Results tagged ‘ Pedro Martinez ’

The old lady across the street

stadium_360.jpgBy Jon Lane
She spoke and people listened for 85 years. She’s dark and empty, and soon will no longer be with us, yet she still speaks with conviction.

I heard her voice stuck in traffic on the Major Deegan, on the exit ramp and emerging from the parking garage. It was then she said it: “They’re taking it tonight.”

Yankees in 6. The new place is quiet at the moment, but the buzz is palpable. It doesn’t guarantee winning or losing, but fate and karma has played huge role in the Yankees’ 2009 regular season. The old lady is demanding she be heard one last time.

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Joe Girardi is meeting the media in five minutes. Figure on him announcing the lineups – Nick Swisher or Jerry Hairston Jr. in right field is the only suspense – along with sharing more thoughts about being in position to win it all and answering for the thousandth time why he’s starting Andy Pettitte on three days’ rest and how long Mariano Rivera can go.

UPDATE: Swisher is in right. Girardi’s been fielding questions on going with his season-long starter, clinching at home, Mark Teixeira’s slump and A.J. Burnett’s availability (yes in an emergency).

On the iPod en route to the Bronx: A block of Judas Priest, the ideal band to get you pumped up. Now playing: Tommy Bolin’s “Wild Dogs,” another great tune to get one in the zone.

Back with a whole lot more later.

4:42 p.m. Quick hits from Girardi’s pregame press conference:

On the chance to win a World Series at home:

I think any time you get a chance to close it out in front of your own fans, it’s special, especially being the first year at the Stadium and what it would mean to the Steinbrenner family and the Yankee organization and all the people of New York. I’ve been on championship teams where we’ve won it at home and where we’ve won it on the road. And it seems to be a little bit louder and crazier when you do it at home.

On the decision to start Swisher over Hairston
“Swish has been our everyday right fielder. We thought it was important that Swish just sit down for a day. His at bats have been very good since we sat him down. We don’t always look at how many hits you get. We look at the at bats, and does the hit the ball hard, and does he square ball up and is he seeing pitches? That’s what we look at.

“Swish has been our everyday right fielder, and that’s what we’re doing.”

On being second-guessed:
“Well, as far as that, that pretty much happens a lot year in New York during the regular season, as well, so you get kind of used to it.

“The interesting thing about what people were calling second guessing that I’ve always thought is curious is they don’t know if their idea would have worked. Everyone makes the assumption that it would have worked. We base our decisions on a lot of preparation, a lot of discussion. We don’t do anything where we just pull something off the wall and with the intent of it working.

“The one thing about baseball and in life, every decision is not going to go according to plan, and you have to deal with it and you have to answer for it, and you understand that here.”

On the Yankees’ Core Four:
“They understand the moment, they know how to handle the moment. They’ve been through it and can share their experiences with others. They know that they’re not going to be fazed by the situation because they’ve been through it so many times together. So I mean, we like having that. And I’m sure they like having what they went through last year together as a club.

“Experience is important.”

7:36 p.m. Settled into my spot in Section 405. No pregame news to discuss. Let’s face it, the talking is over and everyone is psyched for first pitch. Just now I heard the first chants of “Who’s your daddy?” (and that’s old and weathered, too). While paying for dinner at the NY Grill, Margaret the cashier was wearing her collection of World Championship pins. I asked if she has room for a new one if it comes down to it. She said her guy has one ready and waiting, just for her.

7:50 p.m. Mary J. Blige gave a beautiful rendition of our national anthem before Scott Brosius threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

7:58 p.m. Andy Pettitte’s first pitch is a ball to Jimmy Rollins. The game-time temperature is 47 degrees.

8:02 p.m. Great start for Pettitte. He needed eight pitches to retire the Phillies after getting the red-hot Chase Utley to ground into a double play. Right now the Stadium is playing a highlight montage to Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy.” It’s their best one yet.

8:24 p.m. Another good inning for Pettitte. It got slightly hairy when he threw a wild pitch to Pedro Feliz with two out that advanced Jayson Werth to second base. Feliz popped the next pitch behind home plate where Jorge Posada made the catch.

Pedro Martinez looked sharp early too. Wishful thinking suggested the Yankees pound him early, but you know he’s not going down without a fight.

matsui_200_110409.jpg8:34 p.m. Godzilla goes boom! 2-0, Yankees off Hideki Matsui’s third homer of the 2009 World Series, fourth of this postseason and 10th of his career. The joint is jumping. Pedro’s hearing it now.

Matsui’s World Series numbers so far: .600, 4 HR, 9 RBIs. The Yankees want to free up the DH spot, but it’s going to be very tough to not re-sign him.

8:39 p.m. 2-0, Yankees after two. There’s a long, long way to go, but Pettitte is a guy you feel comfortable with protecting a lead.

