October 2009

Yankees World Series roster

By Jon Lane
As expected, Eric Hinske and Brian Bruney are in, Francisco Cervelli and Freddy Guzman are out. The Yankees are carrying an extra pitcher with up to three games in a National League park and added pop off the bench.

Position players (13)
Derek Jeter
Johnny Damon
Mark Teixeira
Alex Rodriguez
Jorge Posada
Hideki Matsui
Robinson Cano
Nick Swisher
Melky Cabrera
Brett Gardner
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Jose Molina
Eric Hinske

Pitchers (12)
CC Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Andy Pettitte
Mariano Rivera
Phil Hughes
David Robertson
Damaso Marte
Phil Coke
Alfredo Aceves
Joba Chamberlain
Brian Bruney
Chad Gaudin

Girardi not committed to three starters

By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi told Mike Francesa this afternoon that he is not committed to a three-man rotation as first reported. It’s CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte for Games 1-3. In the three-man scenario, Sabathia would start Game 4 on normal rest, but Burnett and Pettitte – Sabathia too if there’s a Game 7 – would all come back on three days’ rest.

Girardi said he may kick this around until at least Thursday, but Chad Gaudin was scheduled to throw a 70 to 80 pitch bullpen session today at Yankee Stadium, reports Chad Jennings.

On a side note, here’s some fun stuff on the pre-Game 1 agenda:

WFAN’s Boomer and Carton will be hosting a Yankees Pep Rally at Modell’s in Times Square Wednesday morning from 6-10, broadcasting live while giving away prizes and getting fans ready for the opening night of the 2009 World Series.

At 12:30 Wednesday afternoon in Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will host a rally in Times Square with YES’ Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay.

The Turnpike Tangle

worldseriespainting.jpgBy Jon Lane
Yankees vs. Phillies. Phillies vs. Yankees. Not baseball’s two best teams record-wise, but unquestionably the game’s finest. The 2009 World Series pits baseball’s most storied franchise against the defending champions, a team looking to be the first to repeat since the Yankees from 1998-2000 and the first National League team to do so since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.

Johnny Damon will face his old teammate and friend, Pedro Martinez. Martinez will battle the team he tormented while he worked in Boston – and vice versa. CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the two pitchers who competed in the first regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium when the latter threw for the Indians, will match wits in Game 1 Wednesday night – and both southpaws are at the top of their games.

While it’s not New York vs. Boston, there is no love lost between The Big Apple and The City of Brotherly Love. Giants and Eagles fans hate each other; ditto loyal followers of the Rangers and Flyers. The cities are separated by an hour-plus drive up and down the New Jersey Turnpike.

For many reasons, this World Series is wholly appropriate.

“The fact that we have to go through the world champs to become champs, and they have their chance to defend it. Not too many teams get that opportunity,” Damon said.

Fans, talk-show hosts and scribes from each city aren’t as civil. Celebrity bets have already been wagered, writes Sam Borden. The trash talk has started and will continue until one team is declared World Champions in seven games or less.

To quote Jim Kaat, this is East Coast passion. The teams stand toe-to-toe in terms of firepower, so look for this series to go deep and come down to pitching, where you can make the case the Yankees have the edge in the rotation and especially the bullpen, though it became clear down the stretch and in the NLCS that Martinez still has plenty of magic left.

A snapshot look at the regular season matchup and respective team leaders:

Records
Yankees: 103-59
Phillies: 93-69

Season Series: Phillies took two of three Memorial Day weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Memorable Game
May 23: Melky Cabrera’s walk-off single off Brad Lidge in the ninth won Game 2 for the Yankees, capping a three-run rally that started with Alex Rodriguez’s two-run home run.
 
“Right now, I’m probably the happiest .200 hitter in baseball,” said Rodriguez, who was batting .204 at the time.

Old Friends
Miguel Cairo (played for the Yankees 2004 and 2006-07)
Pedro Martinez (Who’s your daddy?)

