Looking Back to Live, Game 6

Oh, it’s so nice to have Matsui batting behind Arod.  Gotta make walking Arod hurt.

Shows what I know.  For all Swisher’s post-season struggles, I thought Brett Gardner was a worthy roll of the dice, but he’s making this game more interesting than it has to be.

I’ll take a victory any way I can get it – umpire error, leaning into a bases loaded HBP, slapping the ball out of the catcher’s hand, fan interference – but if I could really script it, just plain hitting Pedro well enough to have Manuel pull him in the middle of an inning would be entertaining.  Pedro might be too good tonight and Manuel may not make the oft-repeated mistake of putting him out there longer than he should be.  But it would make for some entertaining video and a probably way more entertaining post-game press conference.  The press is going to miss this guy when he retires.

Rollins got the runner home from third with less than two out, just like you’re supposed to.  If the Yanks fail in that same situation tonight, my foot is going through the TV.  And I have the old tube TV sets, so it’ll make that wicket “pop!” when that happens.

Another good AB by Damon.  Time for Teixeira to show up.  I wonder if he is subconsciously doing poorly just so he doesn’t have to listen to John Sterling replays of “You’re on the Mark…Teixeira!” and “It’s a Tex message!”.  That could explain a lot.

HBP!  I’ll take that!  Loaded for Arod.  I was about to say “this could be the game right here”.   Which it could.  But it’s still too early for that kinda talk.  The best that happens is he hits a grand slam, in which case I’ll still be edgy for another six innings in hopes they don’t let the Phils back in it.   I know this is only baseball and these guys don’t even know who I am, but I must admit, I’ve been as testy as someone trying to quit smoking.  The past few
weeks, if you cut me off on the road, you’ll get a taste of Evil Matt.

Bases loaded K and we just got a taste of Evil Arod.  Foot, meet
television.  How does Pedro back himself into a corner like this and come out throwing strikes like this?  Too much drama.  I want a light, fluffy comedy tonight.


Thank you Matsui!  Arod is off the hook (like he didn’t buy enough
indulgence this post-season).  What a backbreaker for the Phils, but I doubt the mental letdown will result in them just going down in order the rest of the game.  Like any post-season team, win or lose they need be able to use the cliche “there’s no quit in this team”.

Wow.  How great has Damon been and how painful is it that he’s just been replaced by Hairston.

 

After 61 pitches – 31 strikes 30 balls.   Boy is Pettitte sneaking by without his best stuff.  How long can this last?  He and Pedro don’t look wildly different through 4 innings, but thanks to Matsui it’s the Yanks with a 3 run lead.  I want more!  If they hold on, I can go back to my breathing not being labored.  I’m starting to think if I was on the mound for these tense games that I wouldn’t fare very well.

 

This is the AB I’ve been looking for from Swisher all post-season.  After down 0-2 the count went full.  Of course he ended it with a strikeout, but laborious ABs against Pedro are a small victory.

OK. three more innings before Rivera.  That’s a long three innings.

The Yanks bottom of 4 was limp as they went down in order.  But if they get two guys on next inning… Matsui!

Meanwhile, Pettitte faces the 8 and 9 hitters in top of 5, which I’d like to think are easy outs, but that’s just not the way it’s been going.

 

…and the #9 hitter walked with the top of the order coming up.  How long can Pettitte hang in there?  Four walks through 4.1.   Yanks have GOT to tack on.  We all know the magic pitch count threshold for Pedro is 100, but Pettitte’s must be lower than that tonight.

 

For all my concerns about the overuse of Rivera, the 7th inning was awful close to the real save situation.  I think Rivera should have been available to pitch to Ryan Howard if Utley had reached and brought up the tying run, but he wasn’t even warming up.

 

 

It was at this point that I found an environment where I would loudly be sharing my opinions with anyone who would listen rather than typing it into a Word doc to paste into an MLBlog.  To synopsize: I was pleased with the result.

Reasons for Agita vs. Reasons for Optimism

Agita:

Like the just concluded game 5, I don’t like the match-up in game 6 (assuming this is a fully rested Pedro vs. a short-rested Pettitte).  On the up side, if the Yanks do win, it can be by beating Pedro, which always makes for good television.