8:48 p.m. Well, Carlos Ruiz tripled and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ sacrifice fly. It could have been a lot worse. To reiterate, there’s a long, long way to go.

9:10 p.m.
Two more runs plated by Matsui, now .636-4-11 in the World Series. This was bigger than his home run because it came with two out and after A-Rod was caught looking. Godzilla is making a serious case for both Series MVP – despite not starting three games – and to play in the Bronx for another season.

Pedro, by the way, has thrown 62 pitches. His night may be over. Jerry Hairston Jr. meanwhile, is now in left. Uh-oh.

Memo to Pettitte: You have a three-run lead. Do what you do.

9:17 p.m. Damon has a strained right calf. He probably did it coming home to score.

9:24 p.m. Pettitte works out of trouble again. He’s been walking a tightrope and is at 62 pitches after four innings. I’m wondering more and more whether Girardi will deploy Rivera in the seventh.The lefty was livid with plate umpire Joe West, BTW. West’s strike zone is tight enough. Probably not the best idea to tick him off.

9:43 p.m. Yankees ahead 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. Anticipation reached another level when Pettitte retired Jimmy Rollins on an inning-ending double play. He has enough for two more innings to get it to Rivera.

9:48 p.m. Tex breaks through with an RBI single. 5-1, Yankees. Fans starting to smell it, but still a ways to go.

9:57 p.m. Matsui – again. That’s six RBIs and for the first time I felt this place shake. He’s tied a World Series record (Bobby Richardson, Oct. 8, 1960, Game 3 WS).

10:10 p.m. Fans chanting “Andy Pettitte!” Nice touch. Who knows what his future will be if the Yankees seal it?

10:11 p.m. The beast has awakened. Ryan Howard’s two-run homer makes it 7-3. Yogi is a genius.

10:14 p.m. Raul Ibanez’s double ends Pettitte’s night. The lefty sprinted to the dugout and tipped his cap. It’s Joba time with two out in the sixth.

10:19 p.m. Joba cleans up. Nine outs to go, three to get to Rivera. I don’t care if the Yankees blast J.A. Happ to make it 10-3. Lock it down.

10:47 p.m. Not Joba Version 2007, but he gets two outs. Girardi doing anything and everything to give Rivera a lead in the eighth, which means Damaso Marte is in to face Chase Utley with two on. Marte’s been flawless since Game 2 of the Division Series, but still hold your breath.

10:50 p.m. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night. Marte does his job. Six Mariano Rivera outs to go.

katehudson_350.jpg10:54 p.m Game 6 attendance: 50,315 – including Kate Hudson. A new Yankee Stadium high.

11:06 p.m. Godzilla is human, yet if he doesn’t bat again he’ll finish with a .615 batting average in the 2009 World Series. That is insane.

11:10 p.m. Marte will pitch to Howard to open the eighth before Rivera opens for business. Makes sense.

11:14 p.m. Give Marte a ton of credit. He was an afterthought for much of the season after starting poorly and landing on the DL. He whiffs Howard (13 Ks in the WS) and gets a nice ovation. Five outs to go and the place is going nuts for Rivera. I’m headed downstairs to get in postseason position.

11:25 p.m. Three to go.

1:45 a.m. Finally back from the crazy party in the clubhouse. A TON of ground to cover. The old lady had her say.

Still one more for No. 27

burnett_300_110309.jpgBy Jon Lane
Of course, there’s uproar over the fact that the Yankees actually lost a game, this one Game 5 to the defending World Series champions, and Joe Girardi’s decision to start A.J. Burnett on three days’ rest instead of Chad Gaudin.

Take your imaginary scale and place it in front of you. Then weigh these options in a potential World Championship-clinching game: Burnett or Gaudin? Gaudin or Burnett?

I addressed your comments in my previous entry – great feedback, by the way, so keep it coming. Girardi’s over-managed at times and has made some strange moves, but I stand by him in this case. You win and lose with your best. Burnett didn’t lose that game because he pitched on three days’ rest. He lost because he’s an enigma and the Phillies were bound to bust out. I also refer to what Robin Roberts told a Philly reporter before Game 5: In his days starting on as little as 24 hours rest was nothing.

Yep, the Yankees are in serious trouble, just like when they were ahead 3-2 against the Angels in the ALCS after losing Game 5 and everyone had flashbacks to 2004. Chill. The Yankees took two of three in Philadelphia against the champs and have two chances to win it at home. They still need one win to win it all and have Andy Pettitte – owner of the most series-clinching wins in history – likely going in Game 6. You’ll take that, right?

Short rest or not, you like the Yankees’ chances, even against the amazing Pedro Martinez. Pettitte is 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in his career working on three days’ rest. The last time he did it was 2006 in Houston (1-1, 3.79.).

Last I checked Burnett was 4-0, 2.33 prior to Game 5. Studying the numbers helps one make a decision, but in the big picture they mean nothing.

