In yesterday's chat, Bronx Banter's Alex Belth asked me, "Is there any particular pitching match-up that you are looking forward to in the series?" I responded that the matchup I was most looking forward to was between CC Sabathia and Ryan Howard, particularly given the prospect of the big man pitching three times for the Yankees in a seven-game series, and the slugger's less-than-sterling reputation against southpaws. "I think that matchup will tell us something about what's going to happen over the next four to seven games," I wrote.Despite Lee's dominance, the Yankees still had a chance to keep things close. In last night's BP roundtable, I suggested Joe Girardi bring in Mariano Rivera to face Utley and Howard in the seventh inning after Phil Hughes walked both Rollins and Victorino to start the frame given the persistence of Rivera's favorable reverse platoon split due to the break of his cut fastball against lefty hitters. Girardi didn't, because managers don't think like they did twenty or thirty years ago, when they would call their top reliever into a ballgame when they felt it was on the line, regardless of inning. Firemen, they were called, because they were there to put out the fire instead of merely collect the last three outs and the statistical cherry on top, and we wore an onion on our belts as was the style at the time... Check the postseason game logs of Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers; Bob Lemon and Dick Williams weren't afraid to call their numbers early, and that's part of the reason they won championships. In any event, even given the emphasis we place on better bullpen management at BP, at least a few of my colleagues disagreed, both at the time and in retrospect. As Joe Sheehan wrote today, "You're not going to start using Rivera as if he is Dan Quisenberry and we're all hanging out in Lee jeans and Adidas with fat laces." Girardi went to lefty Damaso Marte, who got two outs but allowed Rollins to advance to third on a fly ball to right field. Giriardi again could have called upon Rivera, but no, he went to David Robertson, who spent the first two rounds as the low man on the totem pole. The kid walked Werth to load the bases, then surrendered a two-run single by Ibañez that was essentially the ballgame.
If that's the case, the Yankees are in trouble. Howard stepped to the plate with two out and a man on in the first inning on Wednesday night. Sabathia had gotten quick outs on a Jimmy Rollins bunt and a Shane Victorino popup, and was one strike away from retiring Chase Utley when he suddenly lost the strike zone with three straight balls. Though he got ahead of Howard on a called strike, the slugger roped his second pitch into the right field corner for a double, and Utley might have scored had it not been for Nick Swisher playing the carom perfectly. Sabathia then walked Jayson Werth to load the bases, and only escaped the inning when Raul Ibañez grounded a 3-1 pitch to Robinson Cano to end the threat.
During the first two rounds of the playoffs, Howard went 2-for-11 against lefty pitching, but those two hits were huge, a two-run double off Clayton Kershaw in Game One of the NLCS which expanded the Phillies' lead from 3-1 to 5-1 and chased the struggling southpaw, and a two-run homer off Randy Wolf in the first inning of Game Four. The Phillies as a team got just 14 hits off of lefties during those first two rounds, but seven of them were for extra bases, including five homers, producing an uneven .194/.322/.444 line.
They only got four hits off Sabathia in seven innings, as he settled down after that shaky 27-pitch first frame, but two of those were solo homers by Utley. Which isn't to say Sabathia was all that sharp. In marked contrast to Andy Pettitte's religious devotion to first-pitch strikes in Game Six of the ALCS (20 out of 25), the big man got ahead of just 12 of 27 hitters, at one point starting with ball one to seven hitters in a row, including Utley on his first homer.
The two Utley jacks would have been enough, given how well Cliff Lee pitched for Philadelphia. In this battle of former Indians Cy Young winners who were traded the following summer — Mark Shapiro's worst nightmare, basically — there was never any doubt who had the upper hand. Lee dominated, striking out seven of the first 14 hitters he faced: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira (twice), Alex Rodriguez (twice), Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada. He also made two plays in the field which showed how in control he was, visibly sneering while making a basket catch on a sixth-inning Johnny Damon popup that scarcely forced him to budge from his landing spot, and snaring an eighth-inning Robinson Cano grounder behind his back.
The record shows that Lee only got first-pitch strikes to 16 out of 32 batters, but he went to 0-2 eight times, whereas his opposite number only got there four times. The irony is that Lee also went to 2-0 seven times, while Sabathia only got there five times, and thus ran up his pitch count. There wasn't all that much separating the two pitchers, and over the course of a seven-game series in which the two starters are slated to pitch on three days' rest in their next two turns, it may count in the Yankees' favor that Sabathia, the experienced one in such matters, threw only 113 pitches, while Lee, who's never taken the ball on short rest, threw 122 pitches. Whether or not that's a strike against Charlie Manuel remains to be seen.
Split HR AVG OBP SLG OPS Pitch 1-25 8 .263 .356 .441 .797 Pitch 26-50 5 .249 .330 .378 .709 Pitch 51-75 7 .232 .329 .400 .729 Pitch 76-100 5 .262 .319 .406 .725 Pitch 101+ 0 .174 .371 .174 .545If a personal valet catcher can't prevent that from happening, then what the hell good is he? I guess we'll soon find out.
June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]