LP: Girardi (0-2)

Seriously: you rally back after another wobbly A.J. Burnett start to put up a six-spot when Mike Scioscia takes out John Lackey too soon – and you leave Burnett, whose normal yips could only have been exaggerated by sitting on the bench during the rally, in to pitch the bottom of the seventh? And when you finally go and get him you turn to Damaso Marte? And then Phil Hughes in the middle of an inning?
The Yankees are not in the World Series, clearly and unequivocally, because Joe Girardi has mishandled his pitching staff. It’s as shocking and as obvious as some of the eyechart-defying umpiring in this post-season.
What exactly was the intent in leaving Burnett in, and eschewing the seventh-eighth-ninth format that has served the Yankees so well since late spring? To make him feel better or more confident? Burnett had just rebounded from a first-inning tank job to throw five scoreless. He should’ve felt better or more confident as it was. Instead, he now can reflect on blowing the same game twice.
Even if Girardi and his Yankees survive a second tactical disaster in three games, he may pay for his unpredictable combination of going to his bullpen too soon and then too late. No matter how they do henceforth, the Halos are increasing the Phillies’ chances of winning the World Series. With a game sixth forced, huge crimps develop on the horizon in the Yankees’ rotation, even assuming they win one of the last two. The forecast for Saturday’s game in New York is “rain/thunder/90% chance of precipitation.” Suddenly the prospect of the Yankees having to pitch Andy Pettitte on Sunday, and maybe CC Sabathia in a Monday Game Seven, is very real.
Look what that combination would do to the Yankee plans, assuming they win in a Monday finale:

   Game One, Wednesday, New York: Burnett

   Game Two, Thursday, New York: Gaudin? Chamberlain?

   Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Sabathia*

   Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Pettitte*

   Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Burnett

   Game Six, Wednesday, New York: Game Two Starter or Sabathia*

   Game Seven, Thursday, New York: Sabathia* or Pettitte*

The Phillies would be favored to win the first two games in New York.
To get to the Series the Angels would have to stick to the current rotation, Joe Saunders Saturday and Jered Weaver or Scott Kazmir Sunday (or a day later in the event of rain in New York). So what does their rotation look like in a Series that would seem to pivot on throwing as many lefties as possible at Ryan Howard in Philadelphia?

Game One, Wednesday, Anaheim: Lackey

Game Two, Thursday, Anaheim: Saunders*

Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Weaver

Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Kazmir* or Lackey

Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Lackey or Kazmir*

Game Six, Wednesday, Anaheim: Saunders*

Game Seven, Thursday, Anaheim: Weaver

The gutsy play by Mike Scioscia here would be, use Kazmir on Sunday, bring Saunders back on three days’ rest to pitch in Philly on Monday, and hold Lackey back when the series goes back to California. You get both your lefties in Philly.
A rainout Saturday in New York and a Game Seven win by the Angels on Monday would force the Angels to do that – but also force them to swap Kazmir out:

Game One, Wednesday, Anaheim: Lackey

Game Two, Thursday, Anaheim: Kazmir*

Game Three, Saturday, Philadelphia: Saunders* 

Game Four, Sunday, Philadelphia: Weaver

Game Five, Monday, Philadelphia: Lackey

Game Six, Wednesday, Anaheim: Kazmir*

Game Seven, Thursday, Anaheim: Saunders*

At least this gives you a lefthander against Howard in your decisive game.
Let’s look at those two critical statistical lines again. Ryan Howard, in Philadelphia, 2009 season, versus lefthanded pitchers:

1 HR, 8 RBI, .178 BA, .290 OBP, .290 SLG. (107 At Bats)

Ryan Howard, not in Philadelphia, 2009 season, versus lefthanded pitchers:

5 HR, 25 RBI, .235 BA, .305 OBP, .417 SLG. (115 At Bats)

“With Robinson Cano coming up, one swing can change the complexion of this game.”

So said my old pal Joe Buck as Hideki Matsui walked in the 6th inning of tonight’s Game Five in Anaheim. The score was 4-0 Angels, and a Cano homer would’ve scored three runs. And I have now been watching and listening to baseball broadcasts for 43 seasons and not once can I recall ever seeing a pronouncement about “one swing” changing the game, actually being followed by such a swing.


  1. luisnbill

    Hey Keith, I love you man. I have watched you on many different shows and networks since Sportscenter. I remember when they wouldn’t move it to New York for you (a sad time for me). Anywho, how come you only strategize about how the Phillies can lose the World Series. Really?? They can’t even beat the Angels? Would you please use your considerable sport reasoning skills to tell me how the Phillies CAN win? I’d like to use this information to impress my friends (and enemies)–the same way I use Countdown to pretend I have opinions about politics.

    P.S. Tell Rachel I said Hi!!!