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Here’s yet another reason why it’s not 2004 – or even 2003. The Yankees’ winning percentage at home was a league-best .704. They outscored opponents by 101 runs and hit 136 of their 244 home runs in the new place. You’d also have to go back to September 11 and 12 (Orioles), and June 17 and 18 (Nationals) for the last times they lost two straight at Yankee Stadium.

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arod_200_110309.jpgIf the Yankees wrap it up Wednesday night, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez are, for my money, the team’s top MVP candidates. Jeter’s double-play grounder in the ninth was one of the final nails of Game 5, but he’s still batting .364 in the World Series. Damon is batting .381 and his two stolen bases in Game 4 is another part of Yankees lore. And since starting his first Fall Classic 0-for-8 with six strikeouts, A-Rod homered in Game 3 and totaled four RBIs in Games 4 and 5. One more big hit in Game 6 can seal it for the Yankees’ third baseman.

What Rodriguez is doing is more remarkable considering that Mark Teixeira has been terrible. Teixeira is 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts, including his game-ender as the tying run Monday night. In the postseason, Teixeira is batting .172 (10-for-58) with 16 strikeouts.

More troubling is Robinson Cano’s .167 average, which is tied with Nick Swisher for the team low, and his ridiculous struggles with runners on base have continued (1-for-10, one RBI). Swisher was benched for Jerry Hairston Jr. in Game 2. As one reader suggested, does Girardi gulp and bench Cano, a .320 hitter in the regular season, for Ramiro Pena, added to the World Series roster on Monday?

I wouldn’t, but Bill Madden reminded us of 1978 when the little-known Brian Doyle replaced the injured Willie Randolph late in the season and batted .438 against the Dodgers.

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Chase Utley is the Phillies’ MVP to date; his five home runs is tied with Reggie Jackson (1977) for the World Series record. But despite the Game 5 win, the Phillies have issues.

If Martinez can get them through Game 6, the big debate in Philadelphia is who starts a Game 7: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ? Hamels has taken some unfair flack for his “I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been mentally draining. At year’s end, you just can’t wait for a fresh start.” (Disclaimer: He said this after saying he’d want the ball in a potential Game 7.) However, the city – and reportedly Brett Myers – is down on him and, let’s face it, Hamels has been hideous. Happ hasn’t started since September 29 (more perspective to the Burnett-Gaudin debate).

Lee would pitch on two days’ rest, but Thursday is his scheduled throw day, so my guess is the Phillies got with their ace left-hander and empty the bullpen from there.

Furthermore, who’s Charlie Manuel’s closer? Ryan Madson started the ninth inning of Game 5 with Brad Lidge on the bench. Madson got it done, but barely. Neither inspire confidence in big spots.

Business as usual

By Jon Lane
The Yankees down a game after Cliff Lee turned out their lights, what did Joe Girardi tell them before Game 2?

Nothing. He didn’t need to.

“Our club ha been resilient all year,” Girardi said. “The one thing that we’ve been able to do is we’ve went through some tough losses and we’ve seemed to bounce back. It was just business as usual for us today.”

The usual business came in the form of big hits from Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui. Ahead in the count, Pedro Martinez threw two curveballs. One was low and outside, and Matsui made the adjustment and put a good swing on it.

Two Matsui-related decisions, one immediate, the other in the offseason. Without the DH, the Yankees will have to determine if they want to put Matsui and his balky knees in the outfield, where Matsui said he’s confident he can handle a full workload. After the season, the major question is whether the pending free agent will return for another year in the Bronx.

Matsui was asked if he stops to look around extra carefully and enjoy it a bit more, considering this may be his final opportunity to win a World Series as a Yankee.

He and his knees be ready for outfield if Girardi decides and to play as long as needed

“I’m not thinking about my contract, so I really don’t have an answer for that,” Matsui said. “Even with the atmosphere changes, how I feel and what I do to prepare and my approach at the plate, those things just don’t change for me.

“I don’t feel like I really look at it in terms of success or failure. Obviously every year my goal is to be a World Champion, but I don’t look at it that way.”

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Mariano Rivera’s 21st World Series appearance moved him past Mike Stanton for second place on the Yankees’ all-time list behind Whitey Ford’s 22, Mariano Rivera threw 39 pitches in two innings, his World Series high, topping 35 in Game 3 against the Braves in 1996. He still extended his own record of 10 Fall Classic and 38 postseason saves. It was also his fourth two-inning save and lowered his career ERA to 1.09.

Despite the workload, Girardi is confident that with Friday’s off day he’ll be OK for Game 3 Saturday night.

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Was Derek Jeter bunting on his own in the seventh inning? With two strikes, yes, and then the sign was taken off.

“Derek Jeter is a very smart baseball man,” Girardi said. “If he feels he can do the job in that situation, I’m not going to bark at him. He felt he could get it done and he didn’t get it done.”

