AJ Burnett was sensational as he kept the Phillies to one run in game 2 of the World Series last night in the Bronx. Pedro Martinez pitched well but was unable to hold the Yankees offense silent to a second night in a row. The Bombers took a while to score some runs but they got there eventually and came out with an important game 2 victory.
The “Who’s your daddy” chants throughout the stadium did not seem to take any effect on Pedro as he had the Yankees guessing early on. He and AJ Burnett seemed to match each other inning after inning. It was in the fourth inning when Mark Teixeira finally got to Pedro and took one for a ride to left field. In the sixth inning, Hideki Matsui took another Martinez pitch out to right field with a gold-like swing. Jorge Posada also pitched in with an RBI in the seventh after pinch hitting for Jose Molina. Last night did not show much offense, but the way Burnett pitched last night, it was enough.
The commentators for Fox’s World Series coverage continue to say that AJ Burnett’s curveball is the best in the game… if it is right. That’s the whole key. We have seen Burnett struggle a lot this season when he had a tough time getting his curveball and other key pitches to work. But last night his curveball truly was the best in the game as he made Phillies batters look in awe of the movement. And when they decided to try and hit it… they missed. Simple as that. Burnett also provided a solid 95 mph fastball that kept hitters honest. His two seemer seemed to be getting the best of the Phillies batters as well. It proved this early in the game when he got Shane Victorino to strike out looking at a two seemer that came right back over the inside part of the plate. Burnett’s sensational performance last night has kept the Yankees in this series.
These next three games on the road will be crucial for both teams. The Phillies have a great home record but the Yankees can’t be counted out for anything. The Yankees NEED to win a game on the road and hope to bring the series back to New York. If they can get the series back to New York and keep the Phillies at bay, then the Yankees will take this World Series and add the trophy to the other 26.
Game 3’s starters are Andy Pettitte, who was huge in the ALDS and ALCS for the Yankees, and Cole Hamels, last years NLCS MVP. This matchup, to me, is the most intriguing of the three big pitching matchups for this series. Pettitte has been pitching in the postseason since he put on his pinstripes it seems and has had a lot of success. Cole Hamels has only seen on playoff and has succeeded in it as well. Both are excellent pitchers with good stuff that can be tricky for opposing hitters to get to. They both have great minds for the game and can really help their respective teams. This game will hopefully have some more offense in an even friendlier offensive park than Yankee STadium (Citizen’s Bank Park) but the pitchers will both still have solid performances.
The phenomenon that was the Philadelphia bullpen seems to have been forgotten as the Phillies’ ‘pen closed out the NLCS against the Dodgers last night with a 10-4 victory. The Phillies, the defending world champions, went into the postseason with probably the most inconsistent bullpen of the eight playoff teams. Brad Lidge, who was about as solid a closer as there was last year, had struggled over the course of the regular season with blown saves, bad decision making and incosistency. This was a big worry as many skeptics came about believing the Phillies would fall due to their bullpen. Those skeptics have been silenced for the time being as the Phillies bullpen has been nearly flawless throughout this postseason.
Last night’s picture of Brad Lidge pumping his fist is reminiscent of last season’s fist pumping as he closed out the World Series. Well, with only one more series to win, we could well be seeing this again very soon. But then again, we can’t forget about the Yankees.
The Yanks are on the verge of clinching a trip to the world series. With their ALCS lead, the Yanks are one win away to making one step closer to their 27th World Championship in franchise history. With phenominal pitching, the most explosive offense in the league and a consistent and solid bullpen, the Yankees are definitely the team to beat. The Phillies are a fantastic group of baseball players with some outstanding athletes up and down their roster, but the Yankees really have a group of guys that can match up with the best teams in the history of the MLB. If the Yankees beat the Angels today in their game five of the ALCS, they will advance onto the World Series and will create a matchup that is definitely not worth missing. Here’s a look at how the Yanks and Phils will matchup assuming the Yankees defeat the Angels. (No offense to the Angels of any Angels fans out there but it certainly looks as if the Yankees are going to advance to the World Series).
The two leadoff batters are certainly two guys that can lead off a game with big hit, spark a rally, or make a key defensive play. Both veterans of the league, Jeter and Rollins will top off the top two lineups in baseball.
Jeter has been a number two hitter most of his career and isn’t your typical leadoff hitter. Now, I’m not saying it’s like a usual number four hitter batting leadoff but more like a number two guy batting first. Jeter is definitely capable of producing in the leadoff spot, I’m mean look at his stats from this year. Joe Girardi’s decision to move Johnny Damon to the second spot in the lineup and move Jeter up one has proven successful as they have put up some staggering numbers.
