win 27th World title

Chris Rose Yankees.jpg

I know that Chris Rose from Fox would rather be calling the World Series of Poker or hosting Best Damn’s Top 50 Baseball Bloopers, but I guess being on the field with the New York Yankees for their 27th World Series Championship will have to do.

More to come,

G-Mc

World Series Game 5: Utley slugs Phillies past Yanks

Thumbnail image for World Series.jpgThe Philadelphia Phillies pounded their way to an 8-6 victory in Game 5, pushing the World Series back to New York and postponing any celebration plans the New York Yankees may have had on Monday.

Slugging second baseman Chase Utley slugged his way into the record books with his second multi-home run game of the World Series, belting two homers and driving in four runs.

Utley’s big night gave him a share of two postseason records. His five homers in this series ties Reggie Jackson for the most in a single World Series, while Utley’s seven career Fall Classic home runs are the most by any second baseman in baseball history.

Outside of Utley, the Phillies had Cliff Lee working on the hill as they stared elimination in the face and live to fight another day. Lee was not as sharp as his Game 1 masterpiece, but with eight runs of support he didn’t have to be.

The lefty was pitching well into the eighth inning before a Yankee rally forced his exit. His final line was five earned runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts over seven innings. Three of the runs scored in that eighth frame when the first three batters reached against Lee.

Raul Ibanez enjoyed a 2-for-4 night with a homer and two RBI’s in the winning effort. While much of the attention had been on Ryan Howard‘s struggles, Ibanez had struck out seven times in his prior 12 at-bats, so a good night for the left fielder was a welcome sign for the Philadelphia offense.

Ryan_Howard_K.jpgSpeaking of Howard, Game 5 was yet another tough night in this series for the Phillies clean-up hitter. His futility at the plate reached record proportions when he was punched out twice on Monday to tie a World Series record with 12 strikeouts thus far in the series.

The bad news for Howard, if you want to call it that, is that he will set a record with his next strikeout, but the Yankees should be aware there is a flip side to that coin. It only takes one swing of the bat with a couple men on base for Howard to change the game. Look for the Yankees to continue feeding Howard the steady diet of breaking pitches he has seen throughout this World Series.

Howard has some elite company though, as both first basemen have struggled. Mark Teixeira is just 2-for-19, but has scored four runs, homered and knocked in two others while striking out seven times. Those are hardly big time numbers, but when compared to Howard’s 3-for-19 with two runs scored, one RBI and 12 punch-outs… well, you get the picture. It’s safe to say that each team would love to see their first baseman break out in a big way in Game 6.

Looking Ahead to Game 6:

The series shifts back to New York and a match-up of veteran hurlers will be on tap in the Bronx. All-time postseason wins leader Andy Pettitte will get the ball on three days rest against Pedro Martinez of the Phillies. It is truly a fascinating duel in the making. While Pettitte needs no postseason introduction, Pedro is still searching for a big game start that could help define his legacy in the playoffs.

As of now, most people remember October 16, 2003. Of course, that is the well documented and ill-fated night on which Boston manager Grady Little left Martinez in with a 5-3 lead with the Red Sox just five outs away from the World Series. The Yankees had other ideas.

Pedro departs SM.jpgThis is a different Pedro Martinez. His high-90s fastball has long since vanished. This is a Pedro who relies on his wits, guile and a slew of off-speed pitches to get the job done. This is a Pedro who has to outthink hitters rather than blowing them away. He departed his first series start with a grin on his face, but Game 6 has much more on the line. I’d count on seeing a focused Pedro.

Looking at each hurler’s initial start in this series, Pedro had the better of the two, but it was Pettitte who put one in the win column. Martinez went six innings and allowed three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out eight in his Game 2 starting assignment. Pettitte spotted the Phillies three early runs in Game 3, but settled down to go six innings and allow four total runs on five hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts.

The Yankees will get to insert a red-hot Hideki Matsui back into the line-up as the designated hitter is back in play. It would stand to reason that the Phillies will start the right hand hitting Ben Francisco instead of Matt Stairs against the lefty Pettitte. That would give the edge in the DH department, at least on paper, to the Yankees. Mutsui is 5-for-9 with two homers, while Francisco is hitless in four World Series at-bats.

Though there are quite a few stars lining up, World Series games have a way of finding unsung heroes, so there is no guarantee that the Yankees will be able to ice the Phillies in Game 6. If Philadelphia is able to push a Game 7, then all the momentum shifts back to the defending champions. At that point, the Phillies have nothing to lose, the Yankees will have squandered a 3-1 series lead and, more than ever, the pressure to win will be squarely on hte shoulders of Joe Girardi’s club. Gotta love the drama, but winning Game 6 is all either team is thinking about as of now.

If history repeats itself, then we are in for a close game as far as the starting pitchers are concerned. However, the bullpens have had a way of making things interesting for both sides. Again, a Phillies victory would take the wind out of the Yankees sails and even things up for an exciting seventh contest. That makes Game 6 must-see TV.

Prediction: Yankees win 5-3 to take their 27th World Series Championship

Till next time,

G-Mc

World Series Game 4: Damon helps Yanks steal victory

Thumbnail image for World Series.jpgIf 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.

Damon_Feliz.jpgThe 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,

G-Mc


 

 

World Series Game 3: Slugfest goes to Yanks

Thumbnail image for World Series.jpg

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?

The Yankees offense was the most productive in all of baseball and
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.

It
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.

One
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.

Career
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
tie.

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.

Despite being
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
all cylinders.

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,

G-Mc

World Series Game 2: Yankees even things up

Thumbnail image for World Series.jpgThe 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.

Matsui_HR.jpgAfter 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,

G-Mc

World Series Game 1: Phillies take charge

World Series.jpgNL East Division Rival Philadelphia is still going strong, handing the
host New York Yankees a convincing 6-1 defeat to take a one game lead
in the 2009 World Series.

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.

Thumbnail image for lee phillies.jpgI 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
Fall Classic.

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,

G-Mc
 

What to look for…

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.

Hanson.jpgHere are a a couple topics I’ll be kicking around over the next few weeks:

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,

G-Mc