Well, it looks like we now really do have an interesting World Series. Not just to see who will be crowned the best team in baseball. But to judge whether the pitching strategy of Yankees manager Joe Girardi or Phillies field boss Charlie Manuel was the best,
First, let me mention that three Mariners prospects — Dustin Ackley, Phillippe Aumont and Josh Fields — have been selected to play in the Arizona Fall Leauge’s Rising Stars Game on Nov. 7. Ackley is hitting .313 with three doubles, three RBI and a .795 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for the Peoria Javelinas.
Aumont doesn’t appear to belong in this trio, sitting 1-0 with a gaudy 15.00 ERA. But much of that comes from a couple of four-run outings against him. He has six strikeouts in six innings despite a .345 batting average against.
Fields is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA and also has six strikeouts in six innings. He has held opponents to a .174 batting average.
Back to the World Series. We discussed this yesterday, but Yankee manager Joe Girardi took a big risk in sticking to a three-man rotation for the duration of this series. He opted not to go with a seldom-used Chad Gaudin last night and stuck with A.J. Burnett on short rest. Whether it was the lack of rest, or simply Burnett being Burnett, the move blew up.
Now, the Yankees will almost certainly go with Andy Pettitte on short rest tomorrow and you can sense the panic starting to set in. Manuel kept his rotation in order and got a good start out of Cliff Lee last night and has Pedro Martinez going on full rest tomorrow.
Let the second-guessing begin. Or, I should say, let it continue.
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I’ll tell you what, if ever Martinez wants to do away with the “Who’s your daddy?” questions, this is his perfect opportunity. Nail down a win at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 and he’ll be done forever with all of the lingering ghosts from the 2003 and 2004 ALCS bids while still with Boston.
Now, normally you’d want Pettitte making this start if you’re a Yankees fan. And he hasn’t fared poorly on short rest in the past. But his last post-season try on short rest came way back in 2003 and plenty has changed since then. Pettitte did not look all that sharp his last time out despite the Yankees coming back to win in Game 3. So, how will he look now?
Who knows? Certainly not Girardi.
So, this has gotten real interesting.
Should the Phillies prevail and force Game 7, it will become even more dramatic, with the Phils having to decide whether to send Cole Hamels back out there or go with rookie J.A. Happ. Some comments by Hamels over the weekend did not go over well in the Philly clubhouse. That’s for another day. And believe me, the panic on the streets of New York will be palpable if things get that far.
I felt it back in 2004 when the Yankees let that 3-0 ALCS lead slip away, Baseball is not as big a game of emotions as football can be. Big crowds and homefield advantage play their part, true, but ultimately, baseball can be a game of matchups more than anything else. Even in the playoffs. Even in the World Series.
And right now, the matchups say the Phillies have an automatic edge. You’ll take a good rested pitcher over a good pitcher on short rest almost every time.
And, going into Game 6, the matchup clearly favors the visiting team. What they do with it is up to them.