So why bunt instead of hit-and-run?

“I don’t really like to talk too much about strategy,” Girardi said.

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Stop the presses: Alex Rodriguez is 0 for 8 with six strikeouts in his first World Series appearance. Lay off the haterade, Girardi isn’t benching him.

“I know he’ll bounce back,” Girardi said. “We’ll get it going with him in Philly.”

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You knew Yankees fans would give Martinez a rude reception. Par for the course, but one fan stood out when Martinez exited the game after throwing six innings of three-run ball with eight strikeouts.

“It’s a new Yankee Stadium, but the fans remain the fans,” Martinez said. “I remember one guy sitting right in the front row with his daughter in one arm and a cup of beer in the other hand and saying all kinds of nasty stuff. I just told him, ‘Your daughter is right beside you. It’s a little girl. It’s a shame you’re saying all these things.’ I’m a father myself. How can you be so dumb to do those kind of things in front of your child? What kind of example are you setting?”

Love Pedro or hate him, we continue to witness one of the greatest (if not the greatest) pitcher of this generation.

“I tell you what, he may not have 96 to 98 (MPH) he did back then when he was a little bit younger, but his command was every bit as good as it was back then,” said Jerry Hairston, who started over the slumping Nick Swisher due in part to his .370 lifetime average against the right-hander. “He was painting pitches at my knees, inner half (of the plate) basically at will on a couple of guys.”

Hairston, like A-Rod playing in his first World Series game, went 1-for-3.
 
“He’s always been a great pitcher and for him to adjust and adjust to what he’s got now, that’s a credit to him,” Hairston said. “He’s really pitched well this postseason and it was a tough win for us.

Game 2 Live Blog

stadium_640.jpgBy Jon Lane
Pedro Martinez is certainly a polarizing figure. One day after his entertaining rant,
during which he recalled the altercation between he and then Yankees
bench coach Don Zimmer during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, Zimmer told the St. Petersburg Times,
“Pedro is full of crap. It’s what, six years later? If Pedro wants to
be a big man, I don’t care what he says.” He did, however, soften his
stance during an interview with the New York Daily News. “I was definitely wrong and Pedro didn’t do nothing,” he said.

This
was my favorite line from yesterday: “I might be at times the most
influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium.” I recall
sitting in the bleachers on September 14, 1998 when he squared off
against Orlando Hernandez. Pedro and El Duque each struck out nine
batters, except Pedro gave up three runs to Duque’s none. Duque went
the distance in a 3-0 win, but that didn’t douse the enthusiasm of a
large contingent from Pedro’s native Dominican Republic who took over
the front row, and proudly waved their country’s flag. That was years
before the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was re-ignited and Martinez found
himself on New York’s most hated list.

Speaking of influential, Jay Z and Alicia Keys are performing on the field to a slew of flashbulbs.

Speaking
of influential and inspiring, Derek Jeter was named the winner of the
Roberto Clemente award for commitment to community service.

Chat with you right before first pitch.

7:51 p.m.
Former Yankees outfielder and current YES Yankees analyst Paul O’Neill
throws out the first pitch. Those familiar chants of “Paul Oh Neill!”
echoed around the Stadium, along with loud boos for Philly’s starting
pitcher.

7:57 p.m. A.J. Burnett warming up to Marilyn
Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” Awesome. First pitch 7:59 p.m.
(strike). Game time temperature 52 degrees.

8:04 p.m. A
clean 12-pitch first for Burnett. For Yankees fans’ sake, Bad A.J. must
stay away. For now they’re getting a thrill taunting the heck out of
Pedro Martinez.

pedro_350_102909.jpg8:14 p.m. Pedro in the first: Three up, three down, two strikeouts. He’s come to play.

8:28 p.m.
Ladies and Gents: Bad A.J. Throws 25 pitches, a few in the dirt, and
follows up Raul Ibanez’s ground-rule double that Johnny Damon could
have caught by serving Matt Stairs’ RBI single to left. Of course,
Ibanez was immediately waved home to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

8:42 p.m. Wow.
Ibanez’s great diving catch robs Robbie Cano and saves a run. The good
news is the Yankees are making Pedro work (20 pitches in the second as
of this writing).

9:02 p.m. Burnett at his best is
electrifying. At his worst he puts 50,000-plus to sleep. There’s never
middle ground. As far as “rhythm” between Burnett & Molina, even if
there was a DH in Philly, I think you’re seeing the end of this
experiment.

9:05 p.m. BIG strikeout of Ryan Howard with
two on and two out; Burnett deserves credit there. Howard is 2-for-14
(.143) with eight strikeouts lifetime against the Yankees’ right-hander.

9:29 p.m. Life
for the Yankees and life in this once-quiet stadium thanks to Mark
Teixeira’s moonshot to right field. Walking the concourse, fans were
going through the motions. Just like that, one swing from Texieira
snapped out of it. The bomb also awakened the Pedro haterizers.

