Friday, October 30, 2009

Back To Even

For all the complaining that we did about Joe Girardi's managerial decisions before the game, the difference between having not having Jorge Posada and Gardner/Hinske/Swisher in the line up was not that big in terms of run expectancy. When the tires met the road in the Bronx last night, the most critical factor to the Yankees' success was the performance of their starting pitcher.

We had already seen both sides of A.J. Burnett this postseason, the good in the Game 2 of the ALDS & ALCS and the bad out in Game 5 in Anaheim. He was probably the cause for the most concern heading into the game, but the moves Girardi made with the line up temporarily put that aside.

What we got from Burnett last night was his best start of this postseason in the biggest spot he's been asked to pitch. He allowed the Phillies to score first when, after he had recorded two outs, they stacked up a ground rule double by Raul Ibanez and a single by Matt Stairs to go ahead 1-0.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were making Pedro Martinez throw a lot of pitches but not getting much out of it. Through three innings, Pedro had thrown 60 pitches but the Yankees had managed only two baserunners and no runs. Surprisingly, Jose Molina was one of the ones who reached base and did so via a 7 pitch at bat ending in a walk.

Leading off the 4th inning the Yanks finally broke through. Pedro threw Mark Teixeira two back to back change ups - both out of the zone - but Teixeira extended his bat to the second one, reaching out to redirect it into the Yankees' bullpen and tie the game at 1.

Both pitchers continued to deal through the middle innings. After the run in the second inning Burnett shut down the Phillies, allowing only 4 men to reach base in the next 5 innings, one of whom (Jayson Werth) was picked off by a Jose Molina snap throw. He ended with a flourish as he struck out Raul Ibanez and Matt Stairs both looking - the duo who had combined for the Phillies only run - on the way to a 1-2-3 7th inning.

His final line was 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9K. Thanks in part to delivering first pitch strikes to 22 of the 29 batters he faced, Burnett limited his walks and needed 108 pitches to get through those seven frames.

Pedro settled down after the homer from Teixeira and struck out both Teix and A-Rod to begin the sixth inning. Hideki Matsui came to the plate and immediately fell behind 0-2. Still behind 1-2 three pitches later, Matsui swung at a breaking ball well below the strikezone and lifted it out over the right field wall, giving the Yankees their first lead of the World Series.

In between the sixth and seventh inning, FOX showed a shot of Charlie Manuel talking to Pedro in the dugout, seemingly asking him if he was okay to go out to the mound for the 7th inning. He had thrown 99 pitches and given up a home run in the last inning, so it seemed like a good time to yank him. However, Pedro nodded and sure enough, took the mound when the 7th inning began.

First up was Jerry Hairston, Jr., who fell behind in the count 0-2. He took a ball and fouled off three more pitches before chipping a curveball to right field for a single. Melky strode to the plate next and showed bunt on the first pitch. It was just a decoy as the Yanks put on the hit and run and the next one and Melky jerked a single to right of his own.

This brought up Jose Molina's spot in the line up and Posada was called to pinch hit. Manuel, probably trying to avoid a Grady Little-type situation (1st & 3rd, Posada up, leaving Pedro in too long), went to his bullpen for Chan Ho Park. Perdo was obligatorily taunted on his way back to the dugout but put up a respectable performance, striking out 8 in 6 innings while giving up 3 runs, 6 hits and two walks.

Off of Park, Posada notched the third straight single of the inning, driving home a run. Up next, Derek Jeter bunted the first pitch foul and took the next one for a strike. Next, in a move that was certainly not called by the bench, Jeter attempted to bunt with two strikes but it went foul for an out. Why a hitter as good as Jeter would choose to bunt with an 0-2 count there is beyond comprehension. But wasn't the costliest error of the inning to the Yanks.

That would belong to first base umpire Brian Gorman. Against a new pitcher, Scott Eyre, Johnny Damon looped a ball towards an approaching Ryan Howard at first base. At full speed the first time through, I assumed the ball had bounced. I think Ryan Howard did do as it whipped the ball towards second base to try to get the advancing Posada instead if simply walking to first to tag the base. However, Gorman called the ball a catch and the Phillies got a double play. Instead of having the bases loaded with one out, the Yanks were out of the inning.

Since the Yankees only had a two run lead, Mariano Rivera was summoned for another two inning save. The Phillies worked him in the 8th, putting two men on base and making Mo throw 23 pitches despite inducing an inning ending double play to Chase Utley. Replays showed that Utley was safe by a fraction at first. C.B. Bucknor and Phill Cuzzi have already mailed their thank you cards to Gorman.

In the top of the 9th, Rivera allowed a two out double to Ibanez but struck out Matt Stairs swinging to end the game. The Yanks won 3-1 and the terrible managerial decisions before the game and umpiring mistakes within it won't be as tough to swallow. Molina and Hairston both made significant positive contributions. The Yanks didn't need those extra insurance runs. The Series is all square and headed to Philly.


  1. To me, that game was completely about AJ. While I'll still hold my breath every time he takes the mound, last night went a long way towards making me eat a lot of my words.

    I feel like I may be the only one on earth who likes seeing Molina behind the plate with AJ. I know I'm speaking empirically, but AJ put a lot of breaking balls in the dirt last night that Molina handled with near-ease. My faith in Posada as a backstop has waned a bit (even though he only had eight or so PBs in the regular season). Again, it's empirical, but his misadventures in game 1 of the ALDS still weigh heavily in my mind. Don't get me wrong, I love Jorge and don't think its quite time to take him out to pasture, but there are some nights I prefer to see Molina.

  2. I should add that I hate not having any catchers left on the bench when Posada comes in to pinch hit. That terrifies me.

  3. I wouldn't call the Hairston move a terrible managerial decision. What do you have to lose by benching Swisher? He looks dumbfounded at the plate and his defense is par at best. Worst case bringing in Hairston over Nick is you have a wash in performance.

  4. Jimmy,
    I am with you on Molina. AJ's performance is much more important that Posada's bat. With AJ lead the league in wild pitches I would like someone behind the plate that has the ability to stop the ball, which can keep AJ from getting frustrated.

    Also, Nick Swisher is an automatic out at this point and a borderline liability in the field. I have a decent arm, am not scared of the wall in right, and will play for free, so if you're reading this Joe G., shoot me an email.

  5. Jimmy - I'm all for having Jose Molina catch games in the regular season, but when playoff time rolls around and runs become more important, I'd rather see Posada out there. In a single game, a pitcher's success has more to do with him than the guy behind the plate. Ergo, I want to see the best offensive option out there.

    Anon - I called it a terrible decision last night before the game happened so I'm not going to change my tune now since it more or less worked out. It's not just that Girardi benched Swisher, but he openly said he was basing it on the fact that Hairston had success against Pedro in the past but his last AB against him was in 2004. That's not even close to relevant.

    In lieu of Swisher, I wanted to see Gardner in center and Melky in right so there would be a significant defensive at the two positions where the most balls were likely to be hit with a RHP against a line up with good LHBs.

  6. For all the complaining, I thought both moves worked out well. Hairston did get a hit and it lead to a run scored. Molina caught, threw out a runner, helped to fix Burnett's mechanics on the fly when he first went to the slide step, Burnett pitched great. Got to give this one to Girardi.

  7. Just because it worked doesn't mean it was the right decision

    I'll tip my cap to Molina and Hairston; both made positive contributions last night. But unless Girardi's stashing a crystal ball in his office, he couldn't possibly know that playing these two ahead of superior players was the right move to make.

  8. superb World Serious snap throw by Molina!