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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.
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. jen - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    Nickers? who even uses that term anymore? and my name isn’t sweet pea let me make that clear. fine may is in the past and i will leave it there if you want BUT please don’t being up A-Roid, i don’t care if he isn’t on anything now, he is a joke, anyone who does roids at anypoint in time during their career is and will always be a joke. so anyways we will see you guys tonight in NY for game 1 and see what happens. and like all of you NY fans that point out it doesn’t matter that we beat you in may, then it doesn’t matter that you have won as many WS titles as you have, its a new year and we will see what happens in the WS in 09

  2. GrammarAnyone? - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    Here’s a thought for most (not all) of you: Instead of spending your time spewing ridiculously pedestrian and childish trash-talk, go take an English class and learn how to spell, form sentences, and use puncutation. Shame on you.

  3. comeonman - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    Well said, YANKEE fans have CLASS…….

  4. PhillyJohn - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Folks, the 26 and 2 chanpionships mean nothing now. The game is played on the field, not in a trophy case. Both teams had tremendous seasons and now it is time for each to prove their worth. NYers will pick the Yanks and the Delaware Valley and probably most of the rest of the country will be rooting for the Phillies. In any case it will be an exciting series. The Phillies got to CC for 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings last year, so they are not intimidated by the great pitcher. Phillies will win in 6 and A-Rod will not have a good series. Prediction from the heart of a Phillies fan.

  5. Rich - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM

    Is this an English test? I know you weren’t talking about me, but I don’t remember this blogger sending out an application for an English language monitor for blog responses. Also, although English skills are important, social skills are equally important. Your condescending tone (“spewing ridiculously”)and superiority complex (“pedestrian and childish”) are not welcome here – in a blog about the World Series. If I started spewing baseball opinions at the “English Grammar Perfectionists” blog where you usually hang out, I would not expect my comments to be well received. Lighten up!

  6. Ladyfan - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:41 PM

    Well thank you, jennigrl . . . .but I have to admit I’m glad we are NOT playing you for the Series – we simply don’t have the team this year. Our team has a LOT of work to do in the post-season – a lot of dead wood to cut and hopefully some new acquisitions which will once again place us in contention to do battle with our favorite opponents. Everyone else can say what they want . . . . there is no other rivalry in all of sports that can equal the excitement of the Sox vs. the Yanks when both teams are playing well. Tell me, do you agree with me that 18 matchups during each season against our own division teams is getting old? I sure would like to see us play the other American League teams more often . . . so much talent we don’t get to watch. And as for that silly International Injury Tournament, that definitely needs to go away, or be played at the END of the season. At any rate, good luck . . . we’ll be watching the games even though we are not in the Series, and I know we’ll see some great baseball!

  7. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Agreed. We will see what happens.
    P.S. I didn’t bring up any of our past Championships. That complex must be rearing it’s ugly head again!
    P.P.S. It’s knickers, not nickers. And I used that because I was trying to be tactful.
    I’m now bored with you. Enjoy the series.

  8. Attacker - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:50 PM

    It just smells like a Yankee victory. Their pitching is scary but
    unlike other teams they find a way to get it done. Any one who thinks these lineups are close to being even hasn’t watched the Yankees destroy teams from both sides of the plate. From the 6th hitter down it’s a total mismatch. The only small advantage the Phillies have is starting pitching. The real world series was NY vs LA Angels. You saw what happened there – The Yankees got in there heads and they blew up.
    I see a repeat here. If the Yanks get the lead watch the Phillies implode. There’s just too much pressure from a relentless lineup with no holes. They may go 3 – 4 innings without a hit then bang they lay a 6 spot on you. They are like a rat who smells that philly cheese steak. Yanks in 6.

  9. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:50 PM

    You’re welcome! I kind of agree. Everything looked sharp in the first half of the season but it just didn’t pan out. Kind of like us all these other seasons haha. But totally agree. It’s such an exciting rivalry. My dad and I actually have an annual tradition of seeing a Yanks/Sox game every year. The atmosphere is always fun, esp when both teams are really firing.
    I do kind of agree with you there. While it’s fun, I think it would be great to branch out more. Personally, I’d like to see Inter-league play extended a little bit.
    Haha Intl Injury Tournament is a good name for it. I love it in theory but I agree, to do it before the season starts seems disastrous.
    Thanks so much! We’ll see you guys next spring.

  10. jen - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    i was commenting on the other posts about the past championships that your fellow NY fans keep bring up and i could careless about your pervious championships. as for you knickers joke….it was about as good as the article that the NY post wrote about the phillies yesterday. ps i don’t care if you are bored with me or not, if you were really that bored you wouldn’t have commented back

  11. jennigrl - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    Shhh… The grownups are talking now sweetie.

  12. jen - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:57 PM

    Wow thats all you have- bravo

  13. lop - Oct 28, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    look, if you are giving lessons on spelling, teach your kids to be dumb!
    puncutation is actually spelled punctuation. you higher than thou, foolish person. I love all the people who point out spelling and grammer errors and commit them also.
    Phils in 5, win game one, lose game two, sweep in Philly. That the formula they have gone by and I will stick to it.

  14. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Oct 28, 2009 at 1:02 PM

    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.

    Of all the stupidity that gets posted here, this might take the cake. You do realize that NYS opened, this year, so it’s physically impossible for that statement to not be true. What other amazing observations have you seen that you can regal us with?

  15. Sangria Man - Oct 28, 2009 at 1:36 PM

    Phils in 4

  16. craig - Oct 28, 2009 at 1:46 PM

    u r a douchebag

  17. John - Oct 28, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    PHILLIES IN SIX!!! MARK MY WORDS!!! Our thunder jonny5!!! 😉

  18. John - Oct 28, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    riderlong2 – “Evil Empire……………….rulls”
    “rulls?” New words are cool. 😉

  19. riderlong2 - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    # 27 in the Books

  20. LOP - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    All I Want to hear at this point is PLAY BALL !!!!!!

  21. sam - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:23 PM

    wake up buddy. its a new century. were u been.. lately

  22. Nathan - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:24 PM

    The Yankees won their series because the Twins and the Angels failed to get big hits when they needed them. That won’t happen with the Phillies. People should remember the one glaring weakness the Phils had during the regular season seems to have worked itself out. If Lidge hadn’t blown all those saves the Phils would have won more games than the Yankees. If Lidge is back and he appears to be close than the Phils are a better team. You take this Yankee team and put them in any other city and they would not get the hype they’re getting. The last series the Phillies went into the favorite was before the NLCS last year. They slaughtered every team they’ve played since and still the Yankees are considered the best team. This Philly team is just getting started. This year will be the second of many championships to come with this group.

  23. Michael Rosano - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:30 PM

    think that had anything to do withthe yankees pitching????????????????

  24. Mike - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Yankee fans showed up to boo the Phillies when they got off the train, what class. The New York paper show a doctored picture of Victorino in a skirt, what class. New York was selling World Champions t-shirts on Sunday night, what class. The Yankees got upset because Rollins said on Letterman that they would win in 5. Was he suppose to say they would lose? Real classy, guys! George Stienbrenner said he can’t wait until they get their rings, what class. I guess maybe the Phillies should not even bother to show up. On paper the Yankees are a far superior team. Unfortunately, they don’t play the games on paper.

  25. riderlong2 - Oct 28, 2009 at 2:51 PM

    Welcome Philly……….see ya Philly its a long train ride home,maybe the Mummers will help you get over this, another site to see ………

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