  2. astrophann

    Great analysis, Keith – it puts a whole new understanding of the inside game for teams I don’t follow as close as I’d like. You just got to love the chess games going on and how it fantastically makes hitting the ball-throwing the ball-catching the ball so amazing. I appreciate the insight. As for the “one swing” utterance with such a swing soon following, sometimes the drought does break 2005 NLDS, Atlanta at Houston, Game Four – the 18 Inning Monster. Brad Ausmus (of all people) comes up to bat, down by one, no one on, two outs, bottom of the 9th, Kyle Farnsworth throwing. A friend mutters bemusedly, “Here comes the Power.” And I intone, “Here comes the Pain.” (and I didn’t mean pain for Atlanta) Following the unlikely solo HR (2-0 fastball) was another NINE INNINGS of “just one swing of the bat …ect” Luke Scott “missed it by that much!” but Chris Burke finally found that one such swing. I wasn’t listening to the broadcast but ya know how it goes, a clock’s right two times a day and assuredly they were clock watching every at bat.

  3. unpaka27@yahoo.com

    I liked your phrase, “eyechart-defying umpiring”. My 70-something mother is virtually blind in one eye from a cataract, only has 20/30 vision in the other eye, and even she saw the bad calls that were being made. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic.

    Right now, I’d rather see Bob Uecker pitch, than AJ Burnett. To those who might say, “But he was never a pitcher,” I would reply, “I know. That’s my point. And at least Bob would be entertaining.” It’s ridiculous that the Yankees weren’t able to put the Angels away tonight. If it gets to the point where it comes down to a win-or-go-home 7th game, Girardi should be tarred and feathered, then thrown into the Hudson.

    Since astrophann brought a Get Smart reference into this, I’ll add another one. In response to, “That trick never works,” I submit what Maxwell Smart once said to Siegfried: “The trick is stupid! The trick is childish! …And the trick is working….”

  4. salthebarber

    I began cursing at the television when I saw AJ coming out in the bottom of the 7th. Dumb move to stay with him. The Yanks had already cheated death once by getting the 6 runs, why mess around? AJ did his job, turn it over to Hughes and Mo to close it down. I bet the inning would have gone much differently if Phil had begun the inning, rather than come in with runners on.

    One other questionable move of Joe’s was sending in Guzman to pinch run for A-Rod. Guzman never attempted to steal, so what was the point? He’s not that much faster than A-Rod, and if the Yanks had tied it, they’d be without their biggest bat for the rest of the way. Made no sense to me. Pinch run for Matsui, of course. But never take your best hitter out of the game when there’s still a chance you’ll need him.

  5. bmfc1

    When Countdown is on and a game is in progress, do you keep an eye on the game (I noticed during an interview this week that someone in a newsroom had the game on) or do you tell the staff not to say anything and then you pick it up on tape at 9?

  6. cohenjill@comcast.net

    Keith you keep obsessing about Howard. Haven’t you watched any of the Phillies games in the last 2 seasaons? Many, many games were won without the offensive help of Ryan Howard. As good as he is, which is tremendous, probably working on becoming an all-time great at the plate, the Phils’ still have awesome offensive power and speed with Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Ibanez, Feliz and Ruiz. This is a team of total contribution. They even had 2 games in the post-season where everyone hit, including the pitcher and everyone scored. They aren’t afraid of CC. They handled him quite well last year in the playoffs without the help of Ryan Howard. Meanwhile, the Phils are still waiting for their WS opponent.

  7. ucsu94@aol.com

    Regarding Burnett going out for the seventh, watching TV, it seemed like Joba didn’t even get up until they were two outs and the score was already 6-4. (I’m basing that on trusting that they usually show when someone starts throwing and the fact that Joba appeared to be trying to heat up fast.) Is it possible that Burnett went out for the seventh because Girardi hadn’t anticipated getting the lead, and so Burnett had to go out?

  8. rflatter@hotmail.com

    Do I ever feel late to the party. Just discovered this blog. And I’m angry I didn’t find it sooner. Great insight as always, Keith. Now if only you were libertarian. 🙂

  9. smtaylor69@comcast.net

    I am a huge fan and have been watching Countdown forever. However, you are also a monster Homer. I know you’re a yankees fan, and that’s ok, but if you think that the Phillies are a collection of nobodies surrounding Ryan Howard and that’s the reason that the Yankees will win, then you are not quite as knowledgeable about baseball as I thought. The Phils are world champs, and part of the reason for that is that they lit up C.C. when he was with the Brewers. I realize that the Yanks are not the Brewers, but you can’t write them off because of one man’s performance against left handers. I also hold up the fact that 4 other people could have won the NLCS MVP: Werth, Ruiz, Lee, or Victorino. I hope you and the rest of the media pick the Yankees, because the Phils love to be underdogs. I think it should be one heck of a series!

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