Optimism:

SOME of the Yankee bats are warming up and with a second look at Pedro, maybe they’ll show a bit more of a heartbeat.  Also, if Pettitte can hang tough even through five, the bullpen should be in decent shape if Girardi tries to stitch Joba, Hughes, and Rivera together to get this done.  Not that the sequence I mention is a sure-fire recipe for success, but it’s conceivable they can hold it together.

Agita:

If it goes 7, is CC (who will be seen for the third time in a little over a week by these Phils) near the end of his rope or already at it?  As big as he has been (ahem), it is still not outside the realm of possibility he would come out and just plain not have it.  And there would go the season.  Plus, maybe the Phils can squeeze two innings out of Cliff Lee for this game.

Optimism:

Cole Hamels (if that’s who is slated) hasn’t had it all post-season.

 

Perceived momentum from game 4 aside, folks, this is anybody’s series.  At this point in the war of attrition, the bats are going to have to decide this WS champion.

Live Lament

Considering the pounding Burnett keeps taking before anyone has gotten to their seats, maybe the Yanks should just bring in Rivera for the first inning, then go to their starter for the 2nd.

Must make Cliff Lee work and try to get to the bullpen.  Hopefully Burnett can hold it together.  The fact that Lee looked mortal in the first inning makes it all the more unsettling Burnett got pounded.

Swisher is protecting Arod in the lineup?  Oh boy…  Good sign that he took a walk though.  It is a massive black hole in the Yanks lineup and it’s disheartening to know when you get past the meat of their order, it will be two innings before they have another chance to score.

The upside to getting Burnett out of there nice and early – the black hole of the lineup that features Molina can be filled in slightly with  Posada. Burnett is perfectly capable of getting clobbered on full rest, but oh boy has this decision by Girardi not worked out so far.  Even going into this game it looks like it’ll come down to seeing what Sabathia has left for a
game 7 if they plan to win this series.

The fanny-kicking Burnett has prompted is probably better for the Yankee bullpen so the important guys can be rested for game 6.  Get Robertson some work.  We’ll see Phil Coke in there.  Maybe Gaudin, unless he is the protection in case Pettitte starts game 6 and is bounced early.  If the Yanks come back to make this close, it could backfire on them.  I repeat my comments from the conclusion of game four:  the pitching match-ups seem to
be setting things up for a game 7.  The “momentum” from game four was nice, but that disappears in a heartbeat against a pitcher like Cliff Lee.  And it disappears so fast it practically goes back in time when your high priced righthanded horse is sent to the showers before he even had a chance to sweat.  Since you never know what you’re going to get from this guy it’d be a heck of a gamble, but he can probably pitch a couple innings of game 7
if such a situation calls for it.   But for tonight, his final line:   2 IP,  4H, 4BB , 6ER.

This is too much agita.  To paraphrase Cole Hamels, let’s just get this thing over with.

Best thing the Yanks can do tonight (short of winning) is have their offense show signs of life.   If they face Pedro on Wednesday, it’d be nice to think they don’t have to wait until he’s at the 100 pitch mark before making a dent against him.

They just turned a PH for Robertson into a run with a walk by Hinske.  Again, Lee looks slightly human tonight, so AJ’s performance feels particularly brutal.

Yanks are making some slight noise in the top of the 5th.  If they miraculously score 6 runs and take a lead, I think Girardi will go to Rivera for the final five innings.

Teixeira’s batting .063 in the Series.  Maybe he’s waiting for a dramatic moment in game 7 before breaking out.

I’m repeating myself, but the thought keeps circulating around my head: Can CC muster just one more winning performance this year?  I don’t even want to see him on the bench before then.  I’d like to think he’s spending every hour of every day leading up to game 7 in a hot tub or getting a rub down so he’s loose, limber and ready to go on Thursday.

 

Utley’s HRs have become so expected, I might start a pool at work to pick which inning he launches one next game.

