Posts Tagged ‘Mariano Rivera’

Hideki Matsui Powers New York Yankees To World Series Championship

November 5, 2009

If Mark Teixeira doesn’t beat you, then Alex Rodriguez will. If Alex Rodriguez doesn’t beat you, then Jorge Posada will. And if Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Posada don’t beat you, then Hideki Matsui will.

Playing in perhaps his final game as a New York Yankee, Matsui went 3-for-4 with a homerun, a double, a single, and six RBI as the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 to win their 27th championship.

Matsui did the majority of his damage against Phillies’ starter Pedro Martinez, who didn’t have much last night. Martinez, who was pitching on five days rest, which was short rest for him, really couldn’t get going.

In the second inning, after walking Rodriguez to lead off the inning, Martinez missed his spot by at least four inches to Matsui on a 3-2 pitch and Matsui promptly hit one into the rightfield seats.

In the third inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, Matsui came up to the plate again. And again Martinez missed his spot. Martinez, trying to throw a fastball high and outside, threw a fastball outside, but not high enough.

Matsui served a single to left-centerfield to make the score 4-1 and that was the back breaker in my opinion.

While Matsui was driving in the runs, Andy Pettitte wasn’t allowing any runs to the Phillies. So much for not being able to pitch on three days rest.

Andy Pettitte

Pettitte came up big for the Yankees yet again

Pettitte pitched with a bend, but don’t break mentality last night. Pettitte walked five and gave up four hits over 5.2 innings, but never gave up the big hit.

Here are some other observations from last night:

The Phillies biggest fear in this World Series came to light last night–nobody except Cliff Lee could win a game for the Phillies.

After Matusi’s two-run single in the third, I couldn’t believe Charlie Manuel left Martinez in the game to face Posada.

Ryan Howard struck out for a 13th time last night breaking Willie Wilson’s World Series record of 12 set back in 1980.

I can’t believe that more was not made of Shane Victorino’s misplay on the Derek Jeter linedrive in the third. That was a huge play. The way the Yankees were playing, you can’t give them four outs in an inning.

Great job last night by Chad Durbin keeping it close. 0.1 innings, two hits, one walk, and three runs.

While Matsui might have won the World Series MVP award, Damaso Marte was just as valuable in this series.

Marte’s strike out of Chase Utley in the seventh was the nail in the coffin for the Phillies.

Of course, Marte came on to clean up Joba Chamberlain’s mess. How many times did I have to write that this postseason. Someone explain to me why Chamberlain is the most hyped pitcher in the game again?

Melky Cabrera has a World Series ring and Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, and Don Mattingly don’t. Unreal.

Back in March, Gary Sheffield was deciding between the New York Mets and Phillies. The Phillies really could have used him as their DH in this series.

Both teams were playing eight on eight tonight. Brett Gardner = automatic out for the Yankees. Ben Francisco = automatic out for the Phillies.

The Yankees become the first team since the 1991 Minnesota Twins to win a World Series using a three-man pitching staff.

5,000 kids in Long Island, who were Mets fans yesterday, are now Yankee fans today. They came into class today wearing red Yankee hats and a fake Chamberlain jersey.

Matsui will be replaced in the Yankees’ lineup next year by Matt Holliday. Damon will move to DH.

Now all of a sudden Joe Girardi is a genious.

Yankees’ President Randy Levine said in his post-game interview that George Steinbrenner was the first owner to go into Japan when they signed Matsui. Somebody should tell him A. Hideki Irabu played for the Yankees in 1997 and B. Ichiro Suzuki came into the league two years before Matsui.

How many times did the Yankees’ front office try to get rid of Pettitte over the last 10 years? Just proving that they are good business men, but terrible baseball men.

Pedro Feliz killed the Phillies this game. Three times up with RISP and 0-for-3. He gets a hit in any of those AB’s, it’s a different game.

How awesome was Carlos Ruiz this postseason? Just awesome. Such a good little player.

Raul Ibanez had a tremendous AB versus Rivera in the eighth inning. He worked hard for that double.

For the final out of the World Series, the Yankees had Jerry Hairston Jr., Gardner, and Nick Swisher in the outfield. Just goes to show you, you never know who is going to play a role in the World Series in April.

Well, with that the baseball season officially comes to an end. I’ll be doing a year in review in the upcoming days and I will be doing a what to look for this offseason post as well.

It’s one in the morning and I need some sleep. Have a good night folks.

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10 Things We Learned About Baseball In October

November 3, 2009

Not only is October the best month on the baseball calendar, it’s also the busiest. Besides the playoffs, you have general managers being fired and hired, you have managers being fired and hired, and you already start to hear some free agent and trade rumblings.

This October was no different. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned about baseball in October.

10. Kevin Towers and JP Ricciardi were let go. When a team doesn’t win two things happen. 1. The manager gets fired or 2. The general manager gets fired.

In San Diego and Toronto–the general managers were fired.

Towers spent 14 seasons as the San Diego Padres’ GM and they have won four division titles and made one World Series appearance (1998) under his stewardship.

I wasn’t in favor of this move when it happened. Towers can be the GM of my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday. He knows how to get the job done.

Ricciardi was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays after serving as their GM since 2001. The Blue Jays never won more than 87 games and only finished above third once with Ricciardi as the GM.

If you fire someone, then you need a replacement…

9. Jed Hoyer and Alex Anthopoulos will be making the decisions in San Diego and Toronto. The Padres hired Boston Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer to replace the above mentioned Towers.

