Five Cuts: Phils make Rivera work, Manuel's key decisions blew up
New York manager
But the Phillies made Rivera labor like almost never happens. He threw 39 pitches for those six outs. It was the most pitches he has thrown in a game in two years. Of the 74 times Rivera has pitched in the postseason since he became a closer, he has thrown more than 39 pitches only two times, and both were in potential clinchers: the epic 48-pitch outing in 2003 ALCS Game 7, and the 40 pitches in the Yankees' ill-fated 2004 ALCS Game 4.
Remember, Rivera, who turns 40 next month, threw 34 pitches his last time out, four days prior, against the Angels. He does have an off today, but, barring rain, the next three games are scheduled to be played on consecutive days.
What made the outing so laborious for Rivera was that he could not put away hitters. The Phillies swung 20 times at his cutter and missed only twice. There were 13 foul balls.
"He threw more outside cutters to left-handers than he ever does," Philadelphia DH
Rivera is so good that it has come to this: he throws two shutout innings and the opponent can find hope in his pitch counts and their swings against him. Asked how he felt, standing in front of his locker with an ice pack on his shoulder, Rivera said, "A save is a save, period. My arm feels great."
The first move was leaving
Martinez jumped ahead of
Now was the time to get Martinez. To ask him to work through an entire inning without a run scoring -- with a runner at first and no outs and at 105 pitches -- was hopeful more than smart. He hung a changeup that
If Manuel started his runners, he ran the risk of a strikeout-caught stealing double play, though to be honest, the Yankees were not holding Rollins especially close. It's more important in that situation, up 3-1, for the infielders not to concede ground and give the hitter a hole than it is to shadow a runner at second who is not even the tying run.
If Manuel didn't start his runners, he ran the risk of Utley grounding into a double play to kill the inning.
"Utley don't hit into a lot of groundball double plays," Manuel said.
Utley grounded into five double plays this year, none this postseason. Of course, he promptly grounded into a double play.
It's funny how managers play very conservatively when Rivera is pitching. Runners are so rare against him that it fries the circuits of managers; they don't dare even risk losing an out on the bases when they get so few runners. He's not especially great at holding runners, either; he never uses the slide step. Since Rivera became a closer in 1997, runners have attempted only five stolen bases against him in the postseason. They have been successful in three of their past four tries, including a rather large one in 2004 by that
Manuel's next big move will be what to do about
Right now Manuel has the hottest pitcher on the planet. He should think long and hard about putting the ball in Lee's hands as often as he can.
With Feliz and Ruiz going out too quickly in back-to-back spots in the lineup, that's too much of a built-in breather for the pitcher. Just wait for the games in Philadelphia this weekend: the pitcher's spot will follow Feliz and Ruiz.
In two games Rodriguez has swung at 23 pitches and put two balls in play: a grounder to third and a flyball to left field. He punched out three times in Game 1 and three times again in Game 2. Only one other player ever had back-to-back three-strikeout games in World Series history: