More to come,
The 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.
Speaking 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.
This 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,
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,
With Spring Training upon us, the Atlanta Braves find themselves
still searching the market for an everyday outfielder. Putting aside
the usual suspects, a crowded outfield in Minnesota could make former
first rounder Delmon Young available for the right price.
the wake of a disappointing 2008 season, in which his power output
dropped to just 10 homers and 69 RBI, Young finds himself in a
potential battle for playing time.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has already expressed that Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer all deserve regular playings time. Throw Jason Kubel into the equation at designated hitter and the picture gets even more crowded.
A five-tool phenom who was heralded as the finest power hitter ever
drafted by the Rays in their short history, Young hit .288 with 93 RBI
in 2007 before being dealt to Minnesota.
Young has good speed on the base paths, but his instincts in the
outfield leave something to be the desired. His above average throwing
arm projected him to be a regular right fielder in Tampa Bay.
The emergence of Span, who projects as Minnesota’s right fielder and
lead-off hitter coupled with the return of Cuddyer from injury seems to
fill in the blanks on the corner outfield spots around Gomez. Kubel
came into his own with 20 homers and 78 RBI in 463 at-bats last season,
complicating any plan to utilize Young as a regular DH.
At the plate, Young is an aggressive hitter who does not draw many
walks and has power to the gaps. Young does not draw many walks, but
saw improvement from his rookie season while brining his strikeout
total down. Despite his power potential, the 20+ homer numbers from his
early stops in the minors have yet to materialize in the majors.
That could all change with a break-out season in 2009.
The Braves have outfield prospects waiting in the wings, though only Jordan Schafer seems close to joining the big club in 2009. Jason Heyward and Gorkys Hernandez
both project an arrival time of 2010 at the earliest. Young would fit
nicely in an outfield that only looks to get more talented as the years
This winter’s free agent pool included Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Ken Griffey Jr., Garret Anderson and Jim Edmonds.
With both Abreu and Dunn finding work this week, Burrell having already
signed with the Tampa Bay Rays and Griffey perhaps closing in on a
return to Seattle, the market leaves much to be desired.
Clearly Atlanta will not be among the “several” teams that Scott Boras is lining up for the Manny Ramirez
sweepstakes. Wren and company also opted to pass on any reunion with
former Atlanta center fielder and full-time reclamation project, Andruw Jones.
Reports have linked Atlanta to New York Yankees outfielders Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady. Both men will come at varying cost, in terms of contract and prospect talent heading to the Bronx in exchange.
30, is owed $6.55 million and stands to be a free agent at season’s
end. Being a Boras client points makes Nady a shot term fix for
Atlanta, before testing free agency next winter. Splitting time last
season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Yankees, Nady turned in a
career-best season by hitting ,305 with 25 homers and 97 RBI in 148
Swisher, 28, is two years younger and under contract for the next three seasons. Yankees GM Brian Cashman
would prefer to trade Nady and has balked at any request to eat a
portion of the $22.05 million that Swisher is owed over the next three
After enjoying three productive years in Oakland, Swisher’s average
bottomed out at .219 with the White Sox last season. Swisher’s best
campaign with the A’s came in 2006, when he hit .254 with 35 homers,
95 RBI and 106 runs scored.
Though he did connect for 24 homers and his 82 walks brought his
OBP up to .332, Swisher hit just .191 with only 28 RBI in the second
half. Slumping to just .164 for the month of September forced Swisher
into a platoon with DeWayne Wise.
the Twins look to deal Young, Atlanta has the prospect depth to put
together a nice return. The Braves would acquire a young player who
could benefit from a change of leagues and, despite being eligible for
arbitration in the coming three seasons, probably be a cheaper
alternative than Swisher.
There has been no rumor or report that
links the Braves and Twins in any trade talks, but the pieces could be
made to fit. The biggest road block to this trade scenario will not be
the players involved, it will be Young’s agent, Arn Tellum.
After being burned in negotiations with Rafael Furcal, the Braves have vowed never to do business with Tellum, fellow agent Paul Kinzer and the Wasserman Media Group. There is no better time than to put that pledge to the test with a deal to acquire Young.
Till next time,
It is not hard to imagine that the New York Yankees still have money to spend and needs to fill. The question is, how much money and on who will with they spend it? How about Bronx native Manny Ramirez?
Keep in mind, this is the same Manny Ramirez who was reportedly mulling retirement if he did not receive an offer which matched the criteria he is seeking this off-season. Perhaps that is just Manny being ridiculous (thanks Ben K. from RiverAveBlues.com). This is the same Manny Ramirez who was suspected of feigning injury in his final days in Boston. This is the same Ramirez who was reportedly involved in some kind of altercation with a clubhouse attendant over ticket requests. Keep all that in mind.
And keep this in mind. Ramirez is a game changing, clutch-hitting, power machine that can strike fear into the heart of any opposing pitcher. This is the Ramirez who carries a career .314 average, 527 homers and 1,725 RBI in 2,103 contests (that’s an average of 41 homers and 133 RBI per 162 games). This is the Ramirez who hit .396 and drove in 53 runs down the stretch to lift the Dodgers into the play-offs. This is the same Ramirez who may be the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation.
So which one of these scenarios is truly, Manny being Manny?
Agent to the stars, Scott Boras, has at least one interested suitor in the L.A. Dodgers. Negotiations there have been somewhat of a mini-soap opera, with Dodgers GM Ned Colletti spending some time pondering over why the team did not hear from Ramirez and Boras regarding the offer they extended in mid-November when clubs had exclusive rights to their free-agents to be. That deal was reported to reach up to $60 million, if a third year option was exercised.
The Yankees may just choose to let the Angels, Red Sox and Nationals have a spending frenzy over switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira. We know Teixeira will get his money from some club, but is anyone really pondering giving Ramirez a 5-year pact north of $100 million? He would certainly provide significant power to a Yankees line-up that is in state of flux. Not many teams would look forward to going through an A-Rod and Manny 1-2 punch.
In many ways, Ramirez’s fate is inextricably linked to that of former Brave and fellow Boras client, Teixeira, who is looking to land the kind of contract Ramirez did back in the winter of 2000 (8-years $160 million). In fact, it is believed that most teams who are seriously looking into Teixeira’s services are probably only viewing Ramirez as a fall-back option – with one notable exception, the Boston Red Sox. For them, it is Teixeira or bust.
Ramirez has shown to be both a lightning rod and a clutch-performer, a defensive liability and an offensive power-house. These night and day qualities are all part of the package that a team is getting when they sign Manny Ramirez. It’s up to the club to decide if the headaches (and there willbe headaches) will be worth the pay-off
Until Boras can line up a potential match, it looks like Manny will have to spend more time working out, playing video games and watching cartoons. Or maybe selling another grill on Ebay?
Now that is just Manny being Manny.
Till next time,