Baseball Lives To See Another Day

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

This is just the second World Series to be played in November and the first to reach 6 games since 2003 when the Florida Marlins finished with their series clinching victory over the New York Yankees. Even before Game 5 of the 2009 World Series, with the New York Yankees holding a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies, this series had already lived up to the hype as being one of the most entertaining World Series in recent memory. Despite a 3-1 lead, this World Series has been full of ups and downs for both teams.

Until 2 late inning offensive outbursts by the Phillies during Game 1, it was a pitching duel between Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia gave up 2 runs on 4 hits over 7 innings to Lee’s 1 unearned run on 6 hits in his complete game victory over the Yankees. That night it was the Yankees bullpen that provided the Phillies with extra runs to seal the win.

Game 2 featured another pitching duel between the Phillies’ Pedro Martinez and Yankees’ A.J. Burnett. In this matchup, it was Burnett who shut down the offense and the Phillies bullpen(or, by decisions made, Charlie Manuel) that failed to keep the game within a run. Burnett was followed up with 2 shutout innings by postseason beast Mariano Rivera.

After two games that showcased dominating pitching for both teams, Game 3 was a more offensive contest that included a comeback win. Following a 90 minute rain delay, the Phillies forced Andy Pettitte to throw a lot of pitches and were able to pull together 3 runs early to go ahead 3-0 after 2 innings. Pettitte recovered and proceeded to mow down the Phillies lineup for 4 innings until a home run in the 6th by Jayson Werth. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels was handling the Yankee lineup until the wheels began to fall off in the 4th inning when he allowed a homerun. The wheels came completely off in the 5th inning when 4 more Yankee hits led to 3 more runs and the early exit by Cole Hamels. The Yankees chipped away at the Phillies bullpen en route to an 8-5 win. The Phillies managed two solo homers in the loss.

Game 4 was, for some, going to be a lopsided win by the New York Yankees. C.C. Sabathia on 3 days rest matched up against Joe Blanton with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel opting against starting the ace, Cliff Lee, on short rest. Blanton(and the defense!) allowed 2 quick runs and Sabathia allowed 1 in the first himself, but both settled down to pitch into 6th and 7th innings. Both bullpens showed their weakness in Game 4. Joba Chamberlain, playing in his second consecutive World Series game, served up a game-tying home run to Pedro Feliz. It not stay a tie game for long, as Phillies closer Brad Lidge had what can only be as a meltdown. After two quick outs, Lidge allowed a single to Johnny Damon. Damon quickly changes the entire scope of the inning with headsup baserunning that resulted in stealing second base and taking third when there was no Phillie covering the base due to the shift put on during Mark Teixeira’s at bat. With Damon on third, Lidge hits Mark Teixeira with a pitch, putting men on first and third with no one out. Alex Rodriguez quickly smokes a double that scores Damon and gives the Yankees the lead. Jorge Posada follows the lead and cranks a single and is tagged out at second base to end the inning, but not before Rodriguez and Teixeira score to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead. Mariano Rivera came on in the bottom of the 9th to close out another win for the Yankees.

Continuing with the team’s approach of using 3 starters in the World Series, the Yankees sent A.J. Burnett to the mound on 3 days rest to face a fully rested Cliff Lee and the Phillies in an potential elimination game. Charlie Manuel had received criticism for not starting his ace on three days rest in Game 4 and, for at least one night, he proved to have made the right decision. Burnett gave up 3 runs in the first and was unable to record an out in the 3rd inning, on his way to a line that included 6 earned runs on 4 hits and 4 walks. In the 7th, Phil Coke allowed 2 solo shots that made the score 8-2 entering the 8th. As both teams have shown with their pitching problems and lineup power, a 6 run lead is not safe in any ballpark. The Yankees chipped away to score 4 runs and came within 2 in the 9th inning before Ryan Madson shut the door for the save.

The questions remain for these two team as they prepare for an off-day before Game 6 on Wednesday night. Should Gaudin pitch, ever? Should Pedro Martinez start Game 6? What about J.A. Happ? Should Gardner start over Hairston, Jr.? Will Robinson Cano and Ryan Howard come out of their slumps? How will both managers decisions impact the outcome? We can’t possibly answer all of these questions. We can acknowledge one thing, however.

The baseball season continues further into November, staving off winter for at least another day.

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