Jed Hoyer

Hoyer is the new GM of the Padres

Hoyer joined the Red Sox front office at age 28, where he helped to build Boston’s rosters and assisted in contract negotiations.

In 2005, when Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino had a lover’s quarrel and Epstein took a ten week hiatus, Hoyer along with Craig Shipley, Bill Lajoie, and Ben Cherington took over the GM duties for the Red Sox.

Anthopoulos takes over for Ricciardi in Toronto on an interim basis.

While Hoyer and Anthopoulos take over as general managers…

8. Manny Acta and Brad Mills were hired as managers. Mills was hired to be the next manager of the Houston Astros. Mills replaces Cecil Cooper who was fired with 13 games left in the season. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and interim manager Dave Clark were finalists for the position.

Mills has spent the last six seasons as the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox.

Acta was hired by the Cleveland Indians to be their next manager. The Indians signed Acta to a three-year deal with a club option for 2013.

This will be Acta’s second managerial stint. His first one, as we all know was with the Washington Nationals from 2007-2009. Acta was 158-252 with the Nationals and was relieved of his duties in July.

As manager of the Astros, Mills will be squaring off against this guy in St. Louis…

7. Tony LaRussa will be back as St. Louis Cardinals manager. The Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa have agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. The Cardinals also got good news when pitching coach Dave Duncan agreed to return to the team as well.

But the big shock was the announcement of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. McGwire will replace Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

While the Cardinals were making news, the team they beat in the 2006 World Series made news of another kind…

6. The Detroit Tigers suffered an epic collapse. The Tigers had everything going for them headed into the last week of the season. They were playing at home, they were playing a Chicago White Sox team whose season was over, and they were three games up on the Minnesota Twins with four games to go.

Despite all that, the Tigers couldn’t hold on the AL Central lead. The Tigers lost two-out-of-three to the White Sox and the Twins swept the Kansas City Royals.

Those results forced this…

5. The Tigers and Twins played an all-time classic. The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in a one-game playoff to clinch the American League Central title. For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes in this epic classic there were no salaries, no free agency, no arbitration, and no steroids.

This game was about two teams playing their guts out and leaving everything on field. The Twins and Tigers not only captured the 58,088 screaming fans in the Metrodome, but they captured millions watching at home.

They captured four friends, who weren’t Twins or Tigers fan, but were so into the game that they were texting back and forth on practically every situation that occurred. We all knew we were watching one of the best games we ever saw.

This was just an amazing game. A true classic and a game which reminded us what is great about the game of baseball.

The Twins win allowed them to go to the postseason…

4. The 2009 postseason has given us a lot of memorable moments. Every year the postseason gives us memories that last a lifetime. The 2009 postseason has been no different.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally exercised their postseason demons by beating the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Holliday’s dropped flyball against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the NLDS opened the floodgates for the Dodgers.

Alex Rodriguez, doing his best Reggie Jackson imitation leading the New York Yankees to the World Series.

CC Sabathia finally putting his past postseason failures behind him and being worth every penny.

Jimmy Rollins walk-off double off of Jonathan Broxton shattering the dreams of the Dodgers.

Cliff Lee carrying the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff throughout October.

While on one end there is triumph in the postseason, on the other end there is heartache…

3. It’s been a rough postseason for closers. 10 blown saves (the 11th happened on Sunday night) in the postseason by closers through October 31st.

papelbon

Even Papelbon blew a save in this postseason

Everyone thinks closers aren’t important until they blow a game in a big spot. Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Franklin, and Broxton all imploded at one point this postseason.

Only Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera didn’t blow a save through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s no coincidence that the teams they represent are in the World Series.

While the closers were one story of this postseason, the big story has been…

2. Bad umpiring has plagued the 2009 postseason. Major League Baseball just can’t win. It’s always something.

This postseason, the umpires have come under tremendous fire for missing calls, which has prompted many to call for more instant replay in baseball.

It seems like every game this postseason the umpires were missing calls. And these weren’t bang-bang calls–these were blatantly obvious calls.

But despite all the bad calls by the umpires, this has been a fabulous postseason. And all roads in the postseason lead to this…

1. The Phillies or the Yankees will be world champions. For the first time in maybe 10 years, the two best teams will be playing in the World Series.

The Phillies took Game One behind a complete game, 10 strike out performance from Cliff Lee. Chase Utley provided the offense with two homeruns off of Sabathia.

The Yankees evened the series at one behind a brilliant performance from AJ Burnett. Hideki Matsui’s homerun off of Pedro Martinez in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie.

The Yankees overcame a 3-0 deficit thanks to a two-run HR from Alex Rodriguez and some timely hitting by Johnny Damon to take a 2-1 series lead.

It’s very rare a World Series champion isn’t crowned in October, but this is an unusual year thanks to the World Baseball Classic. We will just have to wait to November to crown a champion.

November will be the final month of the baseball. Come back on December to get a recap of the World Series and all the award winners in baseball.

Brad Lidge Implodes, Yankees On Cusp Of World Series Title

November 2, 2009

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies rode Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge to a World Series title. In this year’s World Series, Hamels and Lidge have imploded in back to back games and now the Phillies are on the brink of elimination.

In a crucial Game Four, Alex Rodriguez broke a 4-4 tie with a double in the ninth inning off of Lidge and Jorge Posada singled home two more runs to give the Yankees a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-1 and are on the cusp of their 27th World Series title.