9:46 p.m.
He drives you crazy, but Burnett somehow gets it done. He erases a
one-out double by No. 9 hitter Carlos Ruiz by retiring two good hitters
Jimmy Rollins (strikeout) and Shane Victorino (pop up to third). The
latter was on the first pitch, which at 86 total pitches affords him at
least the sixth inning.

9:54 p.m. Memo to Johnny Damon:
Why swing at the first pitch with Derek Jeter on second, Pedro’s pitch
count in the 80s and the Phillies’ pen warming up? Fans in front of me
waved their hands in disgust after Damon’s pop up landed in Ryan
Howard’s glove. Golden opportunity to forge ahead wasted.

10:08 p.m. A-Rod
is 0-for-7 in the World Series. There are people planning to wait on
hold for two hours for a one-minute platform telling their favorite
host that he and not Nick Swisher should have been benched.

matsui_250_102909.jpg10:12 p.m. The
Yankees needed another big hit. Leave it to Godzilla to deliver. The
Yankees face a major decision on whether to bring him back for another
season. Matsui may have to compromise if he wants to stay.

10:20 p.m.

At 97 pitches I wondered if Burnett had enough for one more inning
(last week in SoCal he did not). Needed 11 pitches to retire the
Phillies in order, with two called strikeouts, this time he did. His
night is done (108 pitches). Despite what Joe Girardi said before the
game, expect Joba Chamberlain to be the bridge to Mariano Rivera.

I was wrong. Rivera is warming. He’ll go for the six-out save.

10:31 p.m.

Jorge Posada pinch-hitting for Molina with runners on first and second
and no one out in the 7th. Pedro was lifted (107 pitches) and left,
head down, to loud boos.The Yankees going for the kill.

10:36 p.m.
3-1 Yankees after Posada drives one home. Still nobody out with the top
of the order coming up. Unless the Yankees blow it open, Rivera is
locking this one down.

10:41 p.m. Still wondering why Jeter was bunting, especially with two strikes. Made no sense.

10:48 p.m.
More
controversy thanks to the clowns in blue. First base umpire Brian
Gorman and the band of idiots failed to see that Damon’s line drive was
not caught by Howard. It bounced, which is why Howard threw to second
in the first place. It was ruled a double play that ended the inning.
Yet another terrible call, but the bad karma started with Jeter’s
decision to bunt. Remember that if the Phillies get to Rivera.

11 p.m. It’s been discussed to exhaustion, but what Rivera did
to escape the eighth inning, no other closer that participated in the
2009 postseason gets done.

Hairston in, Swisher out

hairston275.jpgBy Jon Lane
Nick Swisher is not in tonight’s starting lineup. Jerry Hairston Jr. is starting in right field. Joe Girardi cited Hairston’s .370 lifetime average against Phillies starter Pedro Martinez. It also hurt Swisher that he’s batting .114 in the postseason.

“It was something that I kicked around in my head, and I talked to my staff when we got here, and we talked about it. We made the decision to go with Jerry,” Girardi said. “Swish is a team guy. He understands, and I told him be ready because you never know when we might need you, and he said OK.”

The last time Hairston faced Martinez was July 26, 2004 when his Orioles played Pedro’s Red Sox. Hairston went 2-for-3 in that game, but despite his overall good numbers, he had just four hits in 19 at-bats in 2002 and ’03.  It makes you wonder if Girardi would have gone this route if Swisher weren’t batting .114. Then again, we’ve seen during this postseason that he’s not afraid to open the binder and go the unconventional route.

“I can’t tell you because we’re in position where he is struggling, but Jerry has real good numbers off Pedro,” Girardi said. “We also like the way they kind of match up against each other, and that kind of shows up in the numbers, so we thought we’d give Jerry [the start] tonight.”

Johnny Damon lockers next to Swisher (we hope to get a comment from Swisher before or after batting practice). Damon senses that Swisher will find himself involved in the game at some point. Despite his poor performance, you can look at Swisher as a power threat from both sides of the plate now sitting in reserve.

“Obviously Nick wants to be the guy who helps carry us to a World Championship,” Damon said. “At this time of year it’s about team. Hairston has had some success off of Pedro before, and hopefully he has it tonight. Right now we’re just trying to win as a team, and hopefully what we’re doing tonight will work out for us.”

Here are the lineups. Back with more later.

5:11 p.m. Panic in the Bronx? If you’re a big chunk of the Yankees’ fan base, maybe, depending on your point of view (there were those on watch after the Yankees lost Games 3 and 5 of the ALCS). Damon said during his press briefing that the mood in the clubhouse is “good” and it’s business as usual.

