Yanks, Phils coy on plans for rotation
As drizzling, gray and ugly as it was at this time Wednesday, it is sunny, clear and beautiful so far today, a few hours ahead of the second World Series game at Yankee Stadium.
Not that the afternoon weather necessarily dictates what will happen when the first pitch flies around 8 p.m. Weather, as they had said around here, turned out to be no factor in the first game. Cliff Lee was. He was absolutely outstanding and not to second-guess Charlie Manuel, because he hasn’t confirmed his rotation yet, but if it were me, I would throw Lee right back in Sunday’s fourth game in Philadelphia. He’s smart, thinks his way through games and has been brilliant in the post-season so far, allowing 20 hits, three walks and two earned runs in 33 1/3 innings, with 30 strikeouts. When the alternative is Joe Blanton, it would be Lee for me, particularly since the Philies then could use him again in any seventh game.
Game Two had A.J. Burnett against Pedro Martinez and Game Three in Philly pits Yankee lefthander Andy Pettitte against Cole Hamels. After that, it all depends on what happens tonight in the second game.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi finally sat down outfielder Nick Swisher, who has been terrible in the post-season (4 for 35 with one RBI and 12 strikeouts), in favour of utility guy Jerry Hairston Jr. As well, Jorge Posada sits in favour of Jose Molina, Burnett’s favoured catcher.
The Yankees are being coy on their Sunday starter. Girardi hinted that it would be Chad Gaudin, who went out when the field was dried off Wednesday about 5 p.m. and pitched a simulated game. The guy has thrown exactly one post-season inning, so he certainly should be fresh. Joba Chamberlain looks so messed up these days after his sporadic use down the stretch that he shouldn’t be any kind of option. He has pitched only 3 1/3 innings and given up seven hits.
But there is no way the Yankees throw Gaudin to the wolves in Game Four if they lose the second game. You can see what Girardi wants to have happen; if the Yanks lead 2-1 in games, Gaudin could start and what’s the worst that could happen? They would have Sabathia for Game Five on normal rest, then use Burnett back at home in Game Six. That way they would avoid using Burnett on the road.
The second-game outcome also might dictate how Manuel plays his hand vis a vis Lee. The worst he can be now is down 2-1 entering the fourth game. In that case, he might simply go to Lee and play his cards from there. If the Phillies are up 2-1 after three games, I would still go with Lee at home to put a stranglehold on the series, because you know the Yankees will be using Sabathia again on short rest and the enormous lefthander also has been excellent this post-season.
If the Phillies are up 3-0, Manuel can sit back and trot all his guys out there on normal rest, while Girardi goes all in on every hand.
For the record, the Yankees are 8-7 in their history when losing the first game of a World Series. In 10 of those 15, they were actually down 2-0 to start.
Here’s another stat to consider: Sabathia and Burnett pitched back-to-back 19 times during the regular season and only once, June 20 and 21 in Florida, did the Yankees lose both games.