Jimmy Rollins on the other hand is your typical leadoff guy. A guy that can get on base, run and score runs with ease. That’s what you generally think of in a leadoff guy. Not that Jeter can’t do that but Rollins fits the profile better due to the way the Phillies offense runs. Rollins came up with a big hit late in game 4 against the Dodgers where he drove in the winning run from first to pu the Phils up 3-1 in the series. J-Rol is clearly a great guy to start off your lineup with.
Johnny Damon, as I stated already, was moved down to the second spot in the lineup by Joe Girardi at the beginning of the season. The main reason for this was to let Jeter do his magic with his bat and let Damon, who can hit for power, hit in a more key spot with guys on base. Now, again, this swop can go either way but it has obviously worked out the way it is currently. Damon can hit for power, drive some guys in, and can still run better than most people think he can. Watch out for Damon, you don’t really want to underestimate him.
“The Flyin’ Hawaiin” Shane Victorino has been a solid force at the second spot in the Phillies lineup for years now. The switch hitter can hit well from both sides of the plate, can generate some power (as shown last night when he hit a bomb to left field) and can really run. This guy can really carry a team with his speed because with the guys following him in the lineup, he will most likely get to score some runs. With his speed, he can easily get into scoring position to make it easier on the guys following him.
To me, this is the most intriguing matchup of any of the players on either roster. Mark Teixeira can field, hit and has a great smile. Chase Utley, exactly the same. Both guys can hit, field and are just a great presence on their respective squads. I can’t really compare them any further, they are just so similar.
Two guys with a lot of power and good gloves at their respective positions fill up the middle of the lineup. Ryan Howard is a powerful guy that probably doesn’t think anything other than homer when coming up to the plate. Alex Rodriguez has had a great career and his play this postseason has been a sight for sore eyes. He has been phenominal. Rodriguez may have a better glove than Howard, but Howard is the next power hitting phenomenon that will hit the MLB. Rodriguez went under that category when he came up with the Mariners and now the likes of Howard, Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval fit that list. These two will most certainly fill a very very important role in this series.
I honestly have to give the advantage to the Phillies and Jayson Werth in this matchup. Nothing against the long time Yankee but the fact that Jayson Werth can consistently hit for a lot of power and has driven in more runs than Posada, Werth has the advantage. Posada has been such a key to the Yankees for so long. A great pitch caller who has always called great games for Yankee pitchers. He has had his great offensive games and he has had his tough ones, just like every baseball player ever to live. This matchup right now goes to Werth but just wait and see, Posada will still play a key part in this sereis.
Again, Ibanez and Matsui are a great matchup of players in the lineup. Ibanez can still play the outfield whereas Matsui has had a bad knee keeping him from playing the field. This isn’t all that big of a deal since we have had plenty of guys fill in with quality games and very successful seasons. His bat is still going and he may be getting old, but he still has plenty in his tank to put in his two cents for this series.
Ibanez has surprised everyone in the league this year with his outstanding outbreak in offensive production. He opened the season with some great power but over the season it has decreased in power. He still has a lot of power and can go off any tme which makes him so dangerous. Both these guys can go off on you and can really hurt an opposing pitcher. Watch out Phillies and Yankees pitching.
Alright, sorry I couldn’t finish today but I’ll get the rest of my matchup analysis tomorrow. Stay tuned.
CC Sabathia was absolutely brilliant last night against the Angels and led the Yanks to a game one victory. It’s always important to get the first game victory to get the momentum in your direction so hopefully this is a good sign for success in this series. The next we’ll see of Sabathia will be in game four when he makes his second appearance on three days rest. It’ll be interesting to see how that all goes down but for now on, back to Sabathia’s brilliance.
He went 8 innings giving up four hits, one walk and one run while striking out seven. He was probably the best I’ve seen him in a while now. And that is saying something because he is definitely in the Cy Young considerations. He was great.
The offense was able to get a few breaks since the usually really good Angels defense made three errors which cost them dearly. THe one that probably hurt them the most was the one where Matsui hit a pop up right in between Chone Figgins and Eric Aybar and it just dropped without either one trying to catch it. The Angels really had a tough game last night but the Yankees did their part in making sure the Angels offense didn’t get very far. That was why CC was so important last night. It is all going to go down to pitching. Like I said in my last post.
On the offensive side of things, there wasn’t any one person that had a terrific game. They did their job without doing anything huge. No homers, which was due to the fact that the wind was blowing strongly into the f ield, and they just got on base and scored runs as simply as it gets. Simple baseball. Not too exciting but it was still a great game. A big win for the Yanks and the momentum is definitely going their direction to start this series.
