Friday, October 30, 2009

Game 2

- Game 2 was basically the same as Game 1. Pedro Martinez was really good, but A.J. Burnett was just a smidge better. Burnett's fastball had good movement, his curveball was working well, he stayed ahead of hitters and didn't get hurt inside. Burnett stayed away from the Phils hitters, taking full advantage of a generous strike zone away. To Burnett's credit, he recognized Jeff Nelson's zone and kept throwing to it, while the Phils hitters never adjusted and probably weren't aggressive enough to give themselves a chance to get to Burnett.

- Charlie Manuel drew some first-guess criticism for starting Martinez in game two in New York, but it would be hard to argue with Manuel's call now. Martinez was brilliant, making only two mistakes, which both left the yard. He had the Yankees off-balance and guessing for his whole outing, expertly mixing his fastball with the 'Buggs Bunny" change up. Martinez doesn't throw as hard or have quite the stuff that he used to, but he still certainly knows how to pitch effectively. Martinez has allowed three earned runs in 13 innings this postseason, an ERA of 2.08. Even if he doesn't pitch again this year, signing Martinez was a great move by Phils GM Ruben Amaro.

- After a good game one, the umpiring became too much of an issue in game two. Two obviously bad calls and a brutally tilted strikezone did not reflect well upon the men in blue. The first, a line drive down the first base line by Johnny Damon in the seventh was ruled to have been caught cleanly by Ryan Howard, who then threw to second where Jimmy Rollins tagged Jorge Posada to finish a double play. However, replays clearly showed that the ball shorthopped on its way into Howard's glove. Oops. The Yankees would have had the bases loaded and only one out, and instead the inning ended. Not to be outdone, in the top of the eighth inning, maybe 15 minutes after the first blown call, first base umpire Brian Gorman botched another, as he called Chase Utley out at first on the back end of a double play grounder to finish the top of the eighth, even though Utley's foot was on the base before Mark Teixeira had possession of the ball. If called correctly, the Phils would have had runners on the corners and two out with Howard due up in a game they trailed 3-1. Instead, Howard led off the ninth.

- The strike zone leaned too far outside with lefthanded hitters at the plate, as several strikes were called on balls that at best looped around the outter edge of the plate, but at no time crossed it. Give Burnett and Jose Molina credit, though, as they kept throwing out there and the Phillies hitters never adjusted, not even trying emergency hacks to spoil good pitches.

- As good as Burnett was, he didn't come in to a lefthanded hitter more than once or twice. At some point, to be that successful against a powerful lineup, you have to throw in, or the hitters will dive out over the plate and push balls to the opposite field with relative ease.

- Alex Rodriguez became only the second player in World Series history to strike out three times in consecutive games. The other? Jim Lonborg. Lonborg played from 1965 to 1979. And he was a pitcher. Not the kind of historical company A-Rod hoped to be keeping in this series.

- Like so many other New York entities, the Yankee pitching staff has received a generous bailout thus far in the Series. Am I referring to millions in government money? Nope, I'm referring to Pedro Feliz, who has recorded eight outs in his seven plate appearances, and has made Yankee pitchers throw only 19 pitches. More outs than plate appearances? 2.7 pitches per at-bat? Feliz would literally have made Yankee pitching work harder and hurt the Phillies offense less if he had not swung at any pitches in the first two games. If he handn't, he would have recorded at most seven outs (one less than he has), and would have seen at least 21 pitches (two more than he has). Feliz is providing the Yankees an easy out they desperately need in a potent lineup.

- Much has been made of each Phillie getting an at-bat against Mariano Rivera, and making him throw 39 pitches, and this somehow helps the Phillies going forward. Are you serious? To me, this is akin to saying you made Peyton Manning take 14 plays to score a touchdown. So what? He still got the job done. And he's still at such an elite level that you have to anticipate he will get the job done far, far more often than not. This is the World Series, there are no moral victories.

- Charlie Manuel has gotten a lot of grief for not starting the runners with two on and one out and Chase Utley at the plate in the eighth. I agree with Manuel. Utley grounded into a double play to end the inning, leaving Ryan Howard on deck. First, Utley doesn't ground into many DPs (five all year). Secondly, with as many times as Rivera jams hitters, especially lefthanders, a line drive or easy pop-up double play is possible. Third, Utley strikes out some. Not as much as Howard, but he will strike out. Third, as good a runner as Rollins and Victorino (the runners on base at the time are), and as poor as Jorge Posada throws, Posada would still have an easy shot at Rollins at third with the lefty hitting Utley at the plate. Then what? Manuel would get killed for having Rollins make the last out at third base (a cardinal sin in baseball) and leaving Howard on deck without the chance to hit.

- Game three features two guys with a playoff history. Cole Hamels was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008, but he's been terrible in 2009, which has carried over into the playoffs. He hasn't pitched in 10 days, so the Phils certainly hope the time off has rejuvenated him. Pettitte is still playoff clutch, but he's not a lefty that is especially tough on lefthanded hitters. Pettitte has thrown well, but doesn't go as deep into games as he used to, which brings the ever shaky Yankee middle relief into the picture. However, Pettitte is as good as anyone in baseball at holding runners on, as his balk-ish move to first is rarely, if ever called. More than the first two, this game is likely to come down to the bullpens.

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