Team leaders
Batting
Yankees: Derek Jeter (.334)
Phillies: Shane Victorino (.292)

Home Runs
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (39)
Phillies: Ryan Howard (45)

Runs Batted In
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (122)
Phillies: Ryan Howard (141)

Wins
Yankees: CC Sabathia (19)
Phillies: J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer (12)

ERA
Yankees: CC Sabathia (3.37)
Phillies: J.A. Happ (2.93)

Strikeouts
Yankees: CC Sabathia (197)
Phillies: Cole Hamels (168)

Saves
Yankees: Mariano Rivera (44)
Phillies: Brad Lidge (31)

Projected Pitching Matchups
Game 1 (Wednesday, 7:57 p.m.): Cliff Lee (7-4, 3.39) vs. CC Sabathia (19-7, 3.21)
Game 2 (Thursday, 7:57 p.m.): Pedro Martinez (5-1, 3.63) vs. A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.10)
Game 3 (Saturday, 7:57): Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.11) vs. Cole Hamels (10-11, 4.32)
Game 4 (Sunday, 8:20): Chad Gaudin (6-2, 3.43) vs. Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05)

Statement from George M. Steinbrenner

“The Yankees’ enormous will to win, tremendous professionalism and great team spirit, backed by the best, most vocal and supportive fans have propelled us into the World Series. We’re looking forward to our 27th ring.”

One more mountain to climb

yankees_250_102509.jpgBy Jon Lane
As you can imagine, it was bedlam in the clubhouse. Beginning with Hal Steinbrenner, the theme was not only the fact that the Yankees are winners of 110 games, but about how they won them. The character of this team has been remarkable, yet the mighty Phillies, the champs, are their lone roadblock.

The final journey begins Wednesday night, with George Steinbrenner likely to be in the house.

“We’re doing this for him,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “We want to win this whole thing for him. I feel like he’s here. He’s a big part of it.”

It’s a fitting conclusion to the 2009 season: The two best teams fighting for the right to be called champion, or in the Phillies’ case, a repeat champion.

“The fact that we have to go through the world champs to become champs, and they have their chance to defend it. Not too many teams get that opportunity,” said Johnny Damon.

CC Sabathia is ALCS MVP. You can’t argue with that selection, though. The big guy went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, allowing nine hits and two runs with 12 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched. Lest we forget that eight-inning masterpiece on three days’ rest in Game 4 that squashed the Angels’ momentum from the night before.

Being the character guy he is, Sabathia deflected credit to Alex Rodriguez and the team’s ability to remain loose through good times and bad. That had him believing from Day 1 that the Yankees were destined to play in the Fall Classic.

“When Al went down, it was going to to make it tough,” he said. “We held it together for awhile until he got back. He made our lineup just that much better, our team that much better. It gave us a lot of confidence.

“It is really not a surprise that we are here. I hate to sound like that, but this is a really good team. Like I said, we get along, we have fun. This is what you get.”

_______________________

Like Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and a few others, A-Rod will play in his first World Series. Too many Hall of Famers never won a World Series ring, and never had a shot at one.

“I was just in the back with Mark Teixeira talking and a lot of great players have never had the honor to play in the World Series,” Rodriguez said. “So I thank the good Lord for putting me with the greatest organization and 24 great teammates and it feels really good.

“It gets tougher. Honestly, you think about this era with all these divisions and all these championship series and World Series, it’s pretty much more challenging now and it feels good to get in.”

arod_200_102509.jpgEight months ago, Rodriguez was a scorned public figure, exposed by his admittance of using performance-enhancing drugs while he played for the Texas Rangers, the tension-filled reaction press conference and the shady company he kept. Then he had a torn labrum in his hip, which threatened to sideline him for the rest of the season.

That actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He went to Vail, Colorado, and had surgery, and spent the next few weeks rehabbing in seclusion. Once he returned on May 8, he homered on the first pitch he saw and hasn’t looked back. Despite playing in only 124 games, he still slugged 30 homers and drove in 100 runs, the last three coming on his final swing of the regular season — a home run.

“I wasn’t around for the first month and a half, but I knew that the guys we brought in this year, they were special talents and special people and all of them did a phenomenal job of playing in New York the first year,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that a lot of people can’t do, including myself.”

Yet there were times he lifted the Yankees from life support this postseason. There were the home runs off Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes. There’s the 11-game postseason hitting streak, pretty darn good for someone once labeled the ultimate choker. His postseason tally to date: .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs.

