When a road team splits the first two games of a postseason series they’re said to have an advantage. The series goes back home even, and then it’s a best three of five, with the formerly disadvantaged team hosting the first three games. It would seem that home field advantage switched, but if the advantaged team takes just one game, they guarantee a return trip, winning back the advantage.
The Yankees have to win at least one game in Philadelphia to stay alive. With Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia starting the next two games, they have a good chance to do that. They’ll match up against Cole Hamels and then either Joe Blanton or J.A. Happ, and with the way Hamels is pitching it looks like the Yankees have the advantage in both games. That is, unless Charlie Manuel decides to start Cliff Lee on three days’ rest in Game 4.
That’s the advantage the Yankees have over the Phillies right now. They’re taking their three best pitchers and riding them to the end. The tactic comes with certain risks, but at this point in the season it’s the best call for the Yankees. The alternative is Chad Gaudin, who hasn’t started a game since September 28 and who doesn’t match up well against the Phillies lefties and switch hitters.
The Phillies are fortunate that their two options are better than Gaudin, but they’re not the best options. Their best option is to match Lee for Sabathia. Instead of the Yankees best against the Phillies fourth or fifth best, it’s the best against the best again, and that worked out well for Philadelphia the first time. The risk is that Lee has never pitched on three days’ rest in his career.
The risk in starting a pitcher on three days’ rest is that he won’t fully recover between starts and pitch ineffectively. They do, however, have different training schedules when pitching on short rest. CC says he loves pitching on three day’s rest because it means he doesn’t have to throw a bullpen. For a guy pitching as well as Cliff Lee, there shouldn’t be much concern.
Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee will make the call, but unless there is a concern specific to Lee, I think they’ll go with him on short rest. If not, they’ll give the Yankees an advantage in pitching match-ups. After accomplishing their goal of splitting the games in New York, why would they do that?