While Rodriguez might have broken the tie in the ninth, it was the great AB and then some heads up baserunning by Johnny Damon that was the story of the inning.

With two outs and nobody on, Lidge was cruising. He looked like the Lidge of 2008. He was throwing wicked sliders and more importantly–he was throwing with confidence.

Johnny-Damon_2

Damon's play last night was heads up

Then Damon came to the plate.

Lidge got Damon in a 1-2 hole, but couldn’t put him away. Damon worked the count to 3-2 and then served a single to leftfield.

What happened next was stuff of legend.

With Mark Teixeira at the plate, Damon stole second. But because the infield was in a shift, third baseman Pedro Feliz took the throw to second.

With Feliz taking the throw at second, nobody was covering third base. Damon realized that and immediately took off for third base. It was one of the most heads up plays you will ever see on a baseball diamond.

Now with Damon on third, Lidge was scared to throw his devastating slider because he didn’t want to bounce it in the dirt and he had to rely on his fastball.

Lidge then plunked Teixeira and the rest was history.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I don’t know why Lidge didn’t try to put Damon away with a slider in the ninth? He kept going to his fastball when his slider was unhittable at that point.

I don’t understand the theory of “If a guy is on third, you can’t throw your slider.” When did Carlos Ruiz become swiss cheese behind the plate?

If Derek Jeter makes that Damon baserunning play, Jeter’s cleats, socks, uniform, and the base are sent to the Hall of Fame.

I have no problem with bringing Lidge into the game at that point. If he can’t pitch in that situation when can he pitch?

Now Lidge knows what Mark Wohlers feels like when you don’t get beat on your best pitch.

All seven other closers have imploded at some point this postseason. The only one that hasn’t? Mariano Rivera. There is a reason why the Yankees are one game away from winning the World Series.

There was only one pitch that Feliz could have hit a homerun on and Joba Chamberlain threw it.

The Yankees got a glimpse of their future when Rivera retires on that Chamberlain gopher ball.

Chamberlain’s “win” last night is the perfect example of why wins for a relief pitcher is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

It’s taken Rivera only 13 pitches to retire five batters the last two nights. Amazing.

Joe Buck talked more about the NFL than he did the baseball game he was announcing through the first three innings.

Somebody should tell Robinson Cano that the World Series started.

Ryan Howard still hasn’t touched home plate.

Very good, but not great performance from CC Sabathia last night. 6.2 innings, three runs, three walks, and six K’s.

I thought Blanton was good as well last night. And yes, it was the right decision to start him instead of Cliff Lee. Someone other than Lidge needs to a win a game for the Phillies. What’s the difference if it is Game Four of Game Five?

The biggest mistake Blanton made last night was walking Nick Swisher to lead off the fifth. That just can’t happen. It was no surprise that Swisher eventually scored.

Great baserunning by Melky Cabrera scoring on that Damon blooper in that inning. Great read on the ball.

Chase Utley just hit another homerun off of Sabathia.

The last team to come back from a 3-1 World Series deficit was the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Sadly, this was the last time any Royals fan felt any joy.

I wonder if the air has come out of the balloon for the Phillies? As Bob Boone said to Don Sutton on the play ride from California to Boston after the California Angels lost an epic Game Five (the Dave Henderson game) to the Boston Red Sox in 1986–“When the air comes out of the balloon, it’s hard to get it back up.”

That being said, I would be shocked if the Phillies didn’t win tonight. Lee on full rest and AJ Burnett on short rest should get them to Game Six.

Hero for Game Four – Johnny Damon

Goat for Game Four – Brad Lidge

Series MVP – Johnny Damon

Game Five is tonight at 7:57

Yankees Rock Cole Hamels, Take Game Three

November 1, 2009

There are some things in life I just don’t understand.

Like why my mom continues to buy single-ply toilet paper, or why Heidi Klum is married to Seal, or why a hitter would swing at the first pitch after a pitcher just walked two out of the last three batters he faced.

The New York Yankees overcame a three run deficit thanks to a gutsy performance from Andy Pettitte and some timely hitting to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-5 last night in Game Three of the World Series.

The Yankees now lead the World Series 2-1.

For me, the turning point of this game was in the bottom of the second inning. I might be in the minority here, but I really thought the Shane Victorino AB with the bases loaded and one out in the second changed the course of the game.

Andy Pettitte

Pettitte came through again for the Yankees

Pettitte had already served up a homerun to Jayson Werth and a wall scraping double to Pedro Feliz. Then he walked Carlos Ruiz, misplayed a Cole Hamels bunt, and walked Jimmy Rollins which forced in a run.

Victorino came up with Pettitte on the ropes. Pettitte was done and Victorino let him off the hook.

Instead of taking a strike, Victorino, trying to be the hero–swung at a pitch in the dirt. Then Victorino swung at another pitch in the dirt to make the count 0-2.

Victorino managed to hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0, but I really thought that AB was the turning point of the game. That AB allowed Pettitte to settle down, gather himself, and from there–he was vintage Pettitte.

Why Victorino didn’t take a strike in that situation is beyond. Pettitte wasn’t close to throwing a strike to Ruiz and was even further off to Rollins. You have to let Pettitte prove to you at that point that he can throw a strike.

The Phillies could have possibly had five or six runs that inning, but settled for three. From there the Yankees bats came alive against a yet again mediocre Hamels and now are just two games away from winning the World Series.

