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World Series preview: Phillies vs. Yankees

Oct 28, 2009, 1:30 AM EDT

Except for that provided by some brutal umpiring, it’s so far been a postseason without a whole lot of drama. We’ve yet to see a decisive game in any of the six series to date. In fact, those series have lasted a total of 24 games, just four more than the possible minimum.
So, it’s going to be up to the World Series to give us a nail-biter. If it happens, it’d be quite a change. Three of the last five World Series have been sweeps and the other two lasted just five games. There hasn’t been a seven-game series since 2002.
Fortunately, we’re getting what looks like the best possible matchup. FOX would have preferred Yankees-Dodgers, but they’ll be glad they got the Yankees and they certainly have plenty of storylines. It’s the defending champs versus the all-time champs. Former Indians starters CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee just might face off three times. Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, out of the league for most of the year, is set to start Game 2 against his old nemesis. The much-maligned Alex Rodriguez could have a postseason for the ages. For that matter, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth just might set some postseason records themselves.
Maybe it won’t be a classic, but it hardly looks like a potential sweep, either.
World Series Probables
Game 1: Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia
Game 2: Pedro Martinez vs. A.J. Burnett
Game 3: Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels
Game 4: CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee
And that’s as far as we’ll try to go with those. There’s no extra day off in the World Series, so it’ll be very difficult for either team to go with a straight three-man rotation. Both the Phillies and Yankees, though, appear to be lining up their aces to start Games 1, 4 and 7. Once Game 5 comes around, we’ll probably see Joe Blanton or maybe J.A. Happ for the Phillies, as Martinez hardly seems like a strong candidate to start on short rest. The Yankees could go to Chad Gaudin, though that would seem to indicate that Pettitte would make just one start.
The battle of the aces is the one everyone will want to key in on. Sabathia, who has already pitched on short rest once, is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA. Lee is 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA, having lost his chance at a third victory because of a Jimmy Rollins error.
This won’t be Sabathia’s first postseason start against the Phillies. While toiling for the Brewers, a fatigued CC gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings to take a loss in the NLDS last year. Lee, of course, has plenty of history against the Yankees, having gone 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA against them while a member of the Indians. He was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts this season.
Both are left-handed hitters going against lineups that rely on plenty of left-handed hitters. Maybe it will all go wrong, but the potential for a couple of outstanding pitcher’s duels seems high.
The other matchups aren’t all that much less interesting. Martinez appeared to be fifth in line for starts for the Phillies at the beginning of the postseason, but upon getting the call against the Dodgers, all he did was limit L.A. to two hits over seven scoreless innings. He’s also plenty rested, having pitched just once all month. And don’t underestimate the chip on his shoulder. Burnett was strong in his first two postseason starts before a dreadful first inning in Game 5 against the Angels. He rebounded well after that, but he hasn’t faced World Series pressure yet. In the stuff department, he has Martinez beat hands down. Whether it translates remains to be seen.
Pettitte vs. Hamels pits one of the game’s most successful October starters against the left-hander who put the Phillies on his shoulder and carried them to the title last year. In this case, though, it certainly seems to be advantage Pettitte. He’s 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA this month, while Hamels has managed to give up six homers and 11 runs in 14 2/3 innings. They’d never admit it, but the Phillies wouldn’t have bumped him behind Martinez in the rotation had they possessed a whole lot of confidence in him. With the way things are shaping up, Hamels will probably make just the one start.
