-First and foremost, AJ Burnett was everything you could have hoped for and more last night. That wasn’t the good AJ last night, it was the great one. The one we’ve seen only a handful of times this year, notably against the Red Sox and Mets. Even the lone run he allowed should never have scored. Matt Stairs hit a grounder that went right under A-Rod’s glove, scoring Raul Ibanez from 2nd. He threw 1st pitch strikes seemingly all night, struck out 9 and walked just 2. When AJ gets ahead of hitters it means he’s commanding his fastball, and then his wicked curve/slider become devastating. He benefited from a somewhat wide strike zone by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, but so did Pedro. He answered all questions last night in the biggest game of his life.
-Say what you want about Pedro, but he was a joy to watch last night as well. He has completely reinvented himself as an off speed pitcher and had the Yankee hitters off balance all night. He also has a bag of tricks to reach into, and the Jeter quick pitch for strike 3 was right down the middle, but caught Derek off guard. He’s one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, and might have pitched his final game last night. If he did, he went out in style, which is fitting for a pitcher with his resume. Charlie Manuel left him in 2 batters too long, but FOX showed him grilling Pedro in the dugout and Pedro clearly wanted to stay in the game. Can’t blame Manuel for that.
-To his credit, unlike Manuel Joe Girardi took no chances and brought in Mo for the 6 out save. With a lead, I would have let AJ start the 8th considering how dominating he was. But taking him out after 108 pitches also leaves open the option of starting AJ in Game 5 on short rest. But I don’t expect that to happen, unless its an elimination game.
-Critics of Jose Molina as AJ’s personal catcher had a bad night last night. He was blocking balls in the dirt all night, sometimes with men on base. Many of those were balls that likely get past Posada. In the 4th inning, Molina brilliantly threw out Jason Werth at 1st base with a lefty batter in the batter’s box, which is something you rarely see. Blocking balls in the dirt may not sound like much, but it can keep innings from getting out of hand, which is the biggest issue with AJ. Posada did pinch hit in the bottom of the 7th and lined an RBI single, so he got a chance to contribute as well and the Yanks wound up with a walk and an RBI single from the Catcher’s spot in the lineup.
-The Jeter bunt play with 2 strikes was inexcusable. Little leaguers know not to do that. He bunts on his own, so the Girardi bashers will have to look elsewhere on that play. To his credit, he took full responsibility. Peter Abraham Tweeted this quote from Derek:
“That was me. That was stupid.” (on his bunt).
-Alex is 0-8 with 6 SO. The 6 strikeouts bother me more than the 0-8 does, in the ALDS and ALCS, he was on every pitch and FOX had a stat saying he hadn’t swung and missed at a single pitch in either series. He’s fouling pitches straight back that he was putting into the stands a week ago. He’s clearly off his game a bit. To compound matters, he took his troubles out on the field on the Matt Stairs run-scoring grounder, which went right under his glove. Hopefully Tex snapped out of it last night, and Alex will start getting better pitches to hit as a result. Next up is lefty Cole Hamels in hitters-haven Citizens Bank ballpark, which should be a good match up for Alex. But if you feel like jumping on Alex after 2 bad games, I would remind you that we wouldn’t be playing right now if not for his brilliant October leading up to the World Series.
-I know people will have their knee jerk reactions to the umpires, who have certainly had a bad post season, but that Ryan Howard play where he trapped the ball was difficult to see on slow motion, much less in real time. I can’t go crazy about that play. Did the Yanks get a bad call? Yep, but it didn’t decide anything and most blown calls rarely do. Blaming umpires is generally just a convenient scapegoat for fans in a losing cause.
-Andy Pettitte faces Cole Hamels on Saturday night. Hamels has been very inconsistent all year, specifically with his ability to locate. Keep an eye on who the Home plate umpire will be. CC Sabathia has already been announced as the Yanks game 4 starter, while Manuel is waiting to see what happens in Game 3 before announcing his. He wants to avoid using Lee on short rest if at all possible. If the Phils win on Saturday, it will likely be Joe Blanton facing CC on Sunday, which is a fairly lopsided match up. But a Philly Game 3 win also sets up a Cliff Lee vs Chad Gaudin match up for Game 5 (assuming the Yanks win Game 4). If the Phils were to lose Game 3, Manuel could come back with Lee on short rest to face Sabathia. But we could have two pitching mismatches in Game 4 and 5 should the Yanks lose Game 3 on Saturday. I don’t think Girardi will pitch AJ Burnett on short rest in Game 5, unless its an elimination game. Looks like a long series, folks.
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