Tonight, AJ Burnett goes against Joe Saunders. For Yankee fans, the biggest question is this: which AJ Burnett will show up?
The Yankees just keep on rolling and to be completely honest, I think it will take a lot more than the effort the Twins gave last night to stop the Bombers.
CC was absolutely phenominal. I can’t say enough about it. He pitched 6 2/3 solid innings and he was just about as good as he has been all year. This win shows that despite being denied 20 wins on the season that he is still about as good as they get. With 8 K’s and only one earned run, I officially summarize this game for the Yanks as domination.
CC wasn’t the only successful Yankee last night. Far from it in fact. Let’s start with the Captain. Mr. November just picked up where he left off in the regular season and completely dominated Twins pitching. He was 2-2 with a homer, three runs scored, and two RBI’s. An outstanding performance from the captain was just the beginning of the successt the Yankees had last night.
Hideki Matsui surely showed that he still deserved the nickname “Godzilla” and belted a homer in the fifth. He finished the game having gone 1-3 with that homer and he also drew a walk.
A-Rod went 2-4 wtih two RBI’s and a run scored and he played a solid third base as well. Nick Swisher also drove in a run to add to the Yankees’ success. Another thing I’d like to add about Swisher is how important his clubhouse presence has been all season. Every team should have at least one guy like this. Someone to keep everyone going and to keep spirits up. The jokester on the team, the prankster. Swisher definitely filled that roll this year with the Yankees and I am really grateful of that.
When the game finally rolled into the ninth inning, it looked as if the game was done with. The Twins had no chance. They weren’t even gonna come close to scoring at all…
-Now with the way I just said all that it seems like I’m going to say that they came back and won the game. Yeah right. Not on Mo’s watch.
Mariano Rivera pitched as spectacularly as he has all year. Another great performance that left the Twins scratching their heads. He let up one hit and one walk but other than that he was fantastic striking out two.
The great thing about Mo is that he does all of this with only one pitch. His cutter, which wasn’t originally a cutter, has gotten the job done over his career unlike any other pitcher’s pitch in history has. That story was in Sports Illustrated recently and it was one of the best articles I have read in a while. Mo is one of a kind.
With the opening game win in the books, the Yanks have one day off before they send AJ Burnett out to face off against Nick Blackburn.
-By the way doesn’t Blackburn and Joe Mauer look really similar or is it just me?
Well, I’m pretty sure that Burnett has the advantage in this one but Blackburn is still a quality pitcher. The Twins may have some chance… possibly… maybe a little… Yeah right, I’m just joking. The Yankees are going to win this one as they did the first one.
He can get on base in a variety of ways
He can field second base with the best of them
He and Derek Jeter are the best double play team in the bigs
And Robinson Cano has developed into a legitimate power threat
The Bronx Bombers are exactly that… a group of dudes who where pinstripes and go yard a lot. I mean, this year, the Yankees have six guys with at least 20 homers on the season. Teixeira, Damon, Matsui, Swisher, Cano, and Rodriguez. This is a Major League best and it just shows how the Yankees play the game of baseball. Now, I know everyone will speculate that the reason the Yankees have so many home runs is because of that right field fence. But the dimensions are the same from the old stadium. It is really no different than the old stadium but because of the power surge, people are thinking that the right field fence is the reason so many baseballs have left the playing field in Yankee Stadium.
Cano has evolved as a very good second baseman that can play the field and can hit in a variety of ways. He can hit for power and go yard, or he can get on base with a single of maybe a double down the line or in the gap. Cano has really developed into a good hitter who can take his pitches and get on base by way of the walk. This is a really powerful thing when a batter can take pitches and allow the opposing pitcher to walk him. It’s a free base and it requires nio work on behalf of the batter. Most of you who read my blog a lot would know by now that I hate walks with a passion. But that is only if the Yankees’ pitchers walk opposing batters. If Yankee batters are the ones being walked, I love the walk. Check out how good they are here:
Since Cano has been up in the big leagues, he has partnered with Derek Jeter to become one of the best double play teams in the Major Leagues. Derek Jeter has been doing it for years and now Cano has made this duo a great thing to watch. It really is amazing how quickly and accurately these two guys turn two. Jeter does a great job of getting to the ball. He really takes advantage of his range at short. He gets the ball to Cano pretty quickly and then Cano, who is the most important part of this duo, catches the ball and basically misdirects it towards first. It is that fast. I’m almost 100% sure that Cano is the fastest double play turner in the Majors. I’ve never seen anyone even close to it. It’s amazing.
