NEW YORK -- The fabulous Phillies were unfazed by their Game 2 defeat that left the World Series even. This team does not lack confidence. Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins was asked whether he still believed in his prediction of a five-game Phillies victory after the Yankees' 3-1 Game 2 victory, and Rollins responded, nonchalantly, "If that's what it takes."
Someone else in their clubhouse pointed out that they've lost Game 2 of almost every series they've won, which is true, including World Series Game 2 last year (they won that series in five). There was no panic inside their room, no complaint about the umpires who had an off night again. This is how a great should carry itself.
Rollins said he only makes his predictions when he "feels good about it," and he apparently continues to feel good. His calls have been uncannily good over the years, but he wouldn't say whether he believes he has ESP. ("My mother says my grandmother has it," he did say.)
The Phillies had more than enough going for them to think they never should have been 2-1 underdogs, and still do, including the option to use resourceful Pedro Martinez in Game 6. Here are a few more positive signs for the Phillies ...
• At least one more appearance for Phillies ace Cliff Lee, who seems to have the Yankees spooked. The Yankees caught a break with the announcement Friday that Joe Blanton (0-3 with an 8.10 ERA vs. the Yanks) would start Game 4. There had been much speculation that Lee would start Games 4 and 7, but the 123-pitch outing in Game 1 may have changed things. Still, the Yanks have to face Lee again (likely Game 5, barring rain on Saturday) -- and maybe more than once. Manuel said on Wednesday that Lee would be available out of the bullpen if Game 7 is necessary. And the Yankees rarely have been this impressed by a pitcher. "He was just nasty," stated a Yankees person who said he's now hoping for Yankees in six games, even assuming another Philly win for Lee.
• There is talk in the Yankees' clubhouse now they may have to use journeyman Chad Gaudin in Game 5 or 6 (although that would seem to be a major risk if they're facing elimination). The Yankees did win all six of Gaudin's starts this year, but there's a reason he's a journeyman. In any case, there seems to be some concern now about Andy Pettitte coming back in Game 6 on three days rest, which could mean only one start for Pettitte. "CC and A.J. (Burnett) can do it, but I'm not sure Andy can," one Yankees person said.
• Alex Rodriguez, after an incredible run in the American League playoffs, is headed the other way. He's posted two straight three-strikeout games in the World Series, matching his total of three-whiff games for the rest of 2009. "Alex is going to be fine," one Yankee after another said in the first sign that they're worried. In a version of that, Mark Teixeira said, "I'm going to bet that Alex is going to be fine," before finishing the thought this way: "And if not, then hopefully me or a couple other guys are going to step it up and do what we've done all season." Offensively, A-Rod carried the Yankees through the first two series, and if he slumps in the World Series, they will absolutely need someone else to pick up the slack.
• The Yankees appear now to have little faith in their bridge to Mariano Rivera -- though of course if the starter goes seven innings, like Burnett, Joe Girardi could just press Rivera into two innings service, as he did in Game 2 when Mariano earned his 14th six-out save out of 36 total postseason saves. But Yankees people appear to have lost confidence in Phil Hughes ("He looks frightened, he doesn't look the same," one scout said) to the point where other late-game alternatives -- Joba Chamberlain? Damaso Marte? -- have to be considered as the main bridge.
• Although they won Game 2, the Yankees are showing small signs of desperation, as Girardi went back to the book play and started Jerry Hairston Jr. because he had a few good at-bats vs. Martinez, though none since 2005. Nick Swisher, who was benched, has done almost nothing in the postseason, so it will continue to be a question whether to use Swisher or someone else. (Brett Gardner would be the logical choice in games not started by Pedro.)
Beyond his wide array of pitches, Pedro obviously has the power of persuasion, too. He talked Phillies manager Charlie Manuel into letting him stay in to start the seventh after six very nice innings. Pedro wound up allowing two straight singles to start the seventh, and then was removed, possibly two batters too late, as the Yankees expanded their lead by one to 3-1. "He said he felt good. He said that he was fine," Manuel said. "He said he wanted to go back out and pitch."
Martinez said he hasn't felt quite as strong as usual the past couple days, that he hasn't been eating right, or sleeping much. "But I felt good enough to make pitches, and that's what I told him," Pedro said.
One of Pedro's most famous moments came in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, when he talked Grady Little into letting him remain in a game he and the Red Sox would eventually lose to the Yankees. Knowing Pedro, Manuel shouldn't have asked. He should have just acted.
Only four teams showed even semi-serious interest in Pedro when he was plotting his comeback this summer: the Rangers, Rays and Cubs in addition to the Phillies.
The Brewers were another team that considered going to Pedro's showcase workout. But the Brewers' scout was put off by Martinez's tardiness, so he left without seeing him pitch. If you want someone to be on time, Pedro's not for you. If you want someone to pitch his butt off, then he's the one.