Here are some other observations from last night’s game.

No matter what the situation is, Pettitte always manages to keep the same demeanor on the mound. He really is one of the great clutch performers of all-time.

Hamels didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning. He only last 4.1 innings last night. Amazing.

Remarkably, there are still some people out there who will argue that Hamels is the same pitcher as last year. I wonder if they still feel that way after last night’s performance.

If this series goes seven games, there is no way Charlie Manuel can start Hamels in Game Seven.

I would go with Happ in Game Six and then Pedro Martinez in Game Seven. Give Martinez the extra day if you can.

I still can’t believe Hamels would throw a curveball–Hamels third best pitch to Pettitte. Pettitte’s single was another turning point of the game. That was the single worst pitch of the postseason.

Apparently Joe Girardi’s benching did Nick Swisher well. Swisher hit a double and a homerun last night.

Swisher played Feliz’s double in the second terribly. A good rightfielder catches that ball against the wall.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

I thought the umpires had a very good game last night. Home plate umpire Brian Gorman was consistent all night and good job getting together on the Alex Rodriguez homerun.

The 2009 postseason is officially Jayson Werth’s coming out party. Two more homeruns last night now give him seven for this postseason.

Believe it or not, outside of Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte has been the Yankees most reliable reliever.

Despite the one hour and 20 minute rain delay, this game didn’t end as late as I thought it would. I thought this game would end at two in the morning.

Yankees’ bullpen–three innings, one hit, and one run. Phillies’ bullpen–4.2 innings, three hits, and three runs.

100 percent agreed with Girardi with sending out Phil Hughes to start the ninth with a four run lead. With three games in a row, the Yankees need to save Rivera as much as possible.

Terrible job by Hughes in not being able to finish the ninth. The Yankees didn’t want to use Rivera and they had to.

Howard just struck out.

Chase Utley and Howard went 0-8 with five K’s. If they Phillies are going to win this series, then those two need to carry the offense.

The team that wins Game Four wins the World Series.

Game Four is tonight at 8:20 ET

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Just as a reminder, I will be on the Frankie the Sports Guy show tonight on AM 1240 WGBB at 10:20 ET. I’ll be talking about the World Series and some other baseball topics.

Former Yankee third baseman Charlie Hayes will be on the show as well.

AJ Burnett Outduels Pedro Martinez, Yankees Even Series

October 30, 2009

So much for this being an offensive World Series.

For the second night in a row we saw a pitcher’s duel in the Bronx. Last night AJ Burnett outdueled Pedro Martinez as the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 to even their best-of-seven series at one game a piece.

AJ Burnett

Burnett pitched the game of his life last night

What you saw last night was two pitchers going about getting hitters out in two completely different ways, but getting the same result.

Burnett, overpowered the Phillies lineup with a mid-90’s fastball and a power curve all night. Martinez, used an array of offspead pitches to keep the Yankee hitters off balance all night.

But last night proved that no matter how hard you throw, whether you throw 95 mph or 85 mph, pitching is all about first-pitch strikes and location. A well spotted 85 mph fastball is just as effective, if not more effective than a 99 mph fastball right down the middle.

Burnett threw 22 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced and Martinez threw 16 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think Burnett had a performance like that in him.

In the third inning, after walking Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, every Yankee fan thought “Here we go again” with Burnett.

I am very surprised the Phillies didn’t change their approach during the game. If you see a guy throwing strikes, there is no point in being patient.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

Have Yankee fans not realized that chanting “Who’s your daddy?” only motivates Martinez?

I am still trying to debate who is the smarter pitcher–Martinez or Greg Maddux?

The ball Matt Stairs hit to drive in Raul Ibanez in the second was an error by Alex Rodriguez–not a hit.

I would love to see a throwing contest between Johnny Damon and Jason Bay. That would be high comedy.

If the Yankees don’t resign Damon, some dumb team is going to give him a three-year deal and regret it from the first day. Damon at this stage of his career is a product of the Yankee lineup and the new Yankee Stadium.

Did anyone else think Ibanez’s diving catch in the second inning was happening in slow motion? It seemed Ibanez was running forever and the ball hung up in the air forever.

It was good to see Mark Teixeira finally show up with the bat. That homerun was a bomb to rightcenter.

How did Hideki Matsui hit that homerun in the sixth? That pitch was at his shoe tops.

Did Charlie Manuel get coaching advice from Grady Little before the game? There is no way Martinez should have come back out for the seventh.

Howard just struck out again on another curve four feet out of the strike zone.

Manuel said he didn’t start Rollins and Shane Victorino in the eighth because Utley doesn’t hit into many double plays. Manuel thought it might have been five or less throughout the season.

Manuel was right. Utley hit into five double plays during the regular season.

If you are a Yankee fan, you can say Damon’s linedrive hit the ground in the seventh. As a Philly fan, you can say Utley was safe on that double play.

Both plays were bang-bang. I have no problem with either call.

I don’t care how great Mariano Rivera is, you can’t keep asking a 40-year-old to throw 40 pitches a night.

The Yankees are really going to need to find somebody to pitch the eighth inning in Philadelphia. With three games in a row, Rivera can’t pitch two innings every night. His arm will fall off.

I wonder if Jerry Hairston will get the start in Game Three against the lefty Cole Hamels? Hairston was 1-3 last night replacing Nick Swisher.

How much weight has Mark Grace gained? He has seriously ballooned up. I think we will be seeing him in a Nutrisystem commercial pretty soon.