Cano doesn’t have a ton of speed but he runs the basepaths like a true professional. You rarely see him make a mistake on the paths; he always knows when to go and when to hold up. He does have some speed and will use it if he really needs to get to the next base. You won’t go to a Yankees game and expect to see Cano attempt to steal second. It’s just not something the Yankees try to do with Cano. It’s alright since the Yankees aren’t a running team. They rely on power and just pure hitting. And they can get away with it too since they have the talent to do it.
I have begun to really like Cano over the past couple years. He is really turning into a true pinstriper. He’s great to watch and he is becoming more and more of an important hitter in the Yankees lineup. Yeah, he’s batting fifth or sixth most of the time but that’s because they have other guys filling in the top of the order and that puts him in the middle to the backend of things. That just shows how great the Yankees are. Cano recorded his fourth career walk off hit on August 12th against the Jays. With the game tied at three in the 11th inning, Cano sent a shot to right center field that just missed being a homer. It hit off the wall and scored Alex Rodriguez from second. Cano has become a huge force in the Yankees’ lineup and will continue to improve with experience.
Well, before I get to the Yankees-Red Sox recap, I’ve got to let my thoughts be heard on a few other things that happened yesterday around the MLB.
Most baseball fans know Chase Utley. The second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s got that good defensive record, a strange power source from a second baseman, and a great mind for the game. Yeah, him. But he wasn’t playing in Sunday’s matchup between the Phils and Mets. Eric Bruntlett filled in for him and made his presence known in an unusual way. In a game that had so many unusual scenarios, Bruntlett made a play that only one other person has done before. But that was just the end of everything that happened yesterday.
The Phils scored six runs in the top of the first off of Oliver Perez. But Perez didn’t make it out of the first inning. He was facing Pedro Martinez, who was making his return to NY after being cut by the Mets this past off-season. Pedro had a 3-0 count and manager Jerry Manuel came out to pull Perez. An unusual happening. A pitcher getting pulled in the middle of an at bat. Strange.
Well, the Mets eventually got out of the inning. Then they had a little fun of their own. To lead off the bottom half of the inning, Angel Pagan hit a shot to the left center gap that sent Shane Victorino running to the wall. The ball got wedged under the wall and Victorino thought he could get away with calling it as a double. But the umps didn’t think it that way. The umps didn’t make the call and the left fielder picked it up and threw it in. This whole time, Pagan had been running the bases and wound up with an inside the park homer. The ball was wedged underneath the wall but it wasn’t so badly wedged that it would take some work to get it out and that it should have been a double. The umps made the right call. Strange.
Later in the game, Jeff Francoeur, the Mets’ right fielder, made a great sliding catch to rob Eric Bruntlett of all people of a base hit. At first the umps called Bruntlett safe as he went on to third as Francoeur was unaware of the call. Then the umps met and reversed the call after both Francoeur and Jerry Manuel argued the call. It was another crazy moment that was obviously a catch when the replay showed it. Strange.
Now, the biggest highlight of the game was Bruntlett’s play in the bottom of the ninth which ended the game. With runners on first and second, Jeff Francoeur (there seems to be a recurring theme of players being involved in multiple strange plays) stepped up to the plate. He hit a liner with a full count up the middle. With the runners in motion, Bruntlett had been moving to cover second base. The ball was hit right to him on a line. He snagged it, tagged second base, and tagged David Murphy who was on first at the start of the play. An unnasissted triple play to end the game, the first in the NL history, second in MLB history. Strange.
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OK so back to the Yankees-Red Sox game. Last night, the aces of the two clubs faced off in the rubber match of the series. It was set to be a great pitcher’s duel, as was Beckett’s and Burnett’s not to long ago. And it was a really good game. The Yankees opened up the game with two runs early. The first was on a Derek Jeter solo shot and the second on Hideki Matsui’s first shot of the night which was also a solo shot. The Yankees scored two more runs on the Red Sox in the third inning, neither on homers. Then, Robinson Cano homered in the fourth, and A-Rod homered in the fifth to drive in two more. Matsui hit the final Yankee homer in the eighth which was another solo shot. A home run barrage, as Yankees.com puts it, lit up the sky in Boston as the Yanks rolled to an 8-4 victory. Sweet Sweet Victory.
The Red Sox did score four runs but CC kept them at bay most of the night. The Yankees did jump on top early and that was a big advantage for them as the game went on. The Red Sox tied the score in the second but the Yankees went back ahead and never looked back. The Sox didn’t leave the yard once in the game, surprisingly. The lack of the long ball in a game dominated by the long ball is probably what did the Red Sox in.