“Alex is an unbelievable guy,” Steinbrenner said. “It was just a matter of time before his ability would break out in the postseason. Nobody works harder than him in the offseason, nobody works harder than him in training and nobody, you’ll find, has more ability than him. It was just a matter of time.”

_______________________

Joe Girardi made some strange decisions, but he’s the 10th manager to lead the Yankees to a World Series and the 42nd person to play and manage in the Fall Classic (and the first since Ozzie Guillen in 2005).

Keep in mind how all season he had to work through an unsaid win-or-else edict. He knew that’s what he signed up for, and never hid or lost his composure through all the second-guessing. Now he’s four wins from escaping Joe Torre’s shadow once and for all.

“It’s very special,” Girardi said. “I’m extremely blessed to have this opportunity. I feel my life has been one big blessing. The things that I’ve gotten to do, God has really blessed me. But being here as a player and going through that, and the excitement and the anticipation, and then getting a chance to do it as a manager, I’m extremely happy for the guys in that room, for the Boss, his children, all the people that put all this hard work in to put this team together.

“I have that same feeling of excitement. 1996 was the first time for me. You think about all the work that all the people put in to have this opportunity, as a player all the work you put in in the offseason to get an opportunity. It’s much the same feeling.”

 _______________________

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Angels and what they had to endure this season. Shattered by the horrible death of Nick Adenhart, the team bonded while dealing with the tragedy to win another AL West title and push the Yankees as far as they did in spite of those brain locks on the bases and two throwing errors that sealed their fate in Game 6.

“The trials and tribulations that the guys in that clubhouse went through all year is something that you hope you never have to go through in your lifetime again,” said manager Mike Scioscia. “It was a special group in there to keep going. Special group in there to keep bringing Nick’s memory forward every day. Every day we came to the park and he’s still with us. And I’m sure we’ll have a little peace in that as we move forward. Right now this loss, obviously, hurts.”

_______________________

And so it’s on to the World Series. Six years ago yesterday was the last time the Yankees played in a World Series game, when Josh Beckett threw a complete-game shut out in Game 6.

The Phillies were the National League’s leaders in home runs (224), RBIs (788), runs scored (820) and slugging percentage (.447), and will make the Yankees pay dearly if they continue to squander scoring opportunities. On the other hand, the Yankees represent the toughest competition the Phils have faced this entire year and are a different team from the one that dropped two of three games to Philly on Memorial Day weekend.

But all that is for another day. The Yankees are partying all night while me and dozens of scribes pen the latest round of tales.

Game 6 – Take II

stadium_450_102509.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s definitely not a stretch to say that the weather is a tad better than it was 25 hours ago. At that time the game was postponed, we were scurrying to piece together information, and I ended driving home on the Northern State River.

A different story this evening one hour before Andy Pettitte throws the first pitch of what could be an American League-pennant clinching game, which would be the 40th in Yankees history. Two things I noted yesterday was Pettitte being one win from becoming baseball’s all-time leader in series-clinching wins (his four is tied with Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Dave Stewart). Yesterday was also 13 years to the night when Pettitte out-dueled John Smoltz in a 1-0 victory in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, a win that gave New York a 3-2 win and set the table for its first World Championship in 18 years.

What more historical karma? Twenty-three years ago tonight, Mookie Wilson’s grounder ate Bill Buckner and gave the Mets an improbable 6-5 win that tied the 1986 Fall Classic at 3-3. Watching batting practice earlier, these Yankees had that all-business aura about them, yet kept each other loose. Robinson Cano was at the dugout steps exchanging small talk when Derek Jeter tapped him on the helmet with his bat.

The Angels are taking BP now. As I’ve written previously, there is no quit in Mike Scioscia’s team. If the Yankees can pound Joe Saunders earlier, it would certainly give everyone a chance to catch their breath. But don’t count in it. Three out of the five games played in this ALCS have been decided by one run – with Games 2 and 3 needing extra innings. I’m anticipating another pitcher’s duel. Saunders is a 16-game winner who gave up two runs in seven frames in Game 2. Pettitte is 6-2 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 LCS starts and 6-1, 3.95 in 10 starts as a Yankee.

Given how the 2009 season has played out, a close game benefits the New Yorkers. Besides their league-high 57 wins at Yankee Stadium (4-0 in the playoffs), they own 22 postseason walk-off wins. After winning 15 of the walk-off variety in the regular season, the Yankees have two in the playoffs, one coming on a home run.

