Are Yanks in trouble, or just down a game?
It's never a good idea to read too much into Game 1 of the World Series. The classic example from recent history is 1996, when the Atlanta Braves -- the defending champs, no less -- romped to a 12-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. You would've sworn, at that point, the Yankees were finished and the Braves would probably sweep. Um, no. The Yankees won in six.
(And for anyone who thinks Cliff Lee is literally unbeatable, consider that in 1996 the Yankees were throttled by Atlanta's John Smoltz, who went on to win the Cy Young Award that year, in Game 1, but came back to beat him in Game 5 in Atlanta. Yeah, it took a brilliantly pitched, 1-0 victory by Andy Pettitte to do so -- but CC Sabathia, the current Yankees' ace, is perfectly capable of such a thing.)
So the Yankees aren't finished, not by a long shot. At the same time, there are things you have to be concerned about if you're a Yankees fan.
Concern No. 1, without a doubt, is the bullpen. Ask yourself this: If A.J. Burnett manages to hold a lead through six innings Thursday night in Game 2, but then runs out of gas, how will the Yankees bridge the gap between Burnett and Mariano Rivera? Rivera is surely good for six outs in Game 2, but not nine.
Phil Hughes, the Yankees' main set-up man, would seem to be out of the question at this point, after firing fastballs all over the joint and walking the only two batters he faced in Game 2. I'm guessing Hughes doesn't pitch another meaningful inning in this series. He was that bad.
It was odd in Game 1 that Yankees Manager Joe Girardi went the matchup route through the heart of the Phillies' order in the pivotal eighth inning -- Hughes for the top of the lineup, lefty Damaso Marte for lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, then right-hander David Robertson for Jayson Werth -- but then all of a sudden stopped with Raul Ibanez. The situation was screaming for lefty Phil Coke. But Girardi left Robertson in to give up a two-run single. Ballgame.
To answer my own question up there about bridging the gap to Rivera, it may be time to unleash Joba Chamberlain -- who, thus far, has been mainly a supporting actor in this bullpen, but who, with Hughes's profound struggles, may be the Yankees' best hope.
Other thoughts, as we look back at Game 1 and ahead to Game 2:
*Lee is having nothing less than an historic postseason. Here are the pitchers with the lowest ERAs in a single postseason (minimum 20 IP). Note in particular the K/BB rates:
Pitcher (Year and Team) W-L ERA IP BB K
Waite Hoyt (1921 Yankees) 2-1 0.00 27 11 18
Carl Hubbell (1923 Giants) 2-0 0.00 20 6 15
Christy Mathewson (1905 Giants) 3-0 0.00 27 1 18
Kenny Rogers (2006 Tigers) 3-0 0.00 23 7 19
Sandy Koufax (1965 Dodgers) 2-1 0.38 24 5 29
Harry Breechen (1946 Cardinals) 3-0 0.45 20 5 11
Cliff Lee (2009 Phillies) 3-0 0.54 33 1/3 3 30
*I was covering the Baltimore Orioles when Jerry Hairston Jr. was a young, slick-fielding starting second baseman, and I remember him always faring well against Pedro Martinez. Now that Hairston is a utility man on the Yankees, I looked up his career numbers against Martinez, and was not surprised to see he has hit .370 (10 for 27) against him, with two doubles, a triple and three walks. Among active players with at least 30 plate appearances against Martinez, that ranks second only to Jose Guillen (.371).
Might Girardi give Hairston a start in Game 2? The only options would appear to be center field (in place of Melky Cabrera, who is 1 for 5 with two strikeouts lifetime vs. Martinez) or right field (in place of Nick Swisher, 0 for 2 vs. Martinez).
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