Five Cuts: History offers the Phillies a formula for an unlikely comeback
1. With the sound of
Are there any lessons to be gleaned from those squads? Well, the '58 Yankees had the best offense in their league, and after scoring just 12 runs in four games, losing three to
The '79 Pirates are a bit more interesting. They also split the first two games of the Series, as did these Phillies, lost Game 3 when their lefty starter, in Pittsburgh's case
If the Phillies are to win the World Series, that's the path they'll need to take: improved run prevention, beginning with the starting pitchers.
2. They're not in a bad place to get that started on Monday night, as
The statistics on starting pitchers on short rest are daunting -- they pitch with much less effectiveness -- but that's not the reason why Manuel was correct to hold back Lee. No, the aggregate statistics in a situation like this are less important than the individual's comfort level and his manager's read of the situation. Lee's willingness to pitch on short rest, even off a 122-pitch outing on Wednesday, is no surprise; it's the manager who has to decide between asking his pitcher to do something unusual (Lee had never started a game on short rest) or to go with an above-average starter in that spot. The Phillies didn't lose on Sunday night because of Manuel's decision.
The Phillies are in a strong position to win on Monday night, with Lee on the mound at home against
3. Game 5 may be
On Monday night he'll get maybe his last chance at a right-hander when Burnett takes the mound. Howard struck out three times against Burnett in Game 1, struggling as many Phillies did against the sharp backdoor breaking ball that Burnett flashed when he got ahead in the count. The Phillies' offense has been passable in the effective absence of Howard, but it hasn't been good, and if they're going to win three in a row they need something more than the 700 OPS hitter he usually is against southpaws in the middle of their lineup.
4. Sunday night's hero, Alex Rodriguez, continued to reinforce the analyst position about postseason performance -- not just his own, but everyone's. Even as he was slogging through tough Division Series in 2005 and 2006, and the weight of fans and the media, even his own manager, came down upon him, analysts repeated the mantra: small sample size. Players have bad series. Players have bad weeks, bad months, and that Rodriguez had a couple of bad weeks in playoff series didn't mean anything other just that. He'd had good performances in the postseason as well, both with the Mariners and in his first Division Series with the Yankees in 2004. The narrative simply ignored these and inflated a cherry-picked sequence of plate appearances to create one of the worst memes of the decade.
What Rodriguez has done this postseason should put to rest any idea that he lacks some element which would cause him to fail in pressure situations, which is nice as far as it goes. What it should also do is retire the entire idea that you can evaluate players based on a vanishingly small number of at-bats or innings pitched. A playoff series is a small sample no matter how many people are watching, and the game doesn't change dependent on the number of eyeballs involved. Players can have clutch performances, or even unclutch ones. But doing so isn't a skill above and beyond being a good or bad player on the whole. We should celebrate or mourn the acts without leaping to the conclusion that the results mean more they do. Baseball is the greatest game ever devised, but it's not a morality play, and we should be able to enjoy it, love it even, without needing to turn every 1 for 11 or 7 for 10 or game-winning double into a statement about someone's character.
5. It shouldn't go unmentioned that Rodriguez's heroics on Sunday night rescued