World Series Game Six: Phillies @ Yankees

Well, Game Five didn’t go as planned, but luckily the Yankees have two more chances to wrap this thing up.

Andy Pettitte is taking the ball on just three days’ rest, which really isn’t that big of a deal because he’s been starting on extra rest basically for the last month and a half, plus he’ll have five months to rest after tonight. No excuses, just get it done.

What about you guys, are you nervous? I’m definitely feelin’ it, but I’m also more excited for this game than I have been for any baseball game in quite some time. Probably as far back as Game Seven in 2001. Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked for Game Five the other night, but I guess the possibility of clinching at home makes it that much better.

Scotty Brosius, MVP of the 1998 World Series, is throwing out the first pitch tonight. Here’s the lineups:

Jimmy Rollins, SS
Shane Victorino, LF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Raul Ibanez, DH
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Ben Francisco, LF
Carlos Ruiz, C

Pedro Martinez, SP (5-1, 3.63)

Derek Jeter, SS
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Brett Gardner, CF

Andy Pettitte, SP (14-8, 4.16)

If you need to think about something until game time, think about this: tonight might the last time we ever see Pedro Martinez or Andy Pettitte on the mound. Crazy, huh?

Some pregame reading material you might enjoy

Everyone is probably overanxious for tonight’s first pitch. We’ll get the ceremonial one by none other than Scott Brosius, and then Andy Pettitte will throw the official one a few minutes later. But between then and now, you might want to fill your time with some reading material. It just so happens that Jay at Fack Youk has been on fire today, so I’ll defer to him for this post.

  • First, to get warmed up, check out what a psychologist has to say about parents who teach their kids to hate the Yankees. I found the article last night, and Jay provided the appropriate commentary. My personal favorite: “If all else fails, remind your kids that the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and that the Yankees have not won a championship since 2000.” On another note, I kind of like that everyone hates the Yankees. So please, parents, continue as you were.
  • There’s been plenty of talk about Chase Utley’s prospects of winning the World Series MVP even if his team loses. It sounds wrong, but it’s not without precedent. Bobby Richardson won the MVP in 1960 even though the Yankees lost to the Pirates. Jay examines the case of Richardson and why he won the MVP. Turns out it might have been a procedural glitch that doesn’t exist any more. If the Yankees win, I expect a Yankees MVP.
  • Finally, for the main event, Jay schools Mike Lupica in the art of hindsight. Lupica, like most sportswriters, often falls victim to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Someone needs to call him out on it. Unfortunately, I refuse to read a word the man writes, so I’m glad Jay took care of it.

Is it 7:57 yet?

A.J. ready for pen work, just in case

The Yankees’ approach tonight — and, if necessary, tomorrow — is a simple one: Get the ball to Mariano with a lead. With the season down to its final two games, Rivera will be ready and willing to leave it on the field, and tonight, he can go two innings. With Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and Phil Hughes ready and seemingly able to pick up the big outs, the Yanks could be looking at a six- or seven-inning affair tonight.

If the Yanks need to go to the pen earlier, if Andy Pettitte can only deliver so many pitches on three days’ rest, the Yanks have a new weapon available to them. Because he threw just 53 pitches on Monday night, A.J. Burnett is available in relief. “I just want the ball again,” Burnett said to reporters. “Hopefully they won’t need me, but I’ll do whatever they need. If I get the ball again, that would be great. Whatever they need, I’m ready.”

Over the years, we’ve seen many pitches come out of the pen on short rest in tight spots. Mike Mussina did it to save the Yanks’ season during the 2003 ALCS, and Randy Johnson did so against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Could A.J. be that hero if the Yanks need to strengthen the bridge to Mariano?

For Yankee fans, the idea may not be so comforting right now. We are, after all, still recovering from Burnett’s 2+ IP, 6 ER appearance in Game 5. Yet, A.J. might just be called upon the 6th inning if need be, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that he is, last start notwithstanding, a very good pitcher. In his first inning of work this season, A.J. was at his best. Opponents in the first inning hit just .240/.317/.368 as compared to .247/.336/.393 overall.

Hopefully, Andy Pettitte can be that bridge, and the Yanks won’t need A.J. But as the season turns down it’s final stretch, it’s all hands on deck for the Yankees. Plus, it’s October; stranger things than an A.J. relief appearance have happened.