Of course, all this means nothing; the game has to be played. But I’m one of many who has played the mystique and aura cards while telling stories (my colleague Chris Shearn is a firm believer in karma.) When you think you’ve seen enough, Alex Rodriguez takes Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes deep to rescue the Yankees from certain defeat.

Let’s see what develops tonight. Back with much more, starting with Bernie Williams throwing out the first pitch.

7:50 p.m. Playing on the Stadium jukebox during a montage of Yankees highlights: The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight,” The Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.” Think Stadium Ops want the Yankees to get it done this evening?
 
8:10 p.m. Chuck Mangione with a beautiful rendition of our national anthem. Mangione also played the anthem the day Dave Righetti threw his no-hitter on July 4, 1983. Thanks to Bill Stimers (aka “Bill the Baker” and longtime friend of George Steinbrenner) for that nugget. (There’s that karma thing again.)

bernie_250_102509.jpgMeanwhile, Bernie Williams walked to the mound to an incredible ovation to throw out the first pitch.

8:19 p.m. Andy Pettitte warming up to “Welcome to the Jungle.” The new house is stoked.

8:21 p.m. First pitch a called strike to Chone Figgins. Game time temperature 58 degrees.

8:26 p.m. Man on a mission: Pettitte pitches a clean first throwing 12 pitches, nine for strikes.

8:37 p.m. An eventful bottom of the first ends with a thud. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez stroke back-to-back two-out singles (the latter extended his postseason hitting streak to 11 games). Jorge Posada, however, ended the threat with a fly out to right field. The Yankees are batting .216 (16-for-74) with runners in scoring position in the playoffs.

8:41 p.m. Swishlicious! Nick Swisher executes a 9-9-3 double play, capitalizing on yet another Angels baserunning blunder, this time when Vladimir Guerrero got caught too far off first. Now Nick Swisher has to start hitting.

8:46 p.m. 0-0 after 1 1/2. For fun facts and figures, meet Joe Auriemma At the Bat.

8:55 p.m. Swisher just gets under a Saunders 3-2 pitch and flies out to left. He’s now 3-for-30 (.100) in the postseason.

8:59 p.m. Big spot for Johnny Damon: Bases loaded, Saunders needing a breather and that galling RISP postseason stat.

9:03 p.m. Unreal. A ground out to first on the second pitch Damon sees. Saunders has thrown 38 pitches, yet the Yankees have stranded five through two innings and there’s no score. That RISP average? It’s now .213. The Yankees may be the cardiac crew, but they cannot continue to blow these golden opportunities.

9:05 p.m. The Jeff Mathis now has eight hits (five doubles) this postseason. The Yankees might rue the day they failed with runners on base.

9:15 p.m. 1-0 Angels on Bobby Abreu’s run-scoring single. Pettitte is pitching well outside of the Mathis double. He needs help from his offense.

9:23 p.m. Hmmm …. A fly ball to deep right that did NOT carry out of this ballpark?

9:33 p.m. Pettitte razor-sharp in the fourth with two called strikeouts (with help from plate umpire Dale Scott on a low-and-outside Strike 3 to Guerrero). It’d be a good time for the offense to break through. Swisher is due up second.

9:38 p.m. Swisher with a base hit to left. First and second with nobody out. Now or never.

damon_250_102509.jpg9:48 p.m. Breakthrough and redemption. Damon strokes a two-run single to center field.

10:00 p.m. The good news: Yankees chase Saunders, put up three runs and Posada faces Darren Oliver with the bases loaded. The bad news: A double-play grounder ends the inning. You can’t squander chances to break the game open in the postseason, folks. Think of it like a football team stalling in the red zone and settling for field goals.

At this rate you’re getting Pettitte for seven and Mariano Rivera for two.

10:13 p.m. Game 6 attendance: 50,173, the largest ever at the new Yankee Stadium.

10:25 p.m. Big spot for Guerrero, who went yard of Pettitte in Game 3.

10:27 p.m. Guerrero has something left, lofting a pitch about four inches from the ground into right for a double. It’s second and third with two out for Pettitte with Joba Chamberlain warming up.

