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I spent nearly 5 hours in the car today and got pretty tired of listening to music, so I turned on sports radio, catching some Mike and Mike in the Morning (who I always listen to), some Colin Cowherd and even a little bit of Doug Gottlieb this evening.

As expected, most of the talk today was about the World Series and the news surrounding it.  There are a few big stories out there that I want to talk about tonight.

First, a lot of criticism is being levied at Yankees skipper Joe Girardi for his “micro-managing.”  As an example, he has chosen to use three pitchers in relief when another manager might have just left the first pitcher in.  Take a look at my previous post for more on this issue.

#2 – Apparently Cole Hamels is tired of the season. He said after his Game 3 loss, “I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been mentally draining. At year-end, you just can’t wait for a fresh start.”  Many people interpreted this to mean he wants the season and the World Series to be over, win or loss.

But, I can relate with Hamels.  One year after an outstanding postseason where he was named both the NLCS and World Series MVP’s, Hamels is struggling on the mound with an ERA over 7.00.  The Yankees knocked him out of Game 3 in the fifth inning.  Obviously the man would probably like the offseason to relax and focus on getting his pitching back to where he feels it should be.

Plus, in the midst of all this, Hamels and his wife just had their first child last month, a baby boy.  I am sure he is proud to be a father and would love to spend time at home with his wife, spending some quality time with the newest addition to their family.

Rumors are abound that Phillies pitcher Brett Myers confronted Hamels in the dugout during Game 5, reportedly saying “What are you doing here?  I thought you quit.”  This was initially reported by Yahoo Sports.  The two apparently had an exchange of words and had to be separated.

Good.  Drama like this can tear a team apart.  Good for the Yankees.

#3 – Shane Victorino told the media today that his hand is fine after being hit on the right index finger during Monday night’s game 5.  I didn’t think a fiery guy like Victorino would even think about missing a crucial game 6.

#4 – The Yankees need some Mark Teixeira.  Fortunately the team is set up well that if one guy isn’t performing, others can step up and clinch a win.  But winning game 6 would be much easier if Teixeira could find a way to spark a good game at the plate.

It seems as if Teixeira is feeling the pressure at the plate.  Most of his hits aren’t falling and he just looks weird at the plate. With the Yankees rallying in the top of the ninth last night, Tex struck out swinging to end the game – with A-Rod on deck.

Tex is not giving us many clues to his actual state-of-mind right now.  Slumps are normal in a baseball season and unfortunately they even happen during the postseason.  It’s just surprising to see a guy who was so clutch in the regular season not be able to be there for his teammates when it truly matters.

Finally, much respect to Alex Rodriguez – who with his 3 RBI Monday night set a new Yankee record of 18 RBI in a single postseason.  After struggling most of the first 3 games, Rodriguez got pissed off about getting hit all the time by the Phillies pitchers and started hitting strong again in Game 4.

It’s nice to see him doing well and setting records.  I’d love to see # 13 retired in Monument Park, right next to  # 2 (Derek Jeter) and # 42 (Mariano Rivera).

Despite the Yankee loss Monday night in Philly and the atrocious 2 innings pitched by AJ Burnett, I feel Yankees manager Joe Girardi is making the right decisions.  Burnett had been 3-0 with a wonderful ERA under 2.00 in his previous starts on three days rest and had been steady this entire postseason.

Burnett struggled for the same reason he has struggled this entire season – control issues.  For some reason the strikeout pitcher has thrown a ridiculous amount of wild pitches in 2009, but that did not cost the Yankees the game.

Neither did Burnett’s inability to get almost anyone on the Phillies roster out.

No, the Yankees lost because of Chase Utley.  Take away Utley’s 2 home runs and subsequent 4 RBI – and the Yankees win the game 6-4, not lose 8-6.

I write this because I am shocked by the amount of “hate” being thrown at Girardi for his pitching choices.  The Yankees took the same risk for Game 5 that they took for Game 2 – because one never knows which AJ Burnett is going to show up on the mound – the one who pitches a 3-hit gem, or the one who allows 5 earned runs in 3 innings.

Again, this was the right call.  Girardi said in September that he planned to use a three-man rotation in the post-season.  He spent the last two weeks of the season making sure the starters had enough rest to get them through some potential 3-day rests instead of the usual 4-day rests.

