A rough start by AJ Burnett on 3-days rest put the Yankees in a 6-2 hole that they were ultimately unable to recover from. The enigmatic righty lasted just 2+ innings, giving up 6 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks. After Alfredo Aceves and Dave Robertson combined for 4 innings of effective relief, 2 solo shots off of Phil Coke put the Phillies ahead 8-2, and the game appeared to be over.
Despite the deficit, the Yankees refused to go down quietly. A 2-run double by Alex Rodriguez and a sac fly by Robinson Canó in the 8th cut the lead to 8-5, and suddenly, the Phillies had to take the game seriously. In the 9th against Ryan Madson, who has been Charlie Manuel’s best relief option in this series, the Yankees continued to battle. A leadoff double by Jorge Posada and a single by pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui (intelligently saved for a crucial situation by Joe Girardi) put runners on first and third with no outs, and the tying run was at the plate in the form of Derek Jeter. Unfortunately, Captain Clutch was not so tonight, grounding into a rally-killing double play which scored a run but emptied the bases. Johnny Damon gave the Yankees a chance by scratching a single after falling behind 0-2, but Mark Teixeira, representing the tying run, continued to struggle, and waved feebly at a Madson changeup.
It was a tough but not entirely unpredictable loss, but there are plenty of positives going forward:
- The Yankees are going back to their home park, where they will have the support of the home crowd, the comforts of home, et cetera.
- The return to Yankee Stadium also entails a return to the use of the DH, which greatly benefits the Bombers. Hideki Matsui is hitting .556 in the series, so getting his bat in the lineup full-time represents a huge upgrade, more so than the insertion of Matt Stairs would do for the Phillies.
- Jorge Posada will be the Yankee catcher for games 6 and 7, which represents a significant offensive upgrade over Jose Molina.
- The Philly bullpen looks vulnerable, and the Yankees have shown that they are capable of getting to the closer and setup men in crucial situations. No lead will be safe. The late-inning rally, while ultimately unsuccessful, should give the Yankees confidence going forward that they can score off the Philly bullpen.
- While both are starting on 3-days rest, the Yankees have to feel confident in having the winningest playoff pitcher of all time going for them in Game 6 in Andy Pettitte, and their ace CC Sabathia in Game 7. While the crafty Pedro Martinez could present a challenge to the Yankee lineup, the potential Game 7 matchup of Sabathia vs. either Cole Hamels or JA Happ greatly favors the boys from the Bronx. The fact that Pettitte and Sabathia are both lefties should help to shut down the lefty hitters in the Philly lineup (except for Utley, who is singlehandedly carrying the team).
- The Yankees did not use several of their most important relievers tonight, which will ensure that they will be ready and able to go multiple innings. These include Mariano Rivera (who should be able to get a 6-out save if called upon) as well as Damaso Marte (who has been death to the Philly lefties), and Joba Chamberlain, who, Feliz homer aside, has looked much improved in this series.
- And, lest I forget to mention it, the Yankees are up in the series 3-2. All they need is one.
It’s going to be a long off-day. Am I being too optimistic? Perhaps. But I have faith that they can close it out at home.
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