Hero for Game Two – AJ Burnett

Goat for Game Two – Ryan Howard

Series MVP – Cliff Lee

Game Three is Saturday night at 7:57 ET.

2009 World Series Preview And Prediction

October 28, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees

Schedule

Yankee Stadium

Game One: Wednesday, Oct. 28 7:57 ET. Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Thursday, Oct. 29 7:57 ET. Pedro Martinez vs. AJ Burnett

Citizens Bank Park

Game Three: Saturday, Oct. 31 7:57 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels

Game Four: Sunday, Nov. 1 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Five*: Monday, Nov. 2 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Yankee Stadium

Game Six*: Wednesday, Nov. 4 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven*: Thursday, Nov 5 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

* If necessary

Umpires

Gerry Davis (crew chief), Joe West, Dana DeMuth, Brian Gorman, Mike Everitt, Jeff Nelson

Roster Changes

Phillies – In: Brett Myers. Out: Miguel Cairo

Yankees – In: Eric Hinske, Brian Bruney. Out: Freddy Guzman, Francisco Cervelli

Cliff Lee2

Lee will take the ball in Game One

Matchups

Yankee hitters vs. Lee, Martinez, and Hamels – .269/.327/.444

Philly hitters vs. Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte – .249/.281/.417

Preview

At 7:57 ET tonight, the Phillies and the Yankees will officially begin the 2009 World Series or “The worst case scenario for New York Mets fans.”

Not only do the Mets suffer one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but now they have to watch their hated division rival and hated cross-town rival in the World Series. Talk about a punch to the gut.

Don’t worry Mets fans, you will get through it. As a New York Jets fan, I went through something similar a couple of years ago when the New England Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

I rooted for the Giants in that game. I decided there was no way I could ever root for the Patriots under any circumstances. I am getting a sense that most Mets fans are feeling the same way towards the Phillies.

Now let’s talk about the two teams that matter–the Phillies and the Yankees. This will be the first time perhaps since 1999 that the two best teams in baseball are playing each other for the championship.

I have thought long and hard about this series and which direction I want to go. For me, this series comes down to a couple of things.

1. Will the Phillies look like a deer in headlights like the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did? Let’s be realistic here–the Yankees beat both teams because both teams turned into the Kansas City Royals.

It’s not like the Yankees bludgeoned both teams.

The Yankees will always capitalize on errors and bad baserunning. Their lineup is too good not to.

If the Phillies make the same errors and baserunning mistakes the Twins and Angels did–they will lose this series.

2. Chad Durbin, Chan Ho Park Scott Eyre, and Ryan Madson vs. Phil Hughes, Domaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson. This series will be determined mainly by the under-belly of the bullpen–not by the closers.

I laugh when people say the Yankees have the advantage in the pen because of Mariano Rivera. Isn’t that the case with every game of every series the Yankees play in?

Saying the Yankees have an advantage because of Rivera, is like saying the Bulls had an advantage at shooting guard with Michael Jordan. It’s a given.

It’s going to be how the pitchers before Rivera fair that will determine the outcome of the game. In particular, Marte.

Girardi was going to Marte over Phil Coke in the ALCS in late inning situations vs. a left-handed batter. With the way Girardi overmanages, Marte is going to be asked at some point during this series to get Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Raul Ibanez out.

Does any Yankee fan feel confident with first and second and one out in the seventh and Girardi calls on Marte to pitch to Utley and Howard?

Pedro Phillies

Pedro will go in Game Two

3. Can Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels step up? If the Phillies are going to win this series, then one of these guys is going to have to step up. Martinez pitched better than anyone expected in Game Two of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now Martinez is expected to win against the Yankees in Game Two of the World Series. I have my doubts about this move.

Why open up a hornet’s nest by starting Martinez in the Bronx with all his prior history with the Yankees? Martinez is a National League pitcher at this point in his career. Let him start in Game Three or Four against a National League lineup with the pitcher hitting.

If Martinez doesn’t pitch well in Game Two, then the Phillies are going to need Hamels to wake up in Game Three. There is no evidence to suggest that he can.

His fastball is flat, his curveball has no break to it, and his body language on the mound stinks. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Yankees.

4. Will the layoff hurt the Phillies? We saw a long layoff hurt the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The Phillies haven’t played since the 21st.

I think for the Phillies, the layoff won’t matter. Remember, they had a long layoff last year going into the World Series and that didn’t affect them at all.

5. Will Girardi Girardi overmange the Yankees out of a World Series title? If Girardi was overmanaging in an American League game, what is going to happen in those three games in Philadelphia? It might get ugly.

Girardi has been bailed out by Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees’ overall talent. What happens when the Yankees don’t bail him out?

Prediction

I have picked against the Phillies all postseason. I have picked the Yankees all postseason. Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Yankees.

They have the better pitching and they will catch a break someone. The inevitable bad call that favors the Yankees will happen somewhere during the series

I’ll keep my trend going.

Yankees in Six

MVP – Mark Teixeira

Also, for those of you in the New York/Long Island area, I will be on AM 1240 WGBB this Sunday night on Sports Talk Live with Frankie The Sports Guy at 10:30 PM ET.

We’ll be talking about the World Series and some other things that are going on in baseball.

Yankees Beat Bumbling Angels 5-2, Advance To World Series

October 26, 2009

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim found out with the Minnesota Twins already know. If you continue to make boneheaded baserunning plays and continue to play horrific defense you are going to lose in the playoffs.