Fortunately, this worked out well.  The Yankees were able to start CC Sabathia twice in the ALCS – leading to a 4-2 win over the Angels in the best of 7 series.  It also set up the prime pitching matchups for the World Series.  Sabathia in games 1 and 4, Burnett in games 2 and 5, and Andy Pettitte in games 3 and 6.  This puts the very dominating and consistent Sabathia in for Game 7 – who is exactly the guy you want in there if the series goes that far.

I say question Girardi if the Yankees were losing the series.  Not if they are up 3-2 with the series shifting back to the Bronx.

No one could have predicted such a night like last night’s.

The game was tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth with two outs and Johnny Damon battled a 9 pitch at-bat to get on base, then stope both second and third. Mark Teixeria was hit by a pitch, bringing up A-Rod. He hits a RBI double into left field to give the Yankees a one run lead. Then Jorge Posada hits a two-RBI single that he gets out on an advance. Just like that, it’s 7-4 Yankees. Cue Mariano Rivera. Game over.

And in all of that was the fact that Rivera only needed 8 pitches to record 3 outs last night. On Halloween night, Rivera only needed five pitches to record 2 outs. So make that 13 pitches to record five outs. And Jimmy Rollins after game 1 said the Phillies had figured out Rivera. Yeah, right. Just like you figured out how to hit lefties, Rollins!

Last night’s game was not the best by both teams. They both gritted it out, made mistakes, and I can sense that the long season is getting to them now. Starter CC Sabathia was not dominant. Just good enough to get the Yankees into the 7th on 6 strikeouts and 3 ER. Joe Blanton from the Phillies was better than expected, striking out 7, and at one point, retiring 11 straight Yankees.

There are two recaps you can read. One by Mike Axisa (River Ave. Blues) on YES, and the other by Greg Cohen at Sliding into Home. Both recaps will give you a perspective of the game.

And here’s ESPN’s take. It all focused on A-Rod.

Last night was probably the night A-Rod earned his pinstripes. Seriously. The man has validated past October failures up to this point. Now all he needs to do is help get win #11 of the postseason, then he has redeemed himself.

PeteAbe of the Boston Globe admits that the double-steal by Damon is a brilliant move, one that gave the Yankees their third straight victory over the Phillies.

Finally, Jack Curry brights to light Mariano Rivera. He’s not a one-man bullpen, but he sure looks like one in the 9th inning of the last two games. 13 pitches to get 5 outs. I still can’t get over that.

The Yanks have game #5 tonight against Cliff Lee. I believe he will be good, but not dominant like game #1. AJ Burnett previously is 3-0 on short rest (all three starts with Toronto). All we need is one more high-quality appearance from Burnett plus a strong offensive effort and we will probably come back to NY with something special.

When you’ve got the major league record of wins in a postseason, you don’t question a man’s character. And last night, after a early 3-0 lead, Pettitte never gave up.

He was not at his best, but when it came to key points of the night — Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, he got them to go 0-9 with 6 strikeouts. Howard now has 9 strikeouts in three games, and he is on pace to obliterate the World Series record of 12 strikeouts.

Instead of writing a game recap, I’m going to defer to Greg Cohen at Sliding into Home. He always provides a good recap.

Here’s what Greg said about last night’s game

It was a gutty and gritty performance by the Yankees tonight as they fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit to win and take a 2-1 lead in the series. But the way things started out this one looked like it was going to be a total disaster.

Ed Valentine on Pinstripe Alley brought up several good points

  • Lack of reporting from FOX on the home run that was reversed — the first one ever in the World Series.
  • Praise for Pettitte from Mike Lupica of the Daily News.
  • Cole Hamels’ curveball to Pettitte that he hit for a RBI and eventually scored on.
  • Swisher’s performance last night — a hit and a home run.
  • Phil Hughes. More on that later.

I watched the first five innings of the game from Greene Turtle restaurant in my area except for the 6th inning (missed Swisher’s bomb). Then at home I watched the last 3.5 frames. I felt confident with Hughes last night in the 9th and felt he could get it done, even after giving up a home run to Ruiz. My attitude is like, ok, move on. He could have gotten the last two outs, I feel.

So, Girardi’s decision to go to Rivera was a little premature in my opinion. I can see that Girardi won’t take any chances at all, but we cannot gas out Rivera when there are at maximum four games left. IF Hughes had allowed one more run, then I’d go for Rivera, but not when there’s still 3 runs left to tie the game.

Two more links for you to read this morning — Jayson Stark’s column on ESPN.com.