10:32 p.m. Pettitte squeaks out of the sixth after deflecting Kendry Morales’ comebacker and throwing the first for the final out to put the Yankees nine outs away from their 40th AL pennant. He’s thrown 91 pitches through six innings and could be done for the night. Cabrera, Jeter and Damon are due up. An insurance run or three
won’t hurt, especially the way Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have looked in the postseason.

10:43 p.m. Here’s why this game is far from over: The Yankees have left nine men on base and ended the sixth when Mark Teixeira grounded into a double play. Failing to break it open against Darren Oliver is cause for concern.

Pettitte’s out to start the seventh, BTW.

pettitte_200_102509.jpg10:49 p.m. Pettitte leaves to a well-deserved standing ovation with a runner on and one out, and tips his cap, after throwing 99 pitchers in 6 1/3 innings. Chamberlain in relief. Two years ago this is a security blanket. Not so this year (seven hits, 2 2/3 innings).

11:02 p.m. Yankees are six outs away thanks to a Joba well done. A-Rod leads off the seventh with a single. He’s my choice for ALCS MVP if the Yankees get those last six outs.

11:08 p.m. Rivera warming up to work two innings. Good move. Meanwhile, Posada grounds into his second double play.

11:11 p.m. Make that the Yankees are six Mariano Rivera outs from their 40th AL pennant and a date with Cliff Lee and the Phillies here Wednesday night.

11:24 p.m. Inopportune time for Rivera to allow his first earned
run in a postseason home game since October 22, 2000 (Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets). It sliced the
Yankees’ lead to 3-2 before Rivera recovered to retire Kendry Morales.
Three outs to go.

Give credit to these Angels. They don’t quit. Ever.

11:36 p.m. The Angels have heart, but they are careless and probably threw away their season. First, Howie Kendrick dropped Morales’ throw after he fielded Swisher’s sacrifice bunt. Melky Cabrera put down a sacrifice that was to move runners to second and third, except Scott Kazmir threw it 10 feet over Kendrick’s head, allowing a valuable insurance run to come home.

11:44 p.m. Well, Teixeira made one loud out, but it got another run home to give Rivera a three-run lead. Is the game over? No. But I like those odds.

11:55 p.m. Rivera working the ninth needing those last three outs. Yankees fans are ready to party. And as I write, Kenrick grounds out to first. Two to go.

12:01 a.m.
Gary Matthews Jr., pinch-hitting for Mike Napoli, strikes out and the Yankees win their 40th American League pennant. They begin their first World Series since 2003 Wednesday night when CC Sabathia opposes Cliff Lee in this building. More from the clubhouse coming later.

Game 6 ALCS Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (3-2/103-59)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16)

angels.jpgANGELS (2-3/97-65)
Chone Figgins 3B
Bobby Abreu RF
Torii Hunter CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Kendry Morales 1B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Juan Rivera LF
Jeff Mathis C
Erick Aybar SS

Pitching: Joe Saunders (16-7, 4.60)

Waiting: The hardest part

rivera250.jpgBy Jon Lane
Since the Yankees opened the Division Series battle against the Twins on October 7, they’ve had eight days off over the past 17 days – 20 if you include the time between their regular-season finale and Game 1 of the ALDS.

Thanks to Mother Nature, make that nine. For one of the rare times this month, the forecast for rain was correct, baseball’s luck with the weather ran out and Game 6 of the ALCS was postponed until 8:20 Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

Andy Pettitte will remain Joe Girardi’s starter; the manager resisted the temptation to go for the kill and start CC Sabathia on normal rest to have him ready if there’s a Game 7.

“Who else would you want for a Game 7 if there is a Game 7?” Pettitte said. “I never thought they would not throw me tomorrow.”

Physically, Pettitte admitted that his body has appreciated the extra rest. Since the Yankees skipped one of his starts in mid-September due to shoulder fatigue, he’s been allotted an extra day’s rest between starts. As an younger player, Pettitte said that would set him back, but because he’s 37 years old, he admitted it’s “probably great for me.”

That didn’t mean he was happy with the rainout, however,

“The worst part of it is just the wait,” Pettitte said. “This was the longest day ever. You realize it’s a rainout – get ready to do it tomorrow – but it’s just frustrating from the standpoint it’s just such a long day, when you’re so ready and so anxious to get the game going.”

