Thursday October 29th, 2009

1. The narrative has changed for New York Game 2 starter A.J. Burnett. He now gets the ball for his first World Series start knowing that the Yankees don't want to head to Philadelphia down two games to none. It's not a must-win situation for the Yankees, but ... In best-of-seven World Series play, the visiting team has won the first two games 14 times. Those teams went on to win the series 11 of those 14 times.

Don't worry too much about the mindset of Pedro Martinez, though. It will be great theatre with Martinez getting the ball for Philadelphia. "We expect him to respond to the big moment," pitching coach Rich Dubee said, "the way he did in Los Angeles."

Martinez has been relaxed, confident, talkative and fairly reflective in the previous two days. It seems as if he understands he does not know how many more of these big moments that he will ever get, and he is relishing this opportunity. He seems very comfortable about getting the ball at Yankee Stadium in Game 2, with only that game in Los Angeles, in which he threw seven shutout innings, as his only work in the past 28 days.

2. New York flustered Cliff Lee. No, not the Yankees, who, for the first time all year, could not knock a left-handed starter out of a game. It was the New York traffic that caused the most trouble for the Phillies ultra-cool left-hander on Wednesday.

Lee was riding in a cab to Yankee Stadium for World Series Game 1, except the cab wasn't moving. He looked up and saw nothing but red lights and traffic, so he jumped out of the cab and split for the subway. Lee rode the train to the Bronx and hopped out near Yankee Stadium, but didn't know how to find the ballpark. So he called the clubhouse and received walking directions from an attendant, which ended like this: "When you see the banners of the Yankee players, keep walking until you see the Chien-Ming Wang banner. When you get there, hang a left. That's the players' parking entrance. When you get there, don't move. We're sending someone there to meet you."

Lee followed the instructions. By the time he made it to the clubhouse -- by cab, subway and foot -- it already was past six o'clock for the 7:57 p.m. scheduled start. "He may have been late," Dubee said, "but that didn't exactly bother him, did it?"

Well, no. Somebody forget to tell Lee it was the World Series. In Yankee Stadium. The dude pitched as if throwing a simulated game at a back field at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. Not only did he dominate the Yankees, he also gave off airs of near boredom with his fielding: a casual catch of a pop-up, a flourish of a tag on the backside of Jorge Posada and a behind-the-back stab of a one-hopper, after which he tried to suppress a wry smile and gave a slight shrug of the shoulder.

The importance of the outing by Lee is that he now hovers over this Series as a monster pitcher, the way Orel Hershiser did in the 1988 postseason for the Dodgers. He is the ace in the hole, the hot hand who is now in the heads of the Yankees.

"We know he's going to be that good the next time we face him," Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon said. "We'll have to win 1-0, 2-1 to get a game off him."

The Phillies still aren't saying whether Lee will start on short rest in Game 4 -- there's no need to make that call now. But know this: Lee never has made a start on three days' rest, and if Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel was even thinking about using him on short rest, why did he send him out to pitch the ninth inning with a 6-0 lead and 106 pitches? (He finished with 122.)

3. Just how good was Lee? You can go a very long time without seeing a game like that in the World Series again. But try these on for appreciation:

• Lee walked none in a complete-game win. Only two pitchers have ever done that in the opening game of a World Series: Tom Glavine in 1992 and Lefty Grove in 1931.

• Lee threw the 21st complete game in World Series history with no walks and no earned runs, but only the fifth by a left-hander and the first by a lefty in 60 years. The other lefties to do so: Preacher Roe (1949), Gene Beardon (1948), Ernie White (1942), and Rube Benton (1917).

• The Yankees had faced 33 left-handed starters this year. None of them had lasted the whole game against New York until Lee did it.

• Of the first 31 times the Yankees swung at a pitch, they missed it 14 times. You might expect to see that at Williamsport. Not Yankee Stadium.

• Lee went to a three-ball count only three times, which is really something when you consider the tiny strike zone of Gerry Davis.

"He must have broken 10 bats," Damon said, "including two of mine, of course."

Said Alex Rodriguez, who whiffed three times against Lee, "With the exception of [Derek] Jeter, I don't think we had any good swings at all."

4. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a bit of a problem on his hands with his bullpen. Phil Hughes, who had been rock solid as his eighth-inning guy all year, keeps dropping down Girardi's priority list when it comes to high-leverage situations.

Girardi began the postseason with Hughes as a guy who pitched in important spots regardless of the matchup. But by ALCS Game 6, Girardi chose Joba Chamberlain to get the two outs he needed to get the ball to Mariano Rivera -- against Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar, no less -- because he said the "matchups" favored Chamberlain over Hughes. And Hughes' troubles continued in World Series Game 1 when he was given a 2-0 ballgame and promptly walked the only two batters he faced.

"Teams try to build a bridge to their closer," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "That's the guy you really want to attack. We have a knack for it I guess."

Strangely, Girardi, who has run his bullpen aggressively this postseason, let the game get away from him with his hands in his jacket pockets. With two outs and two on in the eighth, the score still 2-0 with David Robertson pitching to Jayson Werth, Girardi didn't even have left-hander Phil Coke warming for the on-deck hitter, Raul Ibanez. When Robertson walked Werth, Girardi was left with his right-hander pitching to the left-handed Ibanez with the game on the line and two outs. Ibanez hit a dagger of a two-run single. Very strange, indeed.

5. There was a brief scary moment in Game 1 when it looked like we were going to get yet another massive umpiring mistake. It happened on a pop fly to Rollins with Hideki Matsui at first base. Rollins toyed with letting the pop bounce, but caught it before it hit the ground. Second base umpire Brian Gorman immediately called the out -- before Rollins stepped on second base for a phantom force play. When Matsui wandered aimlessly off the base, thinking he had been forced out, first baseman Ryan Howard tagged him. But the other umpires ruled the batter, Robinson Cano, safe at first. Huh?

It took several minutes to unravel the mess, but why? Gorman knew he called out Cano on the pop fly, so when Matsui was tagged, it obviously was a double play. Why didn't Gorman assert his out call immediately? There was far too much confusion among the umpires for what should have been an obvious call. Thankfully, they eventually got it right. But the confusion was not needed. And you know somewhere Bud Selig is holding his breath that the men in blue can get through this Series without a major catastrophe after all the blown calls of this postseason. Because the momentum for more instant replay is building, and one huge mistake on the big stage of the World Series is going create a national referendum on the issue.

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