Good for the Phillies for recognizing what's important. Their scouting seems to be a cut above.
Maybe more teams will join the fray next year, though Pedro suggested this could be it. Asked whether he might retire, Pedro said, "If we win the World Series, I'd suggest you fly to the Dominican and come and ask me. If we don't win it, I'll probably give it another shot."
The guess here is he'll come back. And the guess also is that more teams will show interest in one of the greatest and most cunning pitchers ever.
The Phillies' strategy against A.J. Burnett was like a lot of teams. They tried to wait him out, and hope he became wild. But he had 22 of 25 first-pitch strikes. Matt Stairs, a teammate in Toronto, said, "You're trying to be patient. I've seen him have games where he had trouble throwing strikes. And I've seen a lot of game like tonight."
The truth is, you never know what you're going to get with Burnett. But Rollins summed up Burnett's performance with one word: "Great." He threw 45 curveballs out of 109 pitches, and the Phillies looked bad on many of them. "His curveball command was (bleeping) outstanding," one scout said.
Burnett was superb, but he wasn't quite as great as his Arkansas neighbor Cliff Lee was the game before. "They live 15 minutes apart," said agent Darek Braunecker, who represents both star pitchers.
Word is, the Red Sox are willing to offer close to $60 million for four years for outfield star Jason Bay. While that figure seems a bit short for an established middle-of-the-order hitter who's proved he can thrive in a pressure-packed market, there also seems to be a touch of optimism for a deal, especially on Boston's side.
The Red Sox absolutely need to get a hitter or two, just to keep up with the Yankees, and Bay and Matt Holliday are the only two free agents in that category (see a comparison of the two in a forthcoming Daily Scoop). Boston will also take a long look at Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. But they may even consider trying to acquire two big offensive pieces if they are trying to close the offensive gap in the AL East.
Bay's agent, Joe Urbon from CAA Sports, declined comment on what's going on in talks but Urbon didn't rule out the possibility of Bay staying with Boston and even making a deal in the 15-day period where Boston has exclusive rights to negotiate after the World Series ends. "He liked his time in Boston. He liked the players, he liked the coaches, he liked the environment," Urbon said. "If he gets the opportunity to get something done (before the free-agent period begins), he will look out and he might do it."
Urbon also denied rumors that what he called "regionality" will play a role in where Bay lands. It's been suggested that San Francisco or Seattle might have an inside track because of where he lives. But Urbon said, "The reality is that (Bay) is from Canada ... that would leave him with one team." Urbon also noted, "He lives in the Pacific Northwest, but he's played most of his minor-league and major-league career on the East Coast."
It's rare for a star player to sign with his old team within the 15-day window. But a Red Sox person also sounded hopeful something could be done. "He loves it here," that Red Sox official said.
• The Mets are hiring well-respected ex-Diamondbacks third base coach Chip Hale to fill that roll in New York. Eighteen runners were thrown out at home with Razor Shines on the lines last year.
• Yesterday's note about Mets' ownership making sure to secure top scout Sandy Johnson with what one club official called "a blank check" for another year is only seen as a reflection of ownership's diminishing faith in Minaya, not a negative reflection of Minaya's relationship with Johnson, a Minaya mentor. Their relationship is seen as positive, except that they don't always agree (for instance, Johnson is a much bigger backer of Mets scouting director Rudy Terrasas).
• Manuel mentioned that he thought Chase Utley was safe even though he was called out on the back end of a double play that killed the Phillies. But Manuel refrained from getting into it about the umps. "I'm not saying nothing about the umpiring," he said. Pressed if he thought the umpiring was good, he said, "You know, I've probably never thought umpiring was good, if you want to know the truth."
• Phil Hughes said he regrets shouting at the home-plate umpire on his way of the mound in Game 1. "I definitely regret it. It was probably just the emotions of the moment," Hughes said. "I was upset about the situation. The (pitches) probably weren't as close as I thought."
• Hideki Matsui, who homered on a low curve from Martinez, was asked if he expects to be back with the Yankees next year, and he said, "I have no idea." Asked if he would like to be, he said, "Having been here this long, I guess you could say I'm comfortable."
• Robinson Cano sometimes complains about the perception he doesn't hustle. Yet, one scout said that while Derek Jeter is a consistent 4.2 to first base whether he has a possible hit or a routine grounder, Cano eases in at 4.5 or 4.6 when he hits an easy grounder. In other words, it's time he starts hustling or stops complaining. "(Cano) is upset people say he doesn't hustle, but the stopwatch doesn't lie," the scout said.
• Commissioner Bud Selig sounded again like he has no immediate interest in expanding instant replay. "This is a game about pace," he said.
• Congrats to Jeter, whose charity work with his Turn 2 Foundation enabled him to win the Roberto Clemente award.