As I noted earlier, minutes before the game was called, MLB officials were conferring with
Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland. The look on his face essentially
said there was no way he was having Pettitte warm up. Furthermore, last thing the manager or pitching coach on both sides wanted was their starters to have to start the game, stop due to a delay and fire it up again if the game were to be resumed.

“I don’t think any of us are exactly sure when the rain is going to get out of here, how late it’s going to be, so I respect the decision that they made,” Girardi said. “I’m sure both clubs would have loved to have played. The weather is not permitting.”

“If it’s good enough to play a game, I think any ball team wants to — if you’re going to start a game, just have a fair amount of confidence you’re going to be able to finish it, and not have it be so disjointed and segmented because of weather,” agreed Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.

Besides the pitchers, everyone is affected playing in the slop and mud, no matter how state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium’s drainage system is compared to the building across the street.

“You don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Mariano Rivera. “It’s bad weather out there. Waiting another day isn’t going to kill us.”

_______________________

Good line from Jerry Hairston: He and Mark Teixeira were discussing the inordinate amount of off days while in the indoor batting cages when, according to Hairston, Teixeira told him, “I have a new respect for utility players.”

“I just started laughing,” Hairston said. “I said why don’t you give me
part of that [pay check] you got there.”

Teixeira is in the first year of an eight-year contract that’s paying him $180 million. Hairston re-signed with the Reds for one year and $2 million in January and was acquired by the Yankees at the non-waiver trade deadline. Mother Nature, though, doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the filthy, dirty rich.

“That’s the life of a baseball
player,” Hairston said. “You’re going to have your rain outs, but we don’t make excuses.
You have to go out and play.”

_______________________

Game 7 is “if necessary,” but the media could not help asking about a potential Game 7. This was supposed to be A.J. Burnett’s day to throw a side session, but he
did not. The thinking was to ensure he’d be available for long relief or
if it’s all hands on deck in an elimination game. Burnett said he’d be ready in an emergency for both Games 6 and 7.

“If I need to come out and help, I’ll be ready,” Burnett said. “I’ll be ready for anything.”

Scioscia was asked about it, but did not confirm yet another one of those worst-kept secrets. If the Angels win Game 6, John Lackey is starting Game 7. Bet on it.

“If there was a seven, Lackey’s going to pitch,” Hairston said, mockingly. “They can say no, no … if you look at John’s reaction getting taken out of [Game 5], you think he’s a man that he’s not going to pitch a Game 7. They can sugarcoat it, but we’re concerned about Game 6 and we’re trying to win that game.”

_______________________

Scioscia was asked if he’s in favor of the added off day built in this week. In a word, no.

“Taking us almost 20 days to play eight games, I think that’s the wrong template for baseball,” Scioscia said.

swisher250.jpgOne person not complaining is Nick Swisher, 3-for-29 with 10 strikeouts in the postseason and who popped up Brian Fuentes’ 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end Game 5.

“You hear a lot of guys who say, ‘Man I wish we didn’t have all these
off days,’ but then again if you have bangs and bumps, and this and
that, it’s nice to have another day off,” Swisher said.

Swisher remained Girardi’s starter in right field and the manager doesn’t anticipate any changes tomorrow night. Swisher has taken advantage of the down time by working extra hard with hitting coach Kevin Long. A player fueled by emotion, Swisher was texted something once said by Babe Ruth:

“It’s hard to beat up a guy who never
quits. It’s going to turn, it’s got to. You have to have a positive
attitude about it.”

Girardi stuck with Johnny Damon after a 1-for-12 Division Series. He’s doing the same with Swisher despite considering inserting Brett Gardner in center field and shifting Melky Cabrera over to right.

“It’s amazing,” Swisher said. “Skip’s such a great guy. He’s the best manager I’ve ever played for, no doubt. You have to keep battling and keep grinding.

“I never lost any confidence. I’m frustrated, but Skip has faith in me and my teammates do. I just turn it up, strap it on a little tighter. I had a run like this during the regular season and no one seemed to care. But it’s at that point now when it’s on the biggest stage. You want to go out there and do sooo well. Maybe I’m just pressing a bit too much.

