Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

1. The matchup so nice we had to have it twice: Six days after he used a darting changeup and great movement to hold the Yankees to three runs in six innings, Pedro Martinez will take the mound in the Bronx one more time, this time trying to stave off elimination of his Phillies. In last week's Game 2, Martinez allowed just two solo home runs, both on tough pitches, in his first six innings, keeping the Phils in a game in which A.J. Burnett was just a little bit better. Serenaded by chants of "Who's your daddy?" -- and quietly hearing worse from one fan whom he chose to upbraid at his postgame press conference -- Martinez showed both the showmanship that makes him a star and the skill to back it up.

Does he have another big night in him? He'll face a slightly better Yankee lineup than he did in Game 2, now that Nick Swisher has played his way back into Joe Girardi's good graces and Jorge Posada gets the start with Andy Pettitte on the mound. Posada was benched in favor of Jose Molina, Burnett's personal catcher, in Game 2. Two more left-handed batters in the lineup is a problem for Martinez; he struck out 30 percent of the right-handed batters he faced this season, as opposed to just 12 percent of lefties. Lefties hit him for considerably more power as well. The only two right-handed batters in Wednesday night's Yankee lineup will be future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. With his great pitcher's mind and sense of the moment, Martinez isn't a pitcher you want to count out, but the game is set up for him to have a short, disappointing night.

2. As of Tuesday morning, we don't yet know who the Yankees will officially counter with. Asked on Monday afternoon, Girardi said, "We're not thinking about Game 6 right now. Andy is going to do his work today, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow if we need to." Perhaps that's the safe, tactical approach, but the gap between starting the left-handed Pettitte and the right-handed -- and historically, meat for lefty batters -- Chad Gaudin is massive, and should outweigh any short-rest concerns. Gaudin simply cannot handle left-handed hitters; in his career he has walked more of them (167) than he has struck out (140). He has allowed a career .389 OBP to them, a figure that jumped to .408 this season. Loosely speaking, he turns every lefty batter he faces into Bobby Abreu, and the Phillies' lefties don't really need the help. Pettitte, who scuffled early in his Game 3 start before settling down, is the easy choice to start Game 6, and Girardi should make that call before Wednesday's workout at the Stadium.

The Yankees won't need to ask very much of Pettitte. Even with Monday night's short start by Burnett, Girardi will have a full complement of relievers available, and his top three at the moment -- Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain -- will all have been off since Sunday night. There's not much reason to pull a Ted Power gimmick -- starting a pitcher who throws with one hand with every intention of pulling him quickly to gain the platoon advantage --because the Phillies pretty much play the same eight guys no matter what. However, Pettitte may be on a short leash, as the memory of Monday night's Burnett meltdown on three days' rest sticks with Girardi

3. Having survived the Yankees' furious late-game charge on Monday, the Phillies find themselves still in pretty bad shape. Forty-nine teams have been down 3-2 in the World Series since the 2-3-2 format became the standard in 1924, and they've won about 45 percent of the time. For the Phillies, the task is a little harder; they're playing Games 6 and 7 on the road. The track record of teams in that position is a bit more dodgy: Whereas eight of 14 teams coming home to play were able to make the comeback, only 14 of 35 teams going on the road turned the trick. So the Phillies have about a 40 percent chance to win the World Series based on historical precedence.

Hey, at least it's a six-game series. Wednesday's Game 6 will be the first since 2003, making it a welcome sight for baseball fans.

4. Chase Utley is tearing up the record book, blasting two home runs on Monday night to tie the record for homers in a World Series with five. Utley's first-inning, three-run bomb gave helped the Phillies overcome an early 1-0 deficit, while his seventh-inning shot off Phil Coke, seemingly icing, turned out to be critical to an 8-6 win. Utley has six hits in the Series, five going over the fence, and a 1.222 SLG that looks like a floating-point error more than a real statistic. It's not an exaggeration to suggest that Utley could, should the Phillies lose on Wednesday or Thursday, become just the second player to win World Series MVP for the losing side. (Bobby Richardson, another second baseman, did so for the Yankees in 1960.)

5. Ryan Howard is a cipher in this Series because of his well-known problems hitting left-handers. He's at .158/.238/.263 overall, and tied the record for strikeouts in a single World Series on Monday night, joining Willie Wilson (1980) with 12. He's the good first baseman, as it turns out. The switch-hitting Mark Teixeira has no comparable excuse, just poor performance. After making the final out of Game 5 by quickly falling behind 0-2 and succumbing to Ryan Madson's changeups, Teixeira is 2 for 19 with a paltry .261 OBP and .316 SLG. Only his stellar defense is keeping his first World Series from being a disaster. The Yankees, though, didn't pay Teixeira to be a bulkier alternative to Casey Kotchman; they need him on base, they need him hitting for power. He may be the key player for them as they attempt to put the Phillies away.

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