World Series Game Three: Yankees @ Phillies

It wouldn’t be a Yankee playoff game without crappy weather, so of course the forecast tonight calls for a chance of rain. Eh, whatever, it’ll be fine.

As for the game, the Yanks will get their second crack at 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels this year, after he held them to just two runs in six innings. Hamels has gotten rocked so far this postseason, who has put 20 runners in base in just 14.2 IP over three starts, including 6 (!!!) homers allowed. The Bombers have hit just .222-.258-.349 in the World Series so far, so hopefully they can get back on track tonight.

Andy Pettitte will get the ball on five day’s rest, working for the first time since he sent the Angels back to SoCal will their halos between their legs. Charlie Manuel says Pettitte’s stuff is dwindling, so I’m really hoping lefty makes Manuel eat his words tonight.

Here’s the starting nine(s):

Derek Jeter, SS
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Melky Cabrera, CF
Andy Pettitte, SP (14-8, 4.16)

Jimmy Rollins, SS
Shane Victorino, CF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Raul Ibanez, LF
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Carlos Ruiz, C
Cole Hamels, SP (10-11, 4.32)

Once again, it’s CC in Game Four

No surprise here, but Joe Girardi officially announced the CC Sabathia will get the ball in Game Four against Joe Blanton tomorrow night. All of the beat writers tweeted it simultaneously, but Jack Curry’s popped up in Echofon first, so he gets credit. Clearly, it’s the right move.

Rosenthal: Maybe starting Gaudin isn’t such a bad idea

I don’t know when it became uncouth for a team to throw their starters on short rest in the playoffs, but everyone and their mother feels compelled to write an article about how the Yankees should start Chad Gaudin to make sure CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte can finish the series on regular rest. Nevermind that Gaudin has thrown just 2.1 low leverage inning in the last 33 days, nevermind that lefties hit .296-.408-.415 off him and Philly’s lineup could have as many as six lefties in it, nevermind that for Burnett and Pettitte it would assuredly be their last start for five months, nevermind that it’s a freaking World Series. Save them for a start that might not even be necessary.

Just start CC, AJ, and Andy in Games 4, 5, and 6. One start each on three day’s rest won’t kill them (two for Sabathia if it goes to Game 7), and those guys at even 75% is still better than Gaudin at 100%. Charlie Manuel made the mistake of starting Joe Blanton in Game 4, so don’t repeat. No mercy.

The Derek Jeter bunt

In the bottom of the 7th of Game 2, the Yankees had the Phillies on the ropes. With two runs already in, the Yanks had no outs and the top of the order coming up. Although Johnny Damon‘s umpire-assisted double play drew most of the attention, the batter before deserves a look.

We know what was going to happen when Derek Jeter came to the plate with no out and runners on first and second. We knew what was going to happen because we’ve seen it so many times this season. We’ve watched the Yankees’ all-time hitter — a guy with 2747 career hits, a .317 career batting average with a .388 on-base percentage, and someone who hits exceptional well in the playoffs — come to bat with runners on and take it upon himself to bunt.

What Derek did on Thursday night defies stupidity. He tried to bunt twice and missed both times. Then, with the count 0-2 against him, he bunted again. This one rolled foul, and the Yankees’ leadoff hitter had bunted his walk to a strike out. As the Yanks did not plate another run that inning, it could have proved costly.

Yesterday, Joe Posnanski took Jeter to task for the bunt. Because Posnanski has a way with words and images, take a read:

Jeter would later admit in his own understated way that it was dumb to try and bunt there (he bunted foul for strike three), but, of course, “dumb” doesn’t begin to cover the lunacy of that bunt attempt. It is dumb to send an insulting text message to the insult-target by mistake. It is dumb for the Coyote to keep buying his Road Runner hunting products from the Acme Corporation. It is dumb to pull on Superman’s cape, to spit in the wind, to tell Batman your villainous plan when you have him captured, to give Gilligan some sort of meaningful role the rescue mission. That bunt wasn’t dumb. It was closer to a nervous breakdown.

Posnanski goes on to question the Yanks’ belief in Jeter a bit. He believes that Girardi initially called the bunt but later called it off too. Jeter, then, tried to bunt for the third time on his own:

And undoubtedly, Jeter believes this himself. That’s the only possible reason he would have tried to bunt with two strikes, even after Girardi called it off. Jeter wants to sacrifice himself there, I think, because he believes sacrifice is a big part of what makes him great and different. Would A-Rod bunt there? Would Miggy Cabrera? Would Manny Ramirez? Would Albert Pujols? No (nor should they). They would not bunt … but Derek Jeter would. Because he is not just a great hitter. No, he’s a guy who would do anything to help the team win.

Trouble is — he IS a great hitter, and hitting is the best way he can help the team win — in that situation and in pretty much every other situation. He should know this. The Yankees should know this. But the Jeter mystique has been blown up to such proportions that it has become its own monster, and monsters need to be fed.