 

I don’t mean this in quite the ominous manner in which it may sound, but this series reminds me of the 2004 ALCS.  With the Yanks up 3-0, I still felt the Sox should have won each of the four remaining games when looking at it as each game individually.  But I figured the Yanks would still win the series simply because weird things happen.  In this series, games 5 and 6 clearly have the Phillies favored — I’m just hoping for something goofy to happen to win it for the Yanks.  The curious managerial move, the ball that hits a bird and drops in between three fielders, the star player accidentally scratching his cornea with a salad fork…

 

Coke is Hit.  Well, at least he got some work in that did not have to go to Rivera.  I would like to see Hughes get some work in tonight to see if he can be observed not through fingers being screened over ones eyes.  Ah, thank you Skip, Hughes is a-comin’ in.

 

Wait a sec… Why is Charlie Manuel running Cliff Lee out there with a 6 run lead over 100 pitches if Lee is someone who can be hugely valuable to them in game 7?

 

Arod just doubled in two runs on a ball a better outfield than Ibanez comes up with.  This all makes Burnett’s performance sting all the more.  Lee ends up giving up four runs in seven innings.  Tough time for AJ to not show up.  Am I belaboring this?

 

Observation: lost in all the comically bad umpiring this post-season is how mostly bad the home plate umpiring has been.  Bipartisan, of course, but I think of how a guy like Swisher in particular is doomed when he and the ump have a different idea of the strike zone.

 

I keep hearing how Cano is going to win a batting title some day.  Indeed he has the sweetest swing by someone when going after balls that are closer to the press box than they are to home plate.  Rodriguez just stole a run for the Yanks on a shallow pop up to CF by Cano.

Well, so far it’s playing out nicely, even if results in a loss.  The Yanks avoided going to overused relievers and they are showing offensive signs of life.  Small victory, though this isn’t over just yet.

Oh, and with Jeter up representing the tying run in the 9th, I’m just praying against a DP.  Teixeira, his struggles aside, must come up representing the tying run.

Oooohhhhhh nuts.

 

Well that last comment following Jeter’s DP kind of sums it up for the night.  But wait… Damon got a hit, bringing Tex up as the tying run.  Well, this is what you want.  Just a chance for the long ball, and Teixeira  won’t get cheated.

Well, he got nothing he could hit and only one pitch was even in the strike zone, neatly hitting the outside corner.  This guy is starting to remind me of Soriano.

Like the game wasn’t galling enough, it is immediately punctuated by a Ken Rosenthal interview where he asks Chase Utley “How cool is that?” referring to Utley hitting his 5th HR of the series to tie Reggie’s record, then Rosenthal follows up with “Can you win this series in 7?”

 

You Idiot! Oh – great play!

…is what was bellowed from Cappiello’s Yankee Corner (known by the Mrs. as “the clubhouse” since that’s where I spend all my time.  Kids, don’t be like me).  Two outs, no one on, Damon gave the kind of AB that I thought may pay off only if they made it to the 10th inning against Lidge.  But he earned the single and clearly swiped the second base in a highly premeditated move whereby Damon knew he would nab third if no one was covering.  I don’t know if he consciously thought “If I’m standing on third, Lidge won’t throw the slider”, but perhaps this is so and it most certainly played out that way.  At first glance I erroneously thought he fell for a simple age-old decoy by Feliz, but maybe I’ve just grown accustomed to bad baserunning this post-season that my yelling at the TV is more muscle memory than anything.  Either way, what was obvious is the Yanks (or at least Damon himself) prepared for this situation whereas the Phillies did not.  They did their homework by positioning Teixeira with the overshift, but they were thoroughly caught with their pants down when it lead to an extra base on a steal.  It was a heads-up play by Damon, but this is not unprecedented.  Either Lidge or Ruiz fell asleep on the play and forgot what was discussed in a team meeting, or such a situation was never discussed in the first place – the latter being what could prove to be an egregious oversight.   That at bat and subsequent heads-up baserunning is what we have not seen enough of in the post-season in general. 

The game tying HR by Feliz in the 8th screamed of being a series turning point.  Instead of Rivera coming in to close out a close lead, it appeared Phil Coke was coming in to lose it.  Damon looks like he has laid claim to a different turning point altogether.  But that can change six more times before the series is over.