Five outs into his memorable Saturday evening, he was three runs down. He’d already huffed and puffed his way through 50 — yep, that number was 50 — pitches. And he looked like a bigger threat to be heading for the nearest shower stall any second than for the winning pitcher’s spot on the interview-room podium three hours later.

But when a man has spent his whole career pitching on the October stage, his heart doesn’t pump at 4,000 beats a minute at times like that.

When a man has started more World Series games than anyone in history not named Whitey Ford, he doesn’t feel the ballpark shaking, doesn’t hear those 46,000 people shrieking.

And so, on the final night of October 2009, on the most important night of his season, Pettitte found a way to do what he had to do:

Survive.

Jim Capel talks about A-Rod.  Yes, the man some people despise, and the man some people have reconnected with after such a memorable postseason.

After all, 2009 has been A-Rod’s personal reality show, better known as “Alex & Kate Plus 28 (Counting Coaches).” The home run simply added to Rodriguez’s 2009 saga that already included Joe Torre’s book, the steroids revelations, the hip surgery, the Kate Hudson relationship, his superb second half, his extraordinary postseason … and then came the latest episode of Days of Our A-Rod in which Rodriguez homered to spark a Yankees rally, made a throwing error, was hit by not one but two pitches and helped make World Series history.

Gene Woj thinks Girardi is out of his mind with going on a three-man rotation. Pettitte needed 106 pitches to make it through 6 innings and doing Burnett and Pettitte on short rest may come back to haunt Girardi… Read an excerpt.

…Girardi is giving every indication that he’ll push all-in with his three big chips: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. He’s doing this because his team has a $208 million payroll, but it doesn’t have a fourth starter he trusts. This is like buying a tank but not having the Parts Department attach the gun turret.

Today will be a fun-filled sports day. My Giants vs the Eagles at 1pm. Favre’s return to Green Bay at 4:15 and the game #4 at 8:20. I hope I can watch all three and get everything else done that I need to.

 

A lot of questions stand unanswered regarding the Yankees and the World Series, such as: who is pitching games 4 and 5; who is starting in right field in games 3-4-5 and what to do with Hideki Matsui in games 3,4 and 5.

Matsui is the Yankees full-time DH.  A former outfielder, Matsui has not played in the field since injuring his knee in 2008.  He has been either the DH or on the bench.  It seems as if Matsui will remain on the bench while the series is in Philly, despite his good bat.  Even though going with Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, Jerry Hairston, Jr, or Eric Hinske means a worse bat at the plate, it does mean a better defensive player in the field.

Which leads me to who starts in right.  Nick Swisher was the everyday starter in the regular season, but has struggled greatly at the plate this postseason.  He is hitting .114 (4-35) with 3 walks and 1 RBI.  He has struck out an amazing 12 times in 10 games before being pulled after Game 1 of the World Series.

I would want to choose Brett Gardner, but it seems as if skipper Joe Girardi wants Gardner’s speed off the bench.  I am torn.  I can appreciate how much his speed can make the difference as a pinch-runner, but couldn’t he impact the game more with his speed in center field (move Melky Cabrera to right) and his speed as a batter with 4+ chances to get on base?  Gardner is also 2-4 in his 4 AB this postseason

Hinske and Hairston provide some veteran experience in the field and at the plate AND both were acquired in trades from National League teams mid-season – so they both have experience against Philly and national league teams in general.  I want to resist Hinske as a starter because he was a beast as a pinch-hitter this season and with no DH in games 3-4-5, I would want him available to pinch-hit for the pitcher when needed.

Finally, what to do about the starting pitching.  With no day off between games 4 and 5 like there was in the ALCS, the Yankees can start CC Sabathia in Game 4 on 3 days rest and then Burnett and Pettitte in games 5 and 6, also on 3 days rest (which I am sure both can handle) and then CC again for game 7 (if needed) on 3 days rest.  This is probably the least likely scenario.  If a Game 7 is needed, you don’t want to have tired out CC as much.

The most likely scenarios are Game 4-Sabathia, Game 5- Chad Gaudin, Game 6 Burnett, Game 7 Pettitte with Sabathia in relief or Game 4 – Gaudin, Game 5- Sabathia, Game 6 – Burnett, and Game 7 Pettitte with no Sabathia available.

My predictions?  Hideki Matsui stays on the bench.  Gardner should start in CF, Cabrera in RF, with Hinske, Hairston and Swisher off the bench and the first pitching scenario (Sabathia, Gaudin, Burnett, Pettitte/Sabathia.)

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