When I saw Derek Jeter foul bunt on strike three like some helpless pitcher, I immediately thought it was one of the five dumbest plays I had ever seen — and I know I would have felt that way had he gotten the bunt down.

He concludes: “After all these years, the Yankees still don’t seem to full understand or appreciate why Derek Jeter is one of the great players his generation. And what’s even stranger is that Jeter may not be entirely sure himself.”

I’m not sure I fully support his final argument. I’m sure the Yankees understand and appreciate Derek Jeter as one of the greatest players of his generation. What the Yankees do not seem to understand and what Derek definitely doesn’t understand is that bunting in that situation is sheer lunacy. It doesn’t increase the team’s chances of scoring multiple runs, and it gives the Phillies an extra out, that ever-important currency of a game that lasts just 27 outs. It took the bat out of the hands of one of October’s most prolific hitters and gave the Phillies in opportunity to escape the inning.

And you know what? Derek won’t bunt with two strikes again. But if faced with the same circumstances tonight, if he comes up with runners on first and second with no one out, Derek and the Yanks will do it all over again.

That depends what the definitions of ‘any closer’ and ‘prove’ are

Charlie Manuel is a confident guy. He knows he has a good team, and when the press asks him he’s sure to tell them. When talking about opponents he doesn’t gush about their greatness or their achievements. For the most part, when talking about opponents, Manuel notes how his team is going to play well against them. Like with Andy Pettitte tonight. Manuel talked only about the negatives.

Andy Pettitte, he’s a lot like anybody else who ages — his stuff is kind of starting to dwindle down.” What does it say, then, about Andy’s postseason performance to date? It’s hard to put up those kinds of numbers with dwindling stuff, no?

Here’s a stranger quote from Manuel. In it he makes two mistakes, and they’re big enough to warrant a mention:

“We can hit Rivera,” Manuel said. “We can hit any closer.

We’ve proved that. He’s good. He’s one of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. He’s very good. But I’ve seen our team handle good pitching and, you know, we’re definitely capable of scoring runs late in the game.”

The first two parts of that quote are incompatible. The second part might be true; the Phillies might be able to hit any closer. Mariano Rivera, as we’ve learned over the past decade and a half, is not any closer. This doesn’t even need further explanation. His postseason ERA is ridiculous for a reason. You can go hit Joe Nathan and Jonathan Broxton and that would be a good job. They’re good closers. But they’re not Rivera.

That’s not to say that you can’t hit Rivera. It has been done. But beating other closers doesn’t necessarily mean you can beat Mariano. He’s on a level unto his own. JoePos gets it.

The next part of Manuel’s quote is just strange. “We’ve proved that.” You’ve proved what? That you can beat other closers? That’s great, but as established above, every closers are not Mariano. You can’t assume you can hit him because you can hit other closers. And, in fact, Manuels team has not hit Rivera in limited experience. They managed one hit in one inning off him in the regular season, and then couldn’t score in two innings against him Thursday night.

Manuel’s players have never proved that they can hit Rivera. They are a collective 8 for 47 against him with one double. The only two players with more than 10 plate appearances are Raul Ibanez and Matt Stairs, and they have four hits in 30 at bats between them. That’s hardly proving anything. In fact, if it proves aything, it’s that the Phillies hitters have as hard a time hitting Rivera as any other team in the league.

The Phillies are a confident team. We get that. They think they can beat anyone, as any team in their position should. I just hope they don’t really think that because they can hit NL closers that they can hit Mariano Rivera. He’s proven in both the abstract and in the concrete that he’s a cut above. The Phillies will have as difficult a time with him as the rest of the league does.

Catching up

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been slacking off lately because of the World Series. Here’s three days worth of games. Well, two and a half.

AzFL Surprise (9-0 loss to Peoria Saguaros on Wednesday)
Colin Curtis: 1 for 4, 1 K
Brandon Laird: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K
Zach Kroenke: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB - 16 of 28 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … PitchFX had him at 88.85-90.2 with his fastball
Mike Dunn: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – just 13 of 27 pitches were strikes (48.2%) … PFX had him at 94.41-95.3 with the heat

AzFL Surprise (3-0 win over Scottsdale on Thursday)
Colin Curtis: 1 for 4, 1 2B
Brandon Laird: 0 for 4, 1 K – 0 for his last 10 and 2 for his last 15

AzFL Surprise (the game is tied at five in the ninth, and I don’t feel like waiting around … here’s the box score)
Ian Kennedy: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 Er, 0 BB, 4 K, 4-4 GB/FB – 43 of 69 pitches were strikes (62.3%) … PFX says he was sitting between 90.98-93.4, and hit the high end of that range near the end of his outing
Grant Duff: 0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K – just 11 of 23 pitches were strikes (47.8%) … PFX had him at 93.13-94.3
Mike Dunn: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 11 of 14 pitches were strikes (78.6%) … he came in and bailed Duff out in a big way … PFX had him at 92.98-93.7