Who Will Be the Phillies' Game 2 Starter?
So, the Philadelphia Phillies want the New York Yankees in the World Series, as I wrote in today's print edition. (An aside, while you click on that link: After 10 1/2 years at The Post, and an estimated 1,200 nights on the road, I'm finding it very strange not to type in the date as part of a story's dateline when I'm on an out-of-town assignment. I guess folks found the dates confusing, which is why the higher-ups did away with it in this latest resdesign. It's a silly little thing, when it comes down to it, but I miss it already.)
Anyway, the Phillies will have to wait to find out if their wish comes true, after the Angels extended the ALCS with a thrilling 7-6 win in Game 5 Thursday night. Chico's 10-day fellowship in southern California during the two league championship series is now over -- he'd better have a good tan when he gets back. I'll be your humble scribe in New York on Saturday for Game 6.
As for the Phillies... I'll be very curious to see whom they choose for the Game 2 assignment in the World Series -- following, of course, ace Cliff Lee in Game 1. As I see it, Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel has four choices (with 2009 postseason stats):
RHP Pedro Martinez: 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K's. Opponents hitting (BA/OBP/SLG): .100/.143/.100.
LHP Cole Hamels: 3 GS, 14 2/3 IP, 20 H, 11 ER, 2 BB, 12 K's. Opp.: .328/.344/.672.
RHP Joe Blanton: 1 GS*, 9 2/3 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K's. Opp.: .256/.293/.436.
LHP J.A. Happ: 1 GS*, 3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K's. Opp.: .353/.500/.412.
(*-In addition to their starts, Happ and Blanton both have made appearances in relief.)
Much like Joe Torre, Manuel tends to favor those players with whom he has been through the battles before, and especially those with whom he has won. This would tend to favor Hamels, who was brilliant during the 2008 postseason, earning MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series. At the start of the playoffs, Lee and Hamels seemed almost interchangeable -- starters 1A and 1B.
And Hamels would be an easy, natural pick for Game 2 of the World Series -- were it not for his messy start Wednesday night in Game 5 of the NLCS. The Phillies have to be concerned with the way Hamels is giving up home runs -- particularly against a Yankees lineup that hit more of them than any other team in the majors.
In addition, Hamels had some pretty extreme home-road splits this season (7-5, 3.66 ERA, an opponents' batting line of .241/.283/.406 at home, versus 3-6, 4.99 and .308/.349/.478 on the road). If I'm the Phillies, I'm saving Hamels for Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park.
As for Blanton and Happ, I love the way Manuel has used them to fortify the Phillies' somewhat vulnerable bullpen this postseason. He can do so again in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, and still choose between them for Game 4 based on that usage.
That leaves one choice. Ah, yes: Pedro.
Sending Pedro Martinez to the mound at Yankee Stadium is going to bring up all sorts of baggage from the past -- his takedown of Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer in 2003, the "Grady Little" game (also in 2003) and his memorable "call them my daddy" comment in 2004. Yankees fans are certain to chant "Who's your daddy?" at Martinez at the first sign of trouble.
But so what? There's no one tougher than Pedro when it comes to that stuff. If I'm the Phillies, Pedro is my guy for Game 2.
Other thoughts for the day:
*Good for Major League Baseball to tweak the World Series umpiring assignments, following a series of badly botched calls this postseason. Bad of MLB to leak it to the AP, rather than announcing it in a press release.
*What has happened to the Yankees' set-up crew? At the start of the postseason, I felt the Yankees' bullpen was a difference-maker. In my mind, they had the seventh and eighth innings in the best shape they've had them since the Jeff Nelson/Ramiro Mendoza/Mike Stanton days (basically 1998-2000). But suddenly, their bullpen has sprung a leak -- which Joe Girardi seemed to acknowledge when he left starter A.J. Burnett in to pitch the bottom of the seventh Thursday night following a 23-minute top half.
And the Yankees' bullpen problem was confirmed when right-hander Phil Hughes, their top set-up man, entered in the seventh and went walk-single-single to essentially lose the game.
*I no longer trust the weather folks, after they missed badly on the forecasts for Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, but they are calling for lots of rain Saturday in New York for Game 6. A rainout, of course, would give the Yankees the option of bringing back ace CC Sabathia on full rest on Sunday, bumping veteran lefty Andy Pettitte. But if you're the Yankees, do you do that?
Not me -- because what if Sabathia loses? Now you're facing an all-hands-on-deck Game 7 against an energized Angels team, and on the mound you've got Pettitte -- who, in the back of his mind, knows you didn't have enough faith to pitch him in Game 6.
Better to keep Pettitte on the mound as scheduled in Game 6, and save Sabathia for either Game 7 of the ALCS or, ideally, Game 1 of the World Series.
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