World Series Preview
October 27, 2009
Brad Lidge was quite serviceable in Philadelphia's series win over Los Angeles, but it hardly mattered as the Phillies' offense never stopped hitting. In the American League, the Yankees, as expected, bested the Angels thanks to veteran moxie by Andy Pettitte and great series by Alex Rodriguez.
The two best teams remain, and despite playing in different leagues, their team makeup is much the same. Who will prevail in this matchup destined for some November magic? The Commish breaks it down and gives you the winner below.
Philadelphia vs. New York
It's amazing how similar these teams have become as the season has progressed. New York starts its lineup with two hitters more than capable of taking over leadoff duties while still possessing a power threat. Philadelphia matches the feat perfectly with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, proving the effect with Shane's 3 postseason home runs. After that, it's nonstop hitting on both sides.
So far, the Yankees have opted to go with speed on the bench while the Phillies have preferred having an extra left handed hitter on the bench because of the increased chances for pinch hitting duty in NL games. You can be sure both Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel will adjust accordingly for the World Series.
On the mound, both teams boast a former Cleveland ace (Sabathia, Lee), a pitcher who is comfortable with World Series success (Pettitte, Hamels), and a closer with the ability to handle a pressure situation (Rivera, Lidge). Depth of starting pitching is a concern on both sides, while the middle relief should be solid, although New York's duo of Chamberlain and Hughes have struggled lately.
Here's the way I see it in a nutshell: the Angels cost the Phillies the World Series by failing to force Sabathia into pitching a Game 7 in the ALCS. Instead, he will match up against Cliff Lee to start the series and negate the one big asset Philadelphia has going for itself. If Sabathia was relegated to starting Game 2 or 3 and only held to a maximum of 2 games in the series, I could see Philadelphia taking the early series lead and hanging on in 6 or 7 games. Instead, it will play out like this:
The teams will split the first 2 games in New York with Pedro Martinez doing just enough the help the Phillies win Game 2. In a twist, the Yankees will take 2 of the next 3 games in Philadelphia with Andy Pettitte pitching well but the bullpen getting the win in Game 3 while Rivera nails down the save. New York will then finish out the series at home in Game 6. The game will be decided by 2 runs, but with Rivera closing out the game, it will feel like a 5-run lead. Of the first 5 games, I see each team winning once in a route, with the other 3 games being close battles. Despite the success of Sabathia and Lee, hitters like Howard, Teixeira, Utley, and A-Rod will not disappoint.
While the matchup is about as even as it can get, I don't see the series going 7 games because Mariano Rivera is just too valuable a commodity to be on the losing side at this point. With at least 2 days off (and possibly more depending on the weather), Girardi will have Rivera at his disposal whenever he needs him, and likely for more than just 1 inning if the situation arises.
If Philadelphia is to win this series, they must score early and get deep starts or stellar middle relief. Any game in which the Phillies enter the 8th inning with a deficit is likely a lost cause, even with the solid lineup on paper. With Sabathia pitching 2 of the first 4 games and A-Rod as hot as ever, I'm having a hard time finding a logical reason for Philadelphia to be leading in at least 4 games heading into the late innings. Of course, one blown save by Rivera can turn the tide in the series (see 2001 World Series), but right now all the cylinders are firing on MLB's best team, so it's hard to pick against them.
Prediction: New York in 6