“Every game in the postseason is a must-win,” Damon said, “and we feel like we must win this one.”

girardi275.jpgGirardi remembers the 1998 ALCS against the Indians, when the Tribe to a 2-1 lead over a Yankees team that won 114 games and when George Steinbrenner was still in full force. The Yankees won the next three — two in Cleveland — to win their 35th pennant.

“I remember butterflies in my stomach,” Girardi said, “but besides that, I don’t remember a lot. I remember having a good feeling about that club because we had won so many games and we knew the challenge ahead of us in Cleveland. Maybe I could draw from that experience and say, you know what, I felt good then. I feel good now.

“I can’t necessarily think for my players and know what’s going on in their gut, but as I’ve said all along, I believe this club is very resilient and has a confidence about them.”

History is against the Yankees. Game 1 winners have won the World Series 64 of 104 times, including six straight and 11 of the last 12. In 2002, the Angels dropped Game 1 to the Giants before rallying to win in seven. YES’ Yankees analyst Ken Singleton was on another one of those exceptions. In 1983, his Orioles lost Game 1 to the Phillies, but rebounded to win the next four and the championship.

6:57 p.m. Swisher’s reaction to the benching. As expected, he handled it well:

“Jerry’s got great numbers off him. Hey, let him go out there and do his thing,” Swisher said. “Obviously it’s frustrating and I’m upset, but it’s a team game. It’s about playing everybody we have.

“It’s Skip’s thing and I’m behind him, just like I’m behind everyone on this team.”

hughes_250_102909.jpgStruggling right-hander Phil Hughes, unavailable after walking the first and only two batters he faced in Game 1, regretted baking at plate umpire Gerry Davis over balls and strikes, citing the emotion of the moment.

“I went back and looked at the pitches, and they weren’t as close as I thought they were, so it falls on me,” Hughes said.

“I didn’t execute my pitches. Walks are killers. We can’t afford to have those, especially when we’re trying to keep the game 2-0 like it was. To let those four runs come across really hurt us. I feel like the weak link right now is our bullpen.”

The pen, flammable the early portion of the season, became a major strength after Hughes took over the role as Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man, posting a 1.40 ERA in 44 appearances. In the playoffs, however, his ERA is 9.64 through 4 2/3 innings pitched in seven appearances. Girardi said he would continue to go to Hughes in the eighth, but don’t be surprised to see Joba Chamberlain in that role if it’s a tight game.

Rather than being being aggressive and attacking the zone like he’s done all year, Hughes admitted he’s relying too much on scouting reports.

“That’s something I need to get back to,” Hughes said.

Chris Shearn interviewed Hughes exclusively. Watch it here.

Live from Section 405

rally_350_102809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Well, not yet. It’s raining and the media auxiliary press area is soaked at the moment. I’m told that not only will there be a Game 1, but the rain is expected to let up by around 5:30.

I love it how all of us make a simple attempt at meteorology.

Showers did not prevent a bevy of Yankees fans from attending a pep rally this afternoon at Times Square, where New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Yankees legend Reggie Jackson and the YES Network’s Michael Kay addressed Yankees Nation.

Joe Girardi is speaking at 3:45, followed by Game 2 starter A.J. Burnett. Later it’ll be Charlie Manuel and your favorite, Pedro Martinez, addressing the media.

Once the rain (hopefully) let’s up, I’ll be watching Game 1 from a unique vantage point. Right field is where I camped out during postseason (and the All-Star) games across the street, though in the loge section. Yet there’s something about being amongst the fans, as my colleague and friend Jerome Preisler can attest.

Oh, if you’re reading this and have tickets for the game, shut the computer off and leave now. Gates open at 5 p.m. and on top of New York/New Jersey’s prolific rush-hour traffic, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, wil be here and Major League Baseball is implementing additional security measures in select seating locations. The additional security screening will occur every time guests enter their location before the start of the game. If guests leave their seats, they will be screened again upon returning.

Additional security measures are in effect from the time gates open until the start of the game, so please allow yourself extra time to enjoy batting practice and the pregame ceremonies scheduled to begin at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Here’s the latest hour-by-hour forecast, which calls for a 55 percent chance of “light rain” by first pitch.

Back with more later.

4 p.m. I cannot tell a lie … the sun is out!

4:35 p.m. Joe Girardi said the expected when asked about the
roster adjustments. Eric Hinske provides another pinch-hitter and Brian
Bruney an extra arm that will be important in Philadelphia. The
exclusion of a third catcher (Francisco Cervelli) also increases the
likelihood of Jorge Posada catching A.J. Burnett if he gets the call
for Game 5.

He’s also not in any rush to name a starter for Game
4; the current great debate is whether he’ll throw his top three arms
on short rest. “The focus is Game 1 tonight, and that’s what we’ll
worry about,” he said.