Memories of Pettitte’s Game 6s past

As we tick off the hours, minutes and seconds until Andy Pettitte‘s first pitch to Jimmy Rollins tonight shortly after 7:57 p.m., we have ample time to reflect upon tonight’s starter. On Sept. 28, Andy Petitte got the win when the Yankees clinched the AL East with a victory over the Red Sox. On Oct. 11, Pettitte earned himself a W when the Yankees eliminated the Twins in the ALDS and secured themselves an ALCS berth. On Oct. 25, Pettitte won again as the Yanks downed the Angels to move on to the World Series.

So tonight, Pettitte will go for what is, in horse-racing, termed a superfecta. He’ll try for the chance to win all four clinching game for the Yankees this year. That would be some feat for a pitcher who perennially can’t decide whether to keep pitching or just retire.

For Pettitte, tonight will mark his 40th playoff start. If all goes according to plan, if he can last 6.2 innings or more, he will throw his 250th playoff inning tonight as well. Those are gaudy numbers, Pettitte is no stranger to Game 6. Tonight will mark his fifth Game 6 start. In three of those starts, the Yankee needed a clincher but got it from Pettitte just once. In the fourth, the Yanks were averting a World Series loss, and although Pettitte was masterful, Josh Beckett was better. So let’s review.

November 3, 2001: World Series Game 6
After two dramatic come-from-behind wins in New York City, the Yankees returned to Phoenix to face the Diamondbacks with the World Series hanging in the balance. The Bombers had a 3-2 lead with Andy Pettitte lined up to pitch in his first career Game 6. Just two innings and 14 batters later though, Pettitte’s night would be over.

The Diamondbacks were merciless that Saturday night in Arizona. They scored one in the first and three in the second. Pettitte put the first two runners on in the third, and Jay Witasick, in one of the World Series’ most disastrous relief performances, came in. Witasick allowed two inherited runners to score and six more that inning. The Yanks were down 12-0 before anyone realized what just happened.

On the night, Pettitte threw just two innings and gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out just one. Later on, word emerged that Pettitte may have been tipping his pitches. Even if he was not, that’s one game YES watchers will never see on Yankee Classics.

October 15, 2003: ALCS Game 6
Considering the outcome of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Game 6 is often overlooked. In it, Joe Torre gave Pettitte the ball; Andy pitched well enough to win; and Torre and the bullpen gave this one away as the Red Sox won 9-6.

Pettitte’s final line in this outing wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. He struck out five in five innings and allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. The damage, though, was limited to one inning. In the third, a home run, two walks and two singles gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead, but that would be all for the scoring against Pettitte. He left this one with the Yanks up 6-4, but Torre gave the ball to Jose Contreras, Jeff Nelson, Felix Heredia and Gabe White. Nine outs away from the World Series, Mariano Rivera never pitched, and the rest is Aaron Boone-inspired history.

October 25, 2003: World Series Game 6
Ten days after a mediocre ALCS Game 6, Pettitte got the ball with the Yanks’ backs against the wall. Heavy favorites to win the World Series, they split two games in New York against the Marlins before losing two of three in Miami. The Yankees returned, then, to Yankee Stadium needing a home sweep to win, and Pettitte, masterful in throwing eight shutout innings in Game 2, would get the ball.

Pettitte was great that night. He threw seven innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits and three walks. He struck out seven and threw 71 of 106 pitches for strikes. He should have been hailed as a hero, but Josh Beckett was just better. Beckett threw a five-hit shutout and struck out nine as the Marlins stunned everyone to win the World Series.

Little did we realize at the time, but that Saturday night affair would be Pettitte’s last start in pinstripes until 2007. The Yankees assumed he would just resign with them, but the Houston Astros offered more. For three years, the Yankees had little in the way of shut-down starting pitching, and Pettitte would be missed. I’ll take another Game 6 similar to that one tonight.

October 25, 2009: ALCS Game 6
This one — the ALCS clincher — is still fresh in our minds, and every Yankee fan would take this outing and outcome from Pettitte. Facing a feisty Angels’ club and with the Yanks just 27 outs away from the World Series, Pettitte came through in a big way. In 6.1 innings, he allowed just a run on seven hits and one walk. He struck out six and threw 64 of 99 pitches for strikes. He could locate his curveball, spot his fastball and keep the Angels off balance. With Mariano Rivera in for the final six outs, the Yanks found themselves back in the Fall Classic.

And so we arrive at tonight’s game to see if a tried-and-true formula can deliver a win. Mariano Rivera has saved more wins for Andy Pettitte than any other duo in baseball history. We want one more. As we sit 27 outs away and a few hours from first pitch, Andy Pettitte, number 46, the man with the stare, will be on the mound, ready to deliver.