“Skip told me the other day, ‘Be yourself. You had a great year, just keep doing the things you’re normally used to doing.’ I’ll be ready to go tonight when I go to sleep. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow when I wake up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

_______________________

As I wrap up blogging for the evening, it’s 8:02, five minutes after what would have been first pitch. It’s raining and raining hard. Unless Major League Baseball wanted to wait and play at midnight, there was no way this game was being played. MLB made the right decision to benefit both the players and the fans.

Talk to y’all tomorrow.

Game 6 topics

By Jon Lane
Why didn’t Joe Girardi go to the bullpen to start the seventh inning?
Damned
if you do, damned if you don’t. Girardi’s been an easy target whenever
things have gone wrong, but I didn’t kill him for sending A.J. Burnett
back in despite sitting for about a half hour. After all, he kept the
Yankees in the game and had thrown just 80 pitches. That said, I would have gave him the hook after that leadoff walk.
You have a rested bullpen that you’ve maximized to the fullest this
whole postseason. That was the ideal time to use it. Furthermore,
certain guys are better served by starting innings (read: Phil Hughes).

What has happened to Nick Swisher? Will he be in Saturday’s starting lineup?
Three
hits in 29 at-bats with 10 strikeouts, making two outs in that sixth
inning and popping up a game-deciding 3-2 pitch. Logic says bench him,
but I doubt Girardi will do that with the Angels throwing left-hander
Joe Saunders and the alternative, Brett Gardner, a lefty hitter. But
memo to a manager who manages by the numbers: Swisher is 1-for-6 with
two RBIs against Saunders this year and 5-21, 6 RBIs lifetime. Right
now, when it matters, he’s lost. Saunders has never faced Gardner and
the element of surprise works in the latter’s favor. Furthermore,
batting Gardner ninth with Derek Jeter leading off gives you a nice
look and tightens the outfield defense. I’d do it.

Why doesn’t David Robertson have a bigger role out of the bullpen?

I
have no idea. Robertson’s pitched three scoreless innings in the
postseason, none bigger than Game 2 in the Division Series. This is
where Girardi has to put the binder away and go with his gut. If
Robertson has his best stuff, nobody is hitting him, not Jeff Mathis,
Vlad Guerrerro, Kendry Morales, nobody.

If Saturday brings a rainout and the Angels win Game 6, will John Lackey start Game 7 on three days’ rest?
Duh.

Will it actually rain Saturday night?
Here’s the forecast,
but don’t cancel your plans yet. Thursday’s YES Network Toyota Text
Poll presented a great question on who has had the worst performance
this postseason: Baserunners, closers, umpires or meteorologists. Maybe
Mother Nature will provide one more reprieve. If not, Game 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 will be played Sunday and Monday, respectively.

P.S. I hate rain.

Fire Girardi if the Yankees lose the series?
Jesse Spector of The New York Daily News got ahead of himself with this column,
but prefaced it so it’s not a reactionary thing. There’s no doubt
Girardi has made some really strange decisions this postseason, but
he’s not managing in the crazy 1970s and ’80s either. Unless the
Yankees completely spit the bit these next two games, he comes back
next season win or lose.

Do the Yankees need an answer to the Rally Monkey?
Steven Goldman thinks so: King Kong.
They do have that Rocky II montage, yet a team with 15 walk-off wins
finds a way to get it done without any gimmicks. Swisher has said it
many times: The Yankees feed off the energy of their fans and that
energy has done wonders.

Who will win Game 6?
Yankees.
I had Yankees in six from the get-go. Andy Pettitte, for the umpteenth
time, proves his mettle and the Yankees go ahead for good in the
seventh … on a clutch pinch-hit by Swishlicious.

ALCS Game 6 schedule

manginoe_250_102309.jpg5:00 p.m. Gates Open to the public

5:20 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Yankees hit

6:30 p.m.-7:10 p.m. Angels hit

7:42 p.m. Presentation of Colors: Yonkers Fire Department Color Guard

7:43 p.m. Moment of Silence: Yonkers Firefighter Patrick Joyce from Rescue 1

7:44 p.m. National Anthem: Chuck Mangione

7:48 p.m. Ceremonial First Pitch

7:55 p.m. Yankees Take the Field

7:57 p.m. First Pitch