 

Mo Holding Steady

Mo is still efficient.  So far, he still is Superman™, rather than the pitcher who looks like he’s been overused weeks before his 40th birthday.  Knock on wood, he’s the only stopper left who is essentially untainted this post-season.  He’s looked shaky once or twice and in the process of this post-season all’s he’s done is improved his already preposterous lifetime post-season ERA.  In closing out the game tonight, even he showed emotion.  Good, gameface emotion, not histrionics emotion.  This one could be a back-breaker for Phils, and Charlie Manuel’s post-game testiness is a good sign.

 

Legacy Clinched?

          Arod has been a funny cat in this series.  His strike zone still looks too big, he still looks a bit too anxious, yet his hits have been huge.  The two out double to drive in Damon defined clutch and was sweet poetic justice for a guy who looked like he was plunked for the fun of it.  I know it’s the WS, but his HBP early in the game was suspicious.  Blanton was clearly going to pitch around him and in all likelihood put him on 1B (should Arod have chosen to not expand his strikezone), so plunking him high and hard on a fastball that was not targeted for that general area is very curious.  The HBPs yesterday did not seem dodgy.  Tonight’s definitely raised an eyebrow.

          Still, somebody explain to me the significance of an umpire warning both benches.  They are allowed to use their judgment to kick someone out without warning, yet they can also use their judgment to not eject someone after there’s been a warning.  So the point is…?  

 

Jorge, Come Back!

So Posada comes up with a clutch 9th inning hit himself.  And… then where is he going?  In getting thrown out by 97 feet trying to get to 2B, I considered that maybe he was sacrificing himself by drawing the throw to ensure Arod scores from second, but… on a ball hit to the gap, Arod scoring is a no-brainer.  When and why did Posada magically morph into Manny?

 

Incoming 

It’s moot, but Ryan Howard obviously never touched home on the run that scored early in the game.  Ump missed it, but so did the Yanks.  They may have deserved to have that run score after giving up a stolen base to Howard. Maybe shame is why they didn’t protest. 

 

Also

Is Matt Stairs really Charlie Manuel’s best PH when he does not represent the tying run?  He’s come up the last two games in instances where he can go ahead and launch a Broxton type 500 ft HR and the Yanks would still have a lead, so there’s not been much drama to his ABs.  His OBP has been decent considering how low his average is, but when he’s not representing so much as the tying run, no pitcher should be walking him.

 

Tex

Teixeira is still not hitting well in this post-season, but with the occasional big hit and stellar defense, his post-season is reminiscent of his early struggles in the regular season with the team this year.  He at least brings something to the table when not fully on his game.  Still, if Teixeira v.May-September shows up, the Yanks may be able to win without the smoke, mirrors and whatever voodoo they’ve been doing.

 

By the Way

Considering the way Joba is throwing vs the way Hughes is throwing, I liked Joba pitching the 8th.  Temporarily heartbreaking HR to Feliz aside, he may yet loom large in this series.

 

Lee Waits

CC is clearly laboring, but tonight he displayed the type of performance I figured Cliff Lee could have provided, if not better.  When running your #1 out there three times in a series, it’s a bit much to assume he’ll be lights out each time, but if he’s steady enough to keep it tight, that could be a huge boost.  We are left to wonder if Lee has been coddled too much. 

 

Short Rest

          I’m all ears on what the logic is, if there is any, but if Burnett can only pitch two games of this WS anyway, why is he coming back on short rest with a 3-1 series lead?  Assuming Pettitte on short rest is not an option (is that a safe assumption or will Girardi try to get a few innings out of him in game 6?), what is the point of compromising Burnett’s effectiveness by pitchiChng him in game 5?  The tide may well turn again if Lee beats him in game 5 (not a slam-dunk, but a likely result), then the Yanks have to go to Chad Gaudin against Pedro in game 6?  The series lead is significant, but the Yanks may be lining themselves up for a seven game series which would require the third start by Sabathia who is already running on fumes.  You’d like to think they can take one of the next three, but the matchups are still dicey.  Does Girardi have any surprises up his sleeve?  Will the Yanks announce they’ve signed Roger Clemens to a prorated two day contract?