The New York Yankees beat the stumbling, bumbling Angels last night 5-2 to take their best-of-seven series 4-2 and advance to the World Series for the 40th time in their history.

Pettitte was vintage Pettitte last night

Pettitte was vintage Pettitte last night

The tone of this series was set in the first inning of Game One when Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins stared at each other and let Hideki Matsui’s Little League popup fall in. Shockingly, that is the way the Angels would play for the entire series.

If you said to someone that the Angels would make eight errors in six games, that person would have said you are nuts. After all, the Angels are one of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball.

But for what ever reason, the Angels played like the Twins did in their ALDS series against the Yankees.

Here are some of my observations from last night:

Joe Saunders played with fire for the first three inning and eventually got burned in the fourth. You can’t constantly pitch from behind in the count and be successful in the playoffs.

Saunders faced 22 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to only seven of those batters.

I can’t believe Saunders was left in the game to face Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the fourth. What was the point of warming up Kevin Jepsen, if he wasn’t going to come into the game to face Rodriguez?

The 3-1 pitch to Rodriguez was a strike at any level of baseball except in Game Six of the ALCS.

As bad as Darren Oliver was in Game Five, he was great in Game Six. He kept the Angels in that game for as long as he could. Great performance.

If you are going to hand out nine walks to the Yankees in a game, I would say there is a very good chance you are going to lose the game.

Melky Cabrera (my least favorite player in baseball) really gave the Yankees a boost at the bottom of their lineup. Cabrera hit .391 for series and had a .462 OBP.

When Andy Pettitte retires, the Yankees are going to miss him just as much as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The guy is just money in a big spot.

Pettitte faced 25 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of those batters.

Jeter’s potential error turns out to be a positive for the Yankees. Amazing how that works out.

There is no greater weapon in sports than Rivera.

How does Vladimir Guerrero get doubled up on that flyball to right? The play was happening right in front of him. It’s inexcusable.

Did anyone else have flashbacks to the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers when the Angels couldn’t field those bunts in the eighth?

Why didn’t Scott Kazmir start the eighth inning? He was ready and the Yankees had Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Cabrera coming up.

Cano had a nice defensive game last night. Considering he didn’t show up in Game Two, he kind of owed it to the Yankees.

Some team is still going to give Figgins a four-year, $42 million deal and still regret it from the first day.

Do you know that phrase in baseball “Stay within yourself?” Apparently Torii Hunter has never heard of that phrase. He goes for the downs on every swing in the playoffs.

Why does Mike Scioscia continue to pinch-hit Gary Matthews Jr. for Mike Napoli? Napoli is a much better hitter than Matthews–even against a righty in Rivera.

Why did Scioscia pinch-hit Macier Izturis for Jeff Mathis in the seventh? I don’t care what the matchup is, Mathis is the hottest hitter on the planet outside of Rodriguez right now. Let the guy hit.

Hero for Game Six – Andy Pettitte

Goat for Game Six – Joe Saunders

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

I will be doing a World Series preview tomorrow.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Angels Win Wild Game Five, Force Game Six In The Bronx

October 23, 2009

Mike Scioscia and Joe Girardi played a game of “What ever you can do, I can do worse.”

In one of the worst managed playoff games in quite some time, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outlasted the New York Yankees 7-6 to take Game Five of their best-of-seven ALCS and force a Game Six in the Bronx Saturday night.

This was a game that really had three parts to it.

The first part was the Angels ambushed Yankees’ starter AJ Burnett for four runs in the first inning. A walk to Chone Figgins, a double to Bobby Abreu, a single by Torii Hunter, a single by Vladimir Guerrero, and a single by Kendry Morales.

Five batters into the game and just like that, the Angels had four runs. I really thought Burnett wouldn’t make it out of the second inning.

Which leads me to the second part of the game.

From the second inning to the sixth, this game was a pitcher’s duel. Burnett and John Lackey were matching each other goose egg for goose egg.

And let me give credit to Burnett. I was really surprised he settled down and pitched into the seventh inning. I didn’t think he had that type of bounce back ability in him.

Then comes the third part of this game and this is when the wheels start to come off for Scioscia and Girardi.

The last three innings of this game were managed so poorly, you would have thought this was never a playoff game. Let’s take a look at the managerial decisions that transpired from the top of the seventh on.

Top of the seventh – Scioscia takes out Lackey

After the Angels had their *Mark Langston moment on a 3-2 count to Jorge Posada, the Yankees had bases loaded and two outs with Mark Teixeira coming to the plate.

Lackey should have never been taken out last night

Lackey should have never been taken out last night

Scioscia decides to take out his ace after only 104 pitches with the Angels’ season on the line to bring in Darren Oliver. Are you kidding me?

As Scioscia was approaching the mound, you can see Lackey saying “This is mine.” I’ll be writing another story on Lackey later, but that moment was pretty cool.

There is no way you can take your ace out in that spot. You just can’t. And for what? To bring in Darren freakin’ Oliver?

It’s not like Scioscia was bringing in Dennis Eckersley. There is a reason why Oliver has been on like 20 teams in his career.

And when did Teixeira become a worse hitter right-handed? Here is Teixeira’s OPS splits from the regular season.

Teixeira’s OPS LH – .951

Teixeira’s OPS RH – .911

Not much difference from left to right.

This was without a shadow of a doubt the single worst managerial decision of the postseason.