CC finished the game with eight strikeouts as all his stuff was dominant. Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera were successful out of the ‘pen as they finished the game off. Beckett finished with five K’s on the night, not bad. He also gave up all five homers though. Not good.
So let’s take a look back at the series that was. Game One:
The Yankees score 20 runs against Brad Penny and the REd Sox. Another terrible outing for Penny who would later be pulled from the starting rotation to make room for Wakefield who is coming back soon. Another home run happy game sent many bombs flying through the Boston sky. The Red Sox had their fair share of runs too. They just weren’t able to make up for what the pitching let up. Too bad. They scored 11 runs.
The Red Sox stole the Yankees’ thunder for game two as they burst out with another 14 runs compared to the
Yankees’ Nick Swisher’s single run. Swish hit a solo shot to left to score the only run for the Yanks on the day. A very disappointing loss for the Yanks and a touche to the REd Sox was all that was in me for Saturday.
Then came game three which I just talked about. A very exciting series that was truly a back and forth one. Great to watch and I’m sure, as always, it was great to play in for both teams. No fights broke out which was good for the teams. I don’t think either could afford losing anyone right now, especially the Red Sox who are in the Wild Card race and don’t have that big of a lead anymore. It was a clean series that was fun to watch as a fan. Especially since the Yankees won.
Hey, would you look at that… the Yankees and Red Sox are tied for first at the top of the AL East. It was as simple as that. The Yankees sweep the Tigers and continue to play well against the Orioles. At the same time, the Red Sox are slumping and all of a sudden the Yankees are right back at the top of the East. All we need is one more win and another Red Sox loss and we’ll be the sole leader of the division. It’s great. Well, last night’s victory is much thanks to Hideki Matsui (aka “Godzilla”).
Matsui stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at one. Jim Johnson on the mound, was looking to put the game into extras. But I think Matsui had different ideas. Early in the at bat, Matsui breaks his bat, leaving a small section from the bottom of the bat in Matsui’s right hand. It was a strange looking swing too, I might add. But he got a new bat and stepped back up to the plate. With his new bat, Matsui swung at a fastball middle in and demolished it to the right center bleachers. Right off the bat the crowd at Yankee Stadium erupted as they knew that “Godzilla” had returned. Matsui was regarded as “Godzilla” while in Japan as he hit many long home runs with a ton of power. The only thing about his nickname when he came to the Yankees is that the home run power wasn’t as dominant as it was in Japan. The name “Godzilla” wasn’t used very often but in times like this when he hits a walk off or even just a bomb here and there, “Godzilla” is the name of choice for Yankee fans.
Other than Matsui’s late game jack, defense played a huge part in this game. Mark Teixeira grounded a ball off the bat of Nick Markakis and fielded it a little bit awkwardly. He threw a sort of off balanced throw to Jose Molina at home and Molina, who had the wrong foot blocking home plate, swung his glove around in time to tag out the speedy Maicer Izturis. (Izturiz, who was on first when a hit and run was put on, ran with the pitch and slid into second, not knowing Brian Roberts had hit the ball. He then got up and started a slow walk back to first thinking the ball may be caught. When it wasn’t, he ran over to third but that is as far as he got. He should have scored but his baserunning error cost him and the O’s). Another great play at the plate came from Molina as well as Phil Coke who was on the mound. Now, usually a past ball is not a good thing but this one turned into a good thing. Coke threw one in the dirt and Molina went back to get it as the very speedy Brian Roberts was heading home. He threw to Coke who was covering the plate and Coke tagged out Roberts who never even touched the plate. Two amazing plays at the plate saved the tie for the Yankees and the game went into the ninth. You have to see the video because you can’t really understand how great these plays were. Here’s the link to the video.
So, the Yankees played a great overall game. Offensively, they were a little slow. The only run before Matsui’s homer was on an Eric Hinske homer. Same on the other side of the field. Only a Nick Markakis homer put the O’s on the board. So, other than the home runs, there was pretty much no offense on either side.
Pettitte pitched pretty well. He didn’t get the win though and that’s unfortunate since he deserved the win. The rest of the pitching was good as well. Aceves got the win as he pitched the ninth before Matsui’s homer. Here’s therest of the box score.
P.S. How ’bout that Kevin Millwood. Not only did he pitch great enough to stop the Red Sox, but he made two crazy snags against Dustin Pedroia who hit them right back to the mound. One he caught with his glove, but the second he snagged it with his bare hand. Very impressive.