Yankees have won the World Series with struggling key players

For many reasons, Mark Teixeira probably didn’t appreciate Tuesday’s break in World Series action. He’s struggled through the first five games, as he has throughout most of the playoffs. Off-days aren’t kind to slumping players. The media, needing to fill column inches, tend to harp on these guys, endlessly pointing out their paltry contributions. Teixeira was no exception.

Not only does Teixeira have to deal with nearly every major media outlet harping on his struggles during an off-day, but he has to deal with the off-day itself. From Jim Baumbach’s “Teixeira is struggling” column, regarding the frequent days off in October:

“I’m not going to make excuses because everyone has to deal with it. But being a switch hitter and being a guy who lives off hot streaks and lives off a rhythm, it doesn’t help.”

Thankfully, most of Teixeira’s 10 postseason hits have been pretty big. His two hits in the ALDS were a single before an Alex Rodriguez game-tying home run, and then a walk-off homer in the same game. He had just one extra base hit in the ALCS, and that was a bases-loaded double that brought the Yankees within one of the Angels after being down 4-0 most of the game. In the World Series he has just two hits, one of them a home run off Pedro Martinez that tied Game 2.

Instead of just lamenting Teixeira’s struggled, I’d like to look at some other key Yankees who struggled through a postseason or World Series in which the Yankees won. Maybe that will put his struggles in perspective.

Bernie Williams

Bernie has 22 postseason home runs, second all time to Manny Ramirez. We’ve seen some big postseason moments from Bernie over the years, and he contributed a lot to the Yankees four World Series titles of the late 90s. Yet Bernie always seemed to struggle in the World Series. In 141 career Series plate appearances, Williams is just 25 for 120 with three doubles, five home runs, and 20 walks, for a slash line of .208/.319/.358. There have been some pretty atrocious performances in there, but none worse than the 1998 World Series in which he went 1 for 16, his lone hit being a home run.

While he generally hit well across the LDS and LCS rounds, Bernie has turned in a pair of poor postseason performances. The first was 1998, when he went hitless in 11 LDS at-bats and then had that terrible World Series. He did pick it up against Cleveland in the LCS, though, reaching base 15 times in 28 plate appearances, though he had just one extra base hit, a double, in that round. Then in 2000 he did the same thing, going 5 for 20 with no extra base hits in the LDS, smacking around the Mariners in the LCS, and then going back into hiding for the World Series with a 2 for 18 performance.

Bernie will always be revered by Yankees fans for his contributions to the four championships, but there have been times when he’s fallen short. He’s never hit well in the World Series, though his bat was sometimes a big reason why the Yankees got there.

Paul O’Neill

In his first World Series in New York — the team’s first appearance since 1981 — O’Neill couldn’t hit the Braves. He picked up just two over 12 at bats in that series, though both were doubles. He continued that slump into the 1998 World Series, where he went 4 for 19 with a double as his only extra base hit. Then again in 1999 he was 3 for 15 with no extra base hits. It wasn’t until 2000 that O’Neill would hit in the Series, as he also did in 2001.

O’Neill has also struggled through an entire postseason. In 1999 he had just 11 hits in 44 at bats, which is bad enough, but even worse it came without the benefit of extra bases. Just 11 singles was all O’Neill could muster. Yet the Yankees went on to win each of the series on the way to a sweep of the Atlanta Braves.

Tino Martinez

There’s quite a connection here between Martinez and Teixeira. Martinez struggled in his first Yankees postseason, much like Teixeira is now. He went 4 for 22 with two doubles in the LDS, 4 for 22 with one double in the LCS, and then 1 for 11 with no extra base hits in the World Series. That one hit game in the Yankees 12-1 Game 1 loss, making it hurt that much more. Martinez’s struggles were so pronounced, in fact, that Joe Torre opted to start Cecil Fielder at first base when the team was in Atlanta.

The Yankees survived his 0 for 3 performance in Game 6 of that World Series to defeat the Braves 3-2. That game centered around one inning in which Martinez did not bat, and was controlled by excellent pitching by Greg Maddux and Jimmy Key.

Teixeira’s struggled are frustrating, but they’re not unprecedented. Key Yankees have had bad postseasons, and even more have had poor World Series performances. That didn’t stop the Yankees from winning four titled last decade, and it shouldn’t stop them from winning it this year. It would be nice to see Teixeira contribute to a big Game 6 win, but if he doesn’t he still has a great group of hitters surrounding him. “If we were losing games 2-1 and I was leaving a ton of guys on base, I would have been squeezing the life out of the bat,” he said. “But my teammates have been picking me up just like I picked them up all season. That’s how a team works.”