Of course, Oliver serves up a double on the first pitch to Teixeira and a single to Hideki Matsui. All of a sudden the game went from 4-0 Angels to 6-4 Yankees in a matter of five minutes.

Bottom of the seventh – Girardi leaves in Burnett too long.

First, I have no problem with Burnett starting the inning. I thought he should have been given every opportunity to go as long as he can, as he was getting people out.

But once he served up a single to Jeff “Mike Piazza” Mathis, he should have been out of the game. I thought it was going to be one of those let him pitch until someone gets on situation.

If anyone has watched the Yankees all year, that is how Girardi manages. But I really think all the overmanaging talk from Game Three really was in Girardi’s head.

He was trying so hard not to overmanage, that he actually undermanaged in this situation. Once Mathis got the hit, Girardi should have gone to Phil Hughes or Damaso Marte.

Instead, Burnett is left out there and he proceeds to walk Erick Aybar. That’s when the wheels came off for the Yankees.

Once the Angels got two on and nobody out, the crowd got back into it and from their Hughes unraveled.

Bottom of the seventh – Hughes pitches around Hunter to get to Guerrero.

Did the Yankees not watch Game Three of the ALDS between the Angels and the Boston Red Sox?

I really didn’t understand this move. And don’t tell me they weren’t pitching around Hunter. When you throw a 3-0 slider–you are pitching around a batter.

When did Hunter become Frank Robinson? He can be pitched to. He doesn’t work the count and we have seen in big spots in this postseason, he will chase balls that aren’t strikes.

This move almost worked until Hughes had mental breakdown on the mound. He threw a Papelbon-esque 0-2 fastball right down the middle and Guerrero singled up the middle.

Bottom of the eighth – Girardi goes to Joba Chamberlain instead of Dave Robertson

Did Robertson sleep with Girardi’s wife or something? This guy is pitching lights out in the postseason (three innings, two hits and zero runs) and he continues to sit on the bench.

At what point is Girardi going to realize that Chamberlain isn’t very good. Mr. Mediocre has given up seven hits in 2.2 innings of work and has a WHIP of 2.63.

A 2.63 WHIP is below replacement level. I really don’t understand the infatuation with this guy. He can’t start and now he can’t relieve.

What exactly does he do well?

Bottom of the ninth – Scioscia takes out Jered Weaver.

I am a firm believer that you should always go to your closer in save situations only if he is a top-flight closer.

If you have a Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, etc…That guy pitches the ninth no matter what.

However, when you have a closer like Brian Fuentes, I think you have to go with the hot hand. And the hot hand last night was Weaver.

This guy came into the eighth and just steamrolled the Yankees. I would have left him in for the ninth.

Fuentes is unreliable at this point. You have no idea what on earth he is going to do out there.

And I will say this, once Scioscia made the decision to bring Fuentes into the game, I had no problem with walking Alex Rodriguez with two outs and nobody on base. It was the right move.

Fuentes went on to save the game, but not before giving every Angels fan a heart attack. If you are an Angels fan and you don’t get nervous when Fuentes pitches then:

A. You don’t have a pulse.

B. No other closer will make you nervous ever again.

Now we have a Game Six. If you are a Yankees fan, you have to be a little worried. A late-90’s Yankee championship team doesn’t lose that game last night.

Game Six is Saturday at 7:57 ET.

Hero for Game Five – Kendry Morales

Goat for Game Five – Phil Hughes

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

*Mark Langston moment. In Game One of the 1998 World Series, with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Langston was in the game for the San Diego Padres facing Tino Martinez in a tie game.

With two strikes, Langston throws a ball right down the middle, but the pitch was called a ball. It was an awful call.

The next pitch Martinez rips a grand slam and the game was over and the Padres never recovered.

Yankees Steal Game Two, Take 2-0 Series Lead

October 18, 2009

If you give an average team multiple chances to beat you, they will.

If you give the New York Yankees multiple chances to beat you, they definitely will.

The New York Yankees took advantage of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim leaving a small village (16 to be exact) on base and some more bad defense to beat the Angels 4-3 in 13 innings to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Before I get into the finer points of the game, this game was just a perfect example of why the NFL has passed MLB in popularity. This was a really good game that ended at 1:15 AM ET.

Casual fans and more importantly, young kids on the east coast aren’t staying up to watch the end of these games. It’s absolutely absurd that on a Saturday night, you would start a game at 8:00 at night.

This game should have been started at 4:00 ET. Do you ever see an NFL Conference Championship game end at 0ne in the morning? No, you don’t.

The NFL makes sure that in their most important games, everyone can see the end. There is probably a nine-year-old kid living in NYC, who has never seen the end of a Yankees playoff game.

Way to alienate your fan base Bud. Keep up the good work!!!

Now let’s get to the actual game itself. This was a great game. Was it the best game I have ever seen? No, but it was really good.