You can watch the full presser here.

burnett_250_102809.jpg5:01 p.m. There was his first postseason start in the Division Series. Now A.J. Burnett is set to make his World Series debut in Game 2 tomorrow night. Burnett played for the 2003 champion Marlins but missed out while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

I”m looking forward to it, I’m excited,” Burnett said. “I’m going to prepare, yeah, maybe, as another game, but deep down I know what it’s about. I know how real it is and I don’t want to change it. I want to go out there knowing it’s my first World Series start.”

Burnett, of course, said he’s all for making a potential Game 5 start on short rest. First there’s Game 2, when his opponent will be Pedro Martinez.

“He’s come back and what he’s accomplished this year is great,” Burnett said. “As a fellow starting pitcher you can respect that. I’m looking forward to going up against him. I’ve seen him pitch and he’s going to bring a lot of excitement here tomorrow night, and I think everybody in the world knows what he can do in the postseason this year or in the past, or whenever he takes the ball.”

Burnett was also asked about facing Ryan Howard and his 45 home runs and 141 runs batted in. He kept the Phillies slugger hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout in a 7-3 loss at Yankee Stadium on May 22. In 12 career at-bats, Howard is 2-for-12 (.167) with six strikeouts lifetime against the Yankees’ right-hander. Both hits have been homers.

“You try to get ahead and strike him out, I guess,” Burnett said. “I think you’ve seen him do more this postseason than hit home runs. He’s hit the ball pretty much everywhere. I’m going to probably pitch him the same as I pitch all lefties, pretty much the same. Just try to get ahead and put them away as quick as I can, and not leave anything over the plate or in his hot spot when the game is on the line.”

Here’s the Burnett conference in its entirety.

7 p.m. What’s a Yankees game, especially a World Series game, without Freddy Sez (aka) Freddy Schuman, who since 1988 has encouraged fan interaction by walking around hitting a pot with a teaspoon while allowing fans to do the same? In the Great Hall, fans lined up to get their picture taking with Freddy.

“We’re here to celebrate the Yankees winning,” he said before two clanks of his famous pot.

The Hard Rock Cafe was already packed well before 6 p.m. The wait for a table was 2 1/2 hours and climbing.

All fans received a 2010 MLB calendar along with a protective cover to hold their World Series ticket.

Two hours before first pitch, Yankee Stadium was playing highlights of the 1950 World Series. The Yankees swept the Phillies in four games in what before tonight is the only time the teams met in the Fall Classic.

pedro_250_102809.jpgCharlie Manuel spoke in depth about Pedro. It’s amazing the amount of attention he’s receiving but given his history with the Yankees and his legacy of, from where I sit, being the greatest pitcher of this generation, that attention is justified.

“I looked at him in Dodger Stadium, I think he’s a guy who’s in good shape physically, and I think with the knowledge and knowing how to pitch, I think that definitely he’s ready, and I think that he can handle the big setting,” Manuel said. “He’s been there before, and he likes being there, and he likes everything about it.

“I saw a guy who was cocky, which is fine. Sometimes to be good you’ve got to be cocky and you’ve got to be — someone has to let you be who you are sometimes. Sometimes you don’t want to take who somebody is and their identity and stuff or what they stand for and try to change it because who they are sometimes makes them — that’s why they’re good. He had an arrogance about him, and you would think — at times I thought he was kind of arrogant, but at the same time everything about him, I felt like — I always thought he was a professional and that he loved to pitch.

And since I got to know him, not only does he love to pitch and the competitive part I already knew about, but the guy, he really studies the game and he loves baseball and he’s a baseball guy. If you sit and listen to him talk and everything, he’ll impress you with what he knows and how he kind of sees things. That’s the part about it I’ve gotten to know him, and I’m very proud that he was able to sign and come on our team and pitch for us because that way I got to know who he is.”

7:21 p.m. Pedro Martinez says he’s “older and wiser,” but he remains very entertaining. Check out these money quotes from his meeting with the media. Warning, he pulled no punches taking shots at the scribes.

pedro2_250_102809.jpg“Because of you guys in some ways, I might be at times the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium. I can honestly say that. I mean, I have been a big fan of baseball for a long time, since I was a kid. My first ball I ever got from a Big League player I actually got to purchase in Dodger Stadium in a silent auction, was Reggie Jackson. I was actually a big fan of the Yankees, too.

For some reason with all the hype and different players that have passed by, maybe because I played for the Red Sox, is probably why you guys made it such a big deal every time I came in, but you know, I have a good bond with the people. After playing in New York, I went to realize something: New York fans are very passionate and very aggressive. But after it all, after you take your uniform off and you deal with the people, they’re real human beings. It’s all just being fans.

I have all the respect in the world for the way they enjoy being fans. Sometimes they might be giving you the middle finger, just like they will be cursing you and telling you what color underwear you’re wearing. All those things you can hear when you’re a fan. But at the end of the day, they’re just great fans that want to see the team win. I don’t have any problem with that.”