Digesting Game Three, Approaching Game Four

The next few days will tell if waiting until game 5 to start Cliff Lee was a wise move by Charlie Manuel, but I’m breathing a sigh of relief that he is not being pushed to start three games.  That said, there is immense weight on tonight’s game to the point that tonight’s winner might very well be the Series winner.  OK, I know there are only two teams left, so that doesn’t sound like a strong statement, but I really think this one’s a biggie.  Not to automatically concede a Cliff Lee game as a Phils win, but the Yanks could well find themselves down 3-2 going back to NY, and with all hands on deck, Lee would surely be available for part of game 7.  Being available for a short stint in 7 may not seem overwhelming, but considering the Yankee offense (when it’s showed up at all) tends to start showing signs of life several innings into the game, Lee for a few middle-to-late innings could be a huge factor in that potential game 7.  And if tonight shows CC having little left in the tank, things can really get dicey.  Maybe I should take another hit of Theraflu so I can sleep through the game and spare myself the anxiety.

 

Always the Centaur of Controversy

It’s from the Who Cares files, but still a mildly funny story that has been blurbed about an anonymous former girlfriend of Arod saying he had two paintings of himself as a centaur.  If the Yanks were playing Boston, it might have prompted some very craftfully done banners to the park.  But if Rodriguez takes a cue from his game three and continues hitting and getting on base, there might be a lot of commissions for other pinstriped centaurs in the works. 

It sure was a surprise to no one that, of course, the controversial video-replayed HR came off the bat of Arod.  It seems the proper call was made (chalk that up as a “yay” vote for video replay), but I was prepared for the umps to not overturn the initial call because I did not think the video evidence was 100% definite.  What is 100% definite is that it was asinine to have a camera actually hanging over the wall into the field of play.  It’s like having an automatronic Jeffrey Maier erected right at the home run threshold just to confuse the umps.

 

So This Was Nice

Swisher’s double and HR were huge in game three, so it was nice to finally get production from him.  Perhaps tonight will show whether that was an aberration.  Meanwhile, I see that Matsui has been practicing in RF.  This is a novel idea, but one that I’d like to think might have occurred many weeks ago.  Considering how he has had a few big hits of recent and that RF has been a vacuum for the Yanks, putting him in right (if he is in game shape to play it) could have paid off.  Not sure if the Yanks were having him cram at the last minute, but if so, that kind of reduces that as a viable option.  Would be nice to get his bat back in there.  We still don’t see Swisher drawing any walks.

 

All Hands On Deck…Already

          I wholly appreciate Girardi seeing the gravity of game three, but with a four run lead and six outs to go and no major signs of trouble, I would have loved to see him work the bullpen to avoid using Rivera.  For certain, the World Series is not the time to coddle pitchers for a more important game that may never come, but could Chamberlain, who pitched an efficient, perfect 7th, not come out for the 8th?  OK, I guess Marte was able to faces two lefties.  But how about the 9th – could Hughes not face just one more batter before Joe picked up the red phone?  A three run lead with two outs to go I would hope is just enough wiggle room to not potentially compromise the effectiveness of your stopper.  And the fact that Girardi gave Hughes NO room for error made it all but certain he was going to go to Rivera.  The good news was Rivera only threw five pitches for the last two outs, but the process of warming up in the bullpen is essentially as demanding as coming into the game — and this after Rivera was taxed for two laborious innings just two days before.  With two more consecutive games in Philly, the next two days might show just how human or superhuman Rivera is. 

Too Cynical?

Am I getting carried away?  Reading the story that the Phils sent Greg Dobbs back to Philadelphia with the flu, the first image that came to my mind was Dobbs making himself at home in the Citizen’s Bank Park visitor’s clubhouse for a couple days, initiating germ warfare against the soon-to-arrive Yanks.  That would be one way to make the most out of the 25 man roster.  The Yanks should send someone in ahead of the team to disinfect the place.

Is this the kind of thinking that made Billy Martin tick?