You know that old baseball cliche, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. If you’re the Phillies, I think you’re feeling pretty good. I mean, go back to Pedro Martinez’ first start last week in the Bronx. Was it that bad of a performance? I don’t think it was. The guy went 6 innings and allowed 3 runs while striking out 8…in New York…that’s not too shabby for a 38 year old (so says the 41 year old typing this thing).
From the Yankees perspective, you know what you’re going to get out of Andy Pettitte. Or do they? I can’t imagine what it’s like to pitch on three-days rest in a World Series. The reality of the situation is that you can never tell what you’re going to be featuring on a particular night, especially on short rest. The mind and body might be telling you one thing but until you get out on the mound, you have no idea of what you have at “game speed”…and I think that’s what happened with AJ Burnett the other night and may even happen to Pettitte tonight. The one thing Pettitte has going for him (unlike Burnett) is the fact he has post-season experience and moxy. If Pettitte doesn’t have his “best” stuff early, he’ll be able to make adjustments on the fly and attempt to work through it. And that’s something, I believe, Burnett is still trying to figure out how to do.
So what does Game 6 boil down to? For the Phillies, I think it’s going to come down to Shane Victorino (.167 in World Series) finally getting on base as well as Ryan Howard AND Raul Ibanez figuring out left-handed pitching. Victorino, in the Series, has looked like an impatient guy at the plate, chasing pitches out of the zone in order to force the issue…that’s not his game. As far as Howard and Ibanez, both guys have pulled off lefties the entire series. And in the specific case of Howard, I think that game 1 against C.C. Sabathia really sent him into a tail-spin that he’s currently in.
For the Yankees…it boils down to Pettitte working at least 6 innings and try to shorten the game as much as possible so that Mariano Rivera can get in the game in the 8th inning…if not sooner (yes, I’m throwing that out there). On the offensive side, Martinez was extremely effective throughout with his changeup. Pedro knows how to pitch and he did throw everything and the kitchen sink at the Pinstripers in Game 2, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make adjustments and that’s what Yankee hitters will need to do as well.
Even with all of this, Martinez will be on a short leash…obviously. If the Yankees can put the hammer on Martinez early in this game, it’s going to be a long night for the Phillies. Conversely, if the Phillies continue to swing the bats like they did against Burnett on Monday night, that whole momentum thing could really continue to mount and make things extremely interesting in this World Series.
Conclusion…I think we’re going to Game 7 (my bad, I’m a sucker for the baseball dramatic).
* The Tampa Bay Rays traded Akinori Iwamura to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday and in return they received reliever Jesse Chavez. Iwamura is slated to earn $4.25 million in what is an option year of his contract. The interesting thing I realized in looking up Iwamura’s contract information on the web is the fact there’s supposedly a clause in there that stipulates the Rays (and I would imagine it’s the Pirates now) sign him to an extension by the end of the deal or release him, effectively granting him free agency early. If true and the Pirates don’t extend him, I would assume it looks like a one year deal because that clause precludes the Bucs from offering arbitration. Interesting to say the least.
* There were multiple reports out of Texas on Tuesday stating that the Texas Rangers were on the verge of naming former Rockies manager, Clint Hurdle, as their new hitting coach. The Rangers have talked with four candidates for the job (Rusty Greer, Thad Bosley, Gerald Perry and Clint Hurdle) and all of them are more than qualified for the position. The one thing I will say on behalf of Clint Hurdle (especially now that I’ve had a chance to work with him at MLB Network) is that he’s an incredibly astute baseball man who’s been a manager and hitting coach throughout baseball. I think he’d be a great addition to any club that would want his services as he’s a terrific blend of old/new school thinking.
* Sticking on the coaching front…the Detroit Tigers have three candidates to choose from as they look for a replacement for Andy Van Slyke, the former big league outfielder who had served as Jim Leyland’s first base coach. Why is this on my blog? Because of the three candidates listed, one is my brother. That’s right people, the new Tigers 1B coach will come from the pool of Tom Brookens, Gene Roof or MIKE ROJAS. My bro’s been with the Tigers for several years now and is currently their Minor League Field Coordinator. The guy’s managed at every level in minor league baseball and I think this would be a fantastic move for him should he get the job.