On his rumored meeting with George Steinbrenner :

“I remember quotes in the paper, ‘Here comes the man that New York loves to hate.’ Man? None of you have probably ever eaten steak with me or rice and beans with me to understand what the man is about. You might say the player, the competitor, but the man? You guys have abused my name. You guys have said so many things, have written so many things. There was one time I remember when I was a free agent, there was talk that I might meet with Steinbrenner. One of your colleagues had me in the papers with horns and a tail, red horns and a tail. That’s a sign of the devil. I’m a Christian man.

“I don’t like those things. I take those things very serious.”

On hearing “Who’s your daddy?”
“It really reminds me that God is my daddy. It gives me strength. It keeps me strong and healthy, and I believe I can do anything. And when you have — I said it before, when you have 60,000 people chanting your name, waiting for you to throw the ball, you have to consider yourself someone special, someone that really has a
purpose out there.

“Maybe when I said that quote out of frustration, I had the purpose of maybe hearing it now, hearing it the following few years that I played, because every time I hear it, it reminds me not to make the same mistake. And at the same time it reminds me that God is my real daddy, and he’s the one that keeps me strong to compete, just like he does to Mariano [Rivera]. I’ve seen Mariano when I know his shoulder is barking, and he still succeeds. Men of faith. It’s only God who can probably do that for him.”

On his tangle with Don Zimmer during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS:

“We are both, I consider, mature people, Zim more than I am, wiser than I am, and he acknowledged that it wasn’t my fault; that it was his fault.

“I never wanted to apologize to you guys because why should I apologize to you guys or come to a press conference and say, I apologize for something I didn’t intend to do? It’s a normal human reaction to defend yourself when you feel threatened, and that’s what happened to me at that point. I had to defend myself, and I know how. Don’t let this small body fool you; I know how. I just don’t put it into play.

“I mean, that Zim situation is over with. I didn’t feel like I had to apologize at that time, give an apology because I didn’t feel like I did anything to apologize. But it’s something I’m not happy about. It’s something I don’t condone, and it’s something that I don’t want to see in baseball.”

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)

What went wrong

By Jon Lane
The Yankees are in Miami seething after a 2-4 road trip capped off by dropping two out of three to the hideous Washington Nationals. They are 3-6 in their last nine games, which would be 2-7 if not for Luis Castillo. The mojo they showed for much of last month has been hiding along with the sun during this June swoon, and it started after the first pitch at Fenway Park on June 9. I’m afraid to inform you that’s not a coincidence.

Here were the issues during a miserable Thursday at Yankee Stadium:

? A five-hour, 26-minute rain delay, leaving everyone not employed as a farmer cursing Mother Nature. That said, you cannot control the weather and the Yankees did right by their fans by allowing them to move down from the upper deck and issuing rain checks to a future, non-premium game either this season or next. That’s more than can be said about the boneheads at the USGA, who probably buckled under public pressure when they actually decided to treat their customers fairly by allowing tickets for Thursday to be used on Monday. The fact that it came down to that was downright stupid.  

? As far as what the Yankees can control, Joba Chamberlain continues to struggle. Given his inconsistency, Chien-Ming Wang’s attempted recovery, Phil Hughes ready and waiting and the Pedro Martinez rumors, those Joba to the bullpen calls are getting louder. I don’t see Pedro coming to the Bronx and you can’t call for Joba to be yanked from the rotation every time he’s not lights out. Leave him be.

? Seven runs in 26 innings – two in the last 18 – against the Nationals’ pitching staff? Alright, even the best teams are shot down by pitchers on a hot streak, like John Lannan. But it is inexcusable to not score one run off Craig Stammen. This history of morphing no-names into a hybrid of Cy Young and Walter Johnson is ridiculous. How is it that Stammen owned a 5.86 ERA in five starts prior to yesterday against teams that had never seen him either?

? Bill Madden documents such a track record that goes back to Billy Traber (remember him?). Other immortals on the growing list are Adam Eaton and Daryl Thompson, and Fernando Nieve remains fresh in everyone’s mind.

? The Yankees had chances to win yesterday and Wednesday night – and failed against that vaunted Nationals bullpen. For the series they batted 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position (3-for-13 on Tuesday, a win). No wonder why Joe Girardi was in a sour mood.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Girardi said. “The more we talk about it, the more people think about it.”

The truth hurts: The Yankees are 1-10 against the Red Sox and Phillies, and 36-19 vs. the rest of baseball. They play three decent teams during this road trip (Marlins, Braves, Mets). Tonight they face Marlins left-hander Sean West – for the very first time. A good showing and most of the bitter taste of the past two days will be gone. But it starts with Andy Pettitte working beyond the fifth inning, which he hasn’t done in three of his past four starts. And it needs to continue with the offense reawakening against West, who has alternated between great and mediocre.

Stay tuned for a Father’s Day tribute and tonight’s lineups. After that I’ll be away for the next seven days. Enjoy the games.