Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why, Joe? (musing on World Series Game 5)

It's generally agreed upon that Yankees no.2 pitcher AJ Burnett is erratic even on full-rest. So, with that in mind—and having already pitched a stellar game in this World Series, making it a bit unlikely to do it back-to-back—why would he be effective on 3 days rest? Because he did it last year but not since? Not good enough a reason to make him your starter for Game 5, Joe.

With the Yankees up 3-1 in the Series, I was hoping no.4 pitcher Chad Gaudin would get the start and then have the bullpen get some work when he ran out of gas. No! Can’t count on Gaudin! He’ll get lit up! Well, that’s what happened anyway, except it was AJ who couldn’t get out of the third inning, and consequently now they have Andy Pettite—who is due to pitch Game 6—on 3 days rest instead of a rested Burnett for Game 6. (And let's not forget: the Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, if needed for Game 7, will also pitch on 3 days rest.)

Since the decision to pitch AJ Monday night was dumbfounding—especially vs Phillies ace Cliff Lee and with the Yankees' Monday night lineup resembling the Tigers more than the Bombers due to the practically non-existent hitting of the bottom 5 hitters, AJ had to be lights-out dominant—I was hoping Joe G had something up his sleeve. I mean, not one analyst, announcer, former player, sports talk show host or fan I came across agreed w/Joe’s decision—they all predicted tonight’s sorry outcome and the subsequent 3 day-rest situation—so maybe Joe knew something no one else did.

Um, nope.

So, what was it, then? A complete and utter lack of faith in Gaudin, even in a game you could afford to lose in order to give your no.2 pitcher an extra day, so he could get full rest? Blind faith in Burnett? Whatever it was, it backfired. Big time.

It’s plain to see Gaudin was never in Joe G's plans. But aside from his inconsistency, AJ is not great on the road. Pettite, meanwhile has not gone on 3 days rest in years. And was, supposedly, lit up when he did. (This was w/the Astros.) He's also, as we know, 37 years old. Is Joe G counting on Pettite's experience and tough competitive spirit to get him thru Game 6? Probably. Let's hope he's right.

Regarding the offense: despite AJ blowing it, Yankees reliever Phil Coke really put the Bombers in a hole by giving up the 2 solo HRs which were ultimately the proverbial nails in the coffin. The offense made a valiant effort late in the game and got within 2 runs, making it an 8-6 ballgame. But if there was ever an example of 2 hitters in different mindsets it was Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, respectively, in the 9th: Johnny battled, extended his 2 out, 0-2 at bat to get a hit; Tex struggled mightily and swung at repeated bad pitches, ending the game with a win for the Phillies.

Sure, those guys—mainly Tex and Robinson CanĂ³—are pressing.
They know their team has the lead in the Series despite their lack of production. Last night, with the lineup Joe G put out there, only no.s 1, 2, and 4 were of concern to the Phillies. I mean, why would you pitch to the super-clutch Alex Rodriguez knowing full well there was NO PROTECTION whatsoever for him, with the next 5 hitters a non-factor. (Until catcher Jorge Posada was finally brought in to pinch hit and the pitcher's turn came up, as well.)

As a matter of fact, if the Phillies had lost last night, I firmly believe Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would've been the goat for letting Lee pitch to A-Rod in the 8th and giving up a 2-run double.
The Yankees got very far in that game, considering the circumstances. Which is reason for hope Wednesday night. I have a feeling a big, offensive Game 6 is in the cards. Let's hope the Bombers are on the winning side of it.

Oh, and before I forget: taking 2 out of 3 in Philly was awesome.

Wednesday in The Bronx, it is, then...