Game 3 World Series: Yankees @ Phillies, 10/31/09

Below, as per Sam Borden, is tonight’s Yankees lineup.  Swish is back in, batting seventh.  Posada returns, batting fifth.  Lefty goes tonight looking to give the Yanks a 2-1 advantage, and with The Big Guy looming on three days’ rest for tomorrow night’s game.  Pettite going seven strong would be a huge plus for the Yanks, who look to ignite the offense off the talented but struggling Hamels.  John Flaherty has a good rundown of the Pettite-Hamels matchup, which he says distinctly favors Pettite due to his experience, and Hamels struggling.  The Yanks must jump on early fastballs from Hamels, which are typically straight and of moderate velocity, before letting his change dance around them.  They must be patient and recognize and lay off the junk, in order to hammer what is in the strike zone.  Although they won only one game in Anaheim, the Yanks could well have won all three games (only two obviously were necessary).  They play well on the road, so I like their chances in Philadelphia.  Work over Hamels and get into the bullpen early, guys.  Take back control of the series.  I am taking the kids out for Halloween, then will return around the start of the game.  Enjoy the game, everyone.  Let’s Go, Yankees! Clap clap clap clap clap.

YANKEES
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Posada C
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Cabrera CF
Pettitte P

Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.37 postseason ERA)

PHILLIES

Lineup TBA

Pitching: LHP Cole Hamels (1-1, 6.75 postseason ERA)

Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Celtics Rolling Early

I got to see my first lengthy NBA action of the year last night, and thoroughly enjoyed the Celtics’ dominance of the Bulls as they won going away, 118-90.  Before getting to the game, I am pleased just to watch any NBA action for, with the threat of the league locking out the referees, I would not have watched any games had that happened.  That they came to an agreement, even if one somewhat detrimental to the refs, at least eliminated the lockout threat.

The Celtics have been the most impressive team thus far, beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland, holding the Bobcats to a scant 59 points, and completely handling the Bulls and allowing just 79.3 points per game in the process.  Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were very strong last night, with Allen scoring 20 points in just 23 minutes, and Pierce going 8-12 in tallying 22 points.  Eddie House added 22 off the bench with sharp shooting, and the bench has been considerably solidified this year with the additions of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, and Shelden Williams.  With House, they now have length, inside strength, and s=considerable scoring off the bench, even without the immature Glen Davis who is recovering from a thumb injury from a late-night fight.  The Yanks have the ability to limit their starters’ minutes, especially early in the season–which they did successfully for much of last year before Garnett’s knee injury.

Speaking of which, KG has been good thus far, and had 16 points last night.  His presence is most felt, however, on the defensive end, gumming up the works inside and on the perimeter, communicating, and blocking passing lanes.  Wallace will provide much support on those fronts as well, a long multifaceted defender with good communication skills and sharp defensive instincts who can defend multiple positions.  Williams has the ability to score and defend physically off the bench, and Daniels is a good defender whose offensive skills (good shooter, slasher) will allow Allen a blow.

Great bench pickups by Ainge this off-season, to me, make the Celtics the favorite once again in the East. 3-0 and rolling.

Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (1)  

A.J. Handcuffs Phillies, 3-1; Series Even

I missed almost the entire game while at a meeting but, on the way out, saw I had received texts from my better half indicating some Yankee success at the plate–a good sign.  Rather than check the Yankees’ web site via the phone, I called home, and the first thing I heard from my wife was that the Yanks were completing an inning-ending DP in the eighth to escape trouble; another good sign.  I got home for the top of the ninth, and Mariano looked good, getting Howard looking on a pitch slightly outside, allowing a two-out double to Ibanez (whom I’ve always liked) before whiffing Stairs on a nasty cutter down and in for a two-inning save to even the series.

Hats off to A.J. for providing such a strong start and out-pitching the unflappable Pedro.  He was outstanding, going seven strong and allowing just four hits, two walks, a run earned, and fanning nine on 108 pitches/68 strikes.  His curve was nasty and sharp, and Burnett used it to both get ahead and set down batters.  He was particularly tough on Howard, K’ing him three times. He also mixed in a crackling fastball, locating it well on both sides of the plate.

Brilliant start, especially since Pedro was on early.  He had only allowed one hit before Teixeira cranked a deep homer into the visitors’ bullpen in right center in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at one.  Matsui whacked a two-out homer on a 1-2 curve low and in–not a bad pitch, really–giving the Yanks their first World Series lead, 2-1 in the sixth.  After A.J, buzzed through the Phillies in the top of the seventh, getting Ibanez and Stairs looking on curves painting the black outside, the Yanks tacked on a big insurance run in the bottom half when Hairston looped a single to right, Brett the Jet pinch ran and Melky singled him to third on a hit-and-run.  Jorge pinch hit for Molina and singled in Gardner on a 1-2 fastball tailing back over the plate, 3-1 Yanks.  But the Yanks got a bad break when JD lined to first, called out even though Howard trapped it, and doubling off Jorge.

Mariano entered and let Rollins get away, walking him in an 11-pitch at-bat with one out.  Ruiz singled, but Mariano got out of it against Utley, inducing a 4-6-3 DP that replays showed Utley barely beat out, but it was bang-bang.  Regardless, the Yanks got the break at first back.  He made the ninth look considerably easier than the eighth.

Matsui’s 2-3 game with his solo homer was big, as was Teixeira’s solo shot.  The Yanks need these very players to deliver, for they make it  considerably more difficult for Philadelphia to avoid A-Rod as a result.  Of course, A-Rod needs to warm back up, going 0-8 with 6 K’s thus far.  He just needs to sit off-speed more often late, and not allow fastballs to speed by him early in the count.  Jeter had a double (with 3 K’s), Jorge’s RBI single was huge, and Melky, Cano, and Hairston added singles.

But this was A.J.’s game, and he was an ace last night.  I feel infinitely better about the Yanks’ chances after last night’s win.  I really don’t see Philadelphia winning all three at home, honestly.  Taking Game 3 is now imperative, with Lefty facing Cole Hamels.  I like A-Rod’s chances of warming up against Hamels.

Big win last night; very big.

Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 11:36 am  Comments (8)  

Game 2 World Series: Phillies @ Yankees, 10/29/09

Below, as per Sam Borden, is tonight’s Yankees lineup.  Note that Swish sits, with Hairston playing right, and Molina continues to caddy for A.J.  With the paucity of offense last night, A.J. better pitch a shutout with Molina and his anemic bat added in there.  The lineup really needs to come alive tonight, and to mount rallies without simply the long ball.  That won’t be easy against Pedro, who doesn’t throw nearly as hard as several years ago, but still sports an array of nasty junk.  The Yanks need to be patient, stay back on breaking pitches to both see them more clearly, to see them drift outside the strike zone, and to turn what they can to the opposite field. They cannot continue to lunge at garbage.  Staying back and sitting on off-speed, especially with Pedro not throwing 96 anymore, will allow them to be much more selective and, therefore, effective.  Teixeira and A-Rod struggled mightily last night, combining to go 0-8 with 5 K’s.  That must change tonight to allow the rest of the lineup better opportunities.  I have a meeting until about halfway through the game.  Even things up tonight, guys.  Grind it out.  Enjoy the game, everyone.  Let’s Go, Yankees! Clap clap clap clap clap.

YANKEES
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Jerry Hairston RF
Melky Cabrera CF
Jose Molina C

Pitching: RHP A.J. Burnett (0-0, 4.42 ERA in postseason)

PHILLIES

Lineup TBA

Pitching: RHP