A lot can happen in 13 innings of play, so here were the most important things I noticed last night:

  • Does Joe Girardi get paid by the pitching change? I have never seen a manager overmanage like Girardi does. He is so high-strung and uptight that the Yankees win despite him.
  • Can we finally stop talking about Bobby Abreu’s patience at the plate? You can be patient all you want, but at some point you have to hit the ball. Abreu went 0-5 last night and is now 0-9 for the series.
  • Robinson Cano didn’t show up last night. If this guy had a heart, he could be Derek Jeter. Instead he will be more like Nomar Garciaparra. And that wasn’t a compliment.
  • The Angels found out that Brian Fuentes isn’t an October closer. You could see that HR to Alex Rodriguez coming a mile away. You can’t throw the ball right over the plate on an 0-2 count. Terrible pitch
  • Thankfully Jerry Layne’s atrocious call didn’t hurt the Angels. Apparently the neighborhood play applies to every neighborhood except the Bronx. I thought that was going to be the Angels Joe Mauer moment.
  • Vladimir Guerrero is toast. Vlad killed the Angels last night. Every big spot he came up in–he failed. We are definitely seeing Vlad’s last AB’s as an Angel.
  • How great is Mariano Rivera? He has moved into the Albert Pujols category of guys that are so good we don’t appreciate them enough. Greg Maddux was in that category as well.
  • I was really impressed with Joe Saunders last night. Two runs, one walk, and five K’s in seven innings. I didn’t think he had that type of game in him.
  • Why was Gary Mattews Jr. hitting for Mike Napoli? Is Matthews really a better hitter at this point than Napoli? I don’t think so.
  • The Angels’ defense has been horrible in two games. Five errors in two games and it should be six. The ball that dropped between Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar wasn’t technically an error, but it was.
  • Mark Teixeira should be thanking god for Rodriguez. If it wasn’t for Rodriguez’s heroics time after time, the New York media would be killing Teixeira. He is 3-for-22 in the postseason.
  • Can Figgins just pick up the ball? If he just picks up the ball, he nails Freddy Guzman at the plate on that final play of the game.

Hero for Game Two – Alex Rodriguez

Goat for Game Two – Vladimir Guerrero

Series MVP – Mariano Rivera

Game Three is Monday at 4:07 ET. At least kids on the east coast will see the end of this game.

American League Championship Series Preview and Prediction

October 16, 2009

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

Best-of-seven series

Game One: Friday, Oct. 16 7:57 ET. John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Saturday, Oct. 17 7:57 ET. Joe Saunders vs. AJ Burnett

Game Three: Monday, Oct. 19 4:13 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver

Game Four: Tuesday, Oct. 20 7:57 ET. TBD vs. Scott Kazmir

Game Five*: Thursday, Oct. 22 7:57 ET. TBD vs TBD

Game Six*: Saturday, Oct. 24 4:13 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven* Sunday, Oct. 25 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

*If necessary

Prediction: There are a couple of big story lines heading into this series. Can the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs? Who pitches Game Four for the Yankees? And can the Yankees neutralize the Angels running game?

While I don’t have the answers to those questions, here is what I do know–Game One is key to this series. Normally, I feel Game Three is key in a best-of-seven series, but in this case Game One is key.

If the Angels win Game One, they got the Yankees thinking here we go again. And more importantly they’ll get Joe Girardi more wound up than he already is.

Girardi got torched last week on the radio and in the papers in New York about how impatient and high strung he was during the ALDS. And that is when the Yankees swept. Could you imagine if the Yankees lose Game One, what Girardi will be like in Game Two?

The Angels have the right guy going in Game One in Lackey. He looked very impressive against the Red Sox in the NLDS and Lackey is pitching for a contract in 2010. If Lackey can pitch well from here on out, he will earn himself some serious coin this Winter.

Figgins is key for the Angels

Figgins is key for the Angels

The key for the Angels offensively and for the series that matter is Chone Figgins. Can this guy show up in the postseason just once? He is supposed to be their table setter and he has a lifetime .182 avg. in the postseason.

The Angels can’t do what they want to do (run all over the Yankees) if their speed guys don’t get on base. Figgins has to show up this series. It’s a must.

If the Yankees win Game One then it does two things. 1. It puts all the pressure on Joe Saunders in Game Two and 2. Quite simply, it gives the Yankees confidence they can beat the Angels in the postseason.

I like Joe Saunders and he is a nice little pitcher. But would you trust him in a big spot with your season on the line? I wouldn’t. I don’t see the Angels winning Game Two no matter what happens in Game One.

However, if they lose Game One AND Game Two, now they have to win four out of five from the Yankees. That is going to be awfully tough to do.

I think there are two keys for the Yankees in this series. First, they need to get someone else going in the lineup other than Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Overshadowed in the Yankees sweep over the Minnesota Twins, was the fact that Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano didn’t hit at all during the series. The Yankees are going to need a couple of these guys to come through in order to beat the Angels in a seven game series.

Second, this series might just come down to how well CC Sabathia pitches. With the weather concerns in New York (I will get to that in a second) and with the Girardi contemplating going with a three-man rotation, there is a chance Sabathia will pitch three times in this series.

If Sabathia pitches on three days rest, history will be against him. It’s really amazing how the Yankees don’t have a No. 4 starter. They have nobody but themselves to blame for that.

The x-factor in this series is going to be the weather for the first two games of this series. It’s miserable right now in New York. Walking to work this morning it felt like Winter.

It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. If one of these games gets rained out, that clearly favors the Angels. The Angels have their rotation set regardless of the weather. The Yankees don’t.

Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Angels. I think they are in the Yankees’ heads, they are better equiped to play in a long series than the Yankees are, they are drawing inspiration from the Nick Adenhart tragedy, and they clearly have the better manager.

But things are starting to break for the Yankees like they did in the 90’s. You can’t beat the unexplained. There will be a Joe Mauer foul ball or Nick Punto baserunning moment for the Angels in this series.

Yankees in six

MVP – Mariano Rivera