If it is Gaudin vs. Blanton in Game 5, it’d seem to favor Philadelphia. Blanton, though, is 0-3 with an 8.18 ERA in four career starts versus the Bombers. The Phillies might prefer to go with the left-handed Happ, but it would depend how he’s used in relief. Both Blanton and Happ will be in the pen to start the series.
The offenses
The Yankees and Phillies finished first and second, respectively, in homers this season, and both led their leagues in runs scored. The Yankees have a clear edge, especially at the bottom of the lineup, but they will give that up on two occasions if Jose Molina continues to replace Jorge Posada in Burnett’s starts. Also, they’ll lose a lot when Hideki Matsui takes a seat in Philadelphia.
Both teams figure to go with pretty set lineups. It’d take a couple of more bad games from Nick Swisher before the Yankees would consider a change in right. The two starts Molina gets, assuming that they materialize, might be their only changes.
The Phillies will use Ben Francisco in left field and Raul Ibanez at DH in Game 1. Against the right-hander in Game 2, they’ll probably put Ibanez back in the field and start Matt Stairs at DH. Outside of the DH, they’ll use the same personnel every game.
Whether the Phillies can match the Yankees run for run may come down to Jimmy Rollins. While he recovered from a brutal first half this season, he’s been lousy again in October, hitting .244 with an 8/0 K/BB ratio and no steals in 41 at-bats. There’s no way that Charlie Manuel is going to remove him from the leadoff spot now, so he really needs to step it up.
Overrated angle
The Phillies’ DH situation
Unlike many NL teams in recent memory, the Phillies come to play when adding a DH to their lineup. Francisco hit .278/.317/.526 in 97 at-bats after coming over in the Cliff Lee deal, and he’s a big upgrade from Ibanez defensively in left field. Stairs hardly ever got to start for the Phillies this year and his average suffered as a result, but he did manage five homers and 23 walks in 103 at-bats. Also, he has a couple of homers in 11 career at-bats against Burnett. It’s not a given that the Phillies will use him — Francisco’s defense is enough of an upgrade that keeping him in left field against the right-hander would be justifiable — but it’d be a shame if Stairs didn’t get at least one start.
Underrated angle
The AL experience of Philadelphia’s starters
Lee, Martinez and Blanton are certainly no strangers to opposing loaded lineups, and they’re not going to be surprised when suddenly faced with the prospect of dealing with a bunch of very patient, All-Star caliber hitters. The Rockies in 2007 and the Cardinals in 2004 just weren’t ready for the Red Sox, and the Yankees can maul an erratic pitcher even faster than those Boston teams could. The Phillies, though, will rely on starters with a ton of AL experience. Only Hamels, who will probably start just one game, doesn’t have any.
Prediction
It’s up for debate, but I think this is the first time since at least 2004 and probably since 2001 that the World Series has matched the best teams in each league. The Phillies truly can win this series. The non-Lee starters can’t risk pacing themselves, though. If Pedro and Hamels can give the team five good innings, manager Charlie Manuel shouldn’t push his luck and ask for much more. To his credit, he’s handled his pitching staff exquisitely to date. There’s no shutdown reliever in the Phillies pen this year, but there are a bunch of capable pitchers to provide lots of different looks and keep the Yankees off balance. If Lee can match Sabathia, if Pedro and Hamels can keep the team in games and if Chad Durbin and Chan Ho Park can keep it together in the sixth and seventh innings, then the Phillies have a real chance.
The Yankees, though, need less to go right. They know they own the ninth inning, when it comes down to Mariano Rivera vs. Brad Lidge. They have a slight advantage in both the rotation and in the starting lineup. It’s not a landslide, but they are the better team, as one should expect given the $80 million payroll advantage. Home-field advantage won’t hurt either. My guess is that we finally get our first suspenseful World Series in six or seven years, but I expect the Yankees to claim it in seven.

  1. Crash - Oct 28, 2009 at 8:38 AM

    You forgot the new “Curse of the Bambino”. The Yanks abandoned his house and boy is ticked! More World Series have been played and won in the Phillies ballpark than in the Yankees ballpark.

  2. LOWESGUY - Oct 28, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    PHILS IN 6

  3. RJRJ - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    Battle of the East. Count me out! I don’t want to watch a bought team/players with a bunch of overpaid athletes (Yankees) and who are favored by the umpires and major league baseball play a boring team like the Phillies. This series will go down as a ho-hum one with not much happening.

  4. Ben - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    Really Crash? Why not just follow Lowesguy and say Phils in … I got the Yanks in 6.

  5. jonny5 - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    Phills in 6!!!

  6. Dave - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    Yanks in 6, nuff said by you Phillies hoser fans.. no dynasty.. we will pound on you for out little brother team ..the Mets….hahaha
    go stick a cheesesteak you no where.

  7. Jamie - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:44 AM

    Dave, seriously? Who is “out little brother”? and I dont “no” where to stick a cheesesteak? do you “KNOW” where?
    Phils in 5! You can buy a team, but you can not buy heart! this Phillies team has heart!
    to quote the Great Chase Utley “World Champions!…World Ph**ken Champions”!

  8. Sara - Oct 28, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    Philly in 6. Regardless of the outcome, though, this series is GREAT for the game!

  9. Rich - Oct 28, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    Yanks in 6. Anyone who still uses the “overpaid” argument for just the Yankees is just whining and making excuses. All of these athletes are overpaid. So what! The Phillies have a $125 million player salaries – are they really “underpaid”? So the Yankees are paid more – does that mean they are better? Should they even play?
    Also, RJRJ, how are the Yankees favored by MLB and the umpires? I haven’t seen it and haven’t even seen media stories about it – that comment is so sensational, you would think the Yankee haters and media would eat that kind of story up! Where is it? Yes, I’m a Yankee fan – but why don’t we settle it on the field – I’m looking forward to a great series between the two best teams this year. Do you even like baseball?

  10. CJR327 - Oct 28, 2009 at 10:50 AM

    Everyone underrates the Phillies. Last year those red hot Rays were going to demolish the Phils. 5 games later, Phils are world champs. This year, those red hot Dodgers were going to bury the Phils. 5 games later, Phils win the NL penant. Bring it on NYY ’cause shortly you’ll be another casualty of the new Big Red Machine.

  11. jen - Oct 28, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    why do you NY fans continue to bring up the cheesesteak? in case you forgot the WS is about baseball not food, and i know for a fact when your fans come down to our city you will be standing in line for a cheesesteak bc you guys can’t make them up there thats for sure. and btw in case you forgot we won 2 of 3 in may against you guys, so it can be done. you guys should stick to talking about the facts of the game not about cheesesteaks (which btw are great, you wouldn’t know bc again you can’t make one properly up there)
    so we will see you guys out there tonight and when we win the WS (yes i said when not if) maybe then you will take our boys a little more seriously, i am glad you are under estimating us, it will be that much better when we beat you.

  12. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    Oooh! Hit us where it hurts – our cheesesteak-making skills!

  13. riderlong2 - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    Evil Empire……………….rulls

  14. awineguy - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    I love the money angle. Yeah those poor Phillies having to struggle along with an average salary of just $4.5 million per player. This is an interesting series as neither team has a glaring weakness. Philadelphia’s bullpen, their supposed weakness, has performed well in the post season whereas NY’s, except Rivera, hasn’t. New York’s starting pitching has been great but the offense has received little, or nothing, from Matsui and Swisher. I like Philadelphia’s bench more but your bench shouldn’t decide the World Series. I like Manuel over Girardi in the manger’s spot. If both teams play to their potential New York should win a close series.

  15. Rich - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:20 AM

    Jen:
    Not underestimating you. Great team you have. Nevertheless, Yanks will win b/c they are better. Yes, you are better at making cheesesteaks – got me on that one – now go make me one!

  16. jen - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:20 AM

    do you read my comment…..obviously not. i said “why do you NY fans continue to bring up the cheesesteak? in case you forgot the WS is about baseball not food” yes i made a comment about cheesesteaks and how they are good but that wasn’t the point of my comment and again you would understand that if you read what i wrote, which you didnt. i notice you didn’t argue the fact that we beat you in may….good for you, bc there isn’t anything to argue there.

  17. Rich - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:30 AM

    May has nothing to do with October. Both teams are different than they were back then. Starting rotations are different, bullpens are different, lineups are different. Let’s concentrate on the games that are happening this week. Just b/c I think the Yanks are better, doesn’t mean they necessarily win, just like b/c you think the Phils are better, that they will win – that is why they play the games. Both teams have momentum going into the Series. I think the layoff for the Phils and the homefield advantage for the Yanks will be enough of a difference for the Yanks to win.

  18. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:56 AM

    Sweet pea, don’t take your Philly inferiority complex out on me. You actually did bring the whole cheesesteak angle into the mix because though ‘this is about baseball not food’ you brought up how we can’t make a good cheesesteak up not once, but twice. I thought that was funny and decided to make a joke. But like a very typical Philadelphia fan, you got your knickers in a twist. Relax and take a joke.
    Second of all, you’re right I didn’t comment on the fact that you beat us 2-1 in May because it’s irrelevant. Phillies won 2 out of 3, only one of the wins was decisive, the other coming in walk-off fashion. ARod had only been back for 2 weeks and was doing terrible. In May, neither team was playing particularly dominantly, both finishing the series with records of about 25-20.
    It’s 5 months later now. Both teams have changed a lot. This is going to be a tight, and I think very exciting, series between the two best teams in baseball. So instead of getting all huffy over ONE commenters comment on cheesesteaks, perhaps you should focus on baseball and maybe even showing that you know more than the oft-regurgitated stat that the Phillies won two games back in May.

  19. comeonma - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    SEVEN IS TOO MUCH, JIMMY -BUTTER ROLL- OPENED HIS BIG MOUTH
    I HOPE THE YANKEES FINISH THEM OFF IN 5, IN PHILLY, JUST TO
    MAKE BUTTER ROLL FACE HIS FANSM, THE SAME FANS HE RIPPED
    LAST YEAR.BUTTER ROLL IS A LOSER.

  20. comeonma - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    SEVEN IS TOO MUCH, JIMMY -BUTTER ROLL- OPENED HIS BIG MOUTH
    I HOPE THE YANKEES FINISH THEM OFF IN 5, IN PHILLY, JUST TO
    MAKE BUTTER ROLL FACE HIS FANSM, THE SAME FANS HE RIPPED
    LAST YEAR.BUTTER ROLL IS A LOSER.

  21. comeonman - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM

    The phillies have two world series trophies, two, one, two.
    The YANKEES SWEPT the Phillies in 1950 four-zip,nada, zero.
    The YANKEES HAVE TWENTY SIX WORLD SERIES TROPHIES.
    YOU SHOULD GOOGLE NEW YORK YANKEES, SEE WHAT YOU COME UP WITH

  22. Ladyfan - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    Really Rider? the Empire “rulls”? since their last World Series win, they haven’t played baseball any better than you spell. However, this year looks like a great contest. Everyone needs to stop all the silliness about “heart vs. money”. I’m a lifelong Red Sox Fan, and even I will not deny that no one the game has more heart than Jeter, Posada and Cano, and then have fine pitching this year. It’s about “heart” yes, but it’s also about talent. I would say we are looking at a pretty darn even matchup. But I’m hoping for Phils in 7.

  23. comeonma - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    Rich, anyone who use’s the ” OVER PAID ” ARGUMENT WAS BEATEN BY THE YANKEES, IT LEAVES THEM BITTER. NOTICE HOW JIMMY BUTTER ROLL RUNS HIS MOUTH ABOUT PHILLIES IN FIVE, DID YOU HEAR ANY YANKEES MAKE ANY PREDICTIONS, NO, YOU KNOW WHY THEY BEEN THERE 26 OTHER TIMES…
    THE YANKEES HAVE CLASS, JETER FARTS MORE CLASS THEN PHILLIES.
    BUH BYE
    CANYON OF HEROES BABY
    GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
    KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK
    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
    2222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222
    0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
    0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

  24. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    You are my favorite Red Sox fan. Thank you for being objective when it seems like most other teams not in the fall classic can only manage to be anti-Yankee. Would’ve loved to have played you guys for the pennant!

  25. comeonman - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    THE CORE FOUR, figure it out, then you won’t be able to whine anymore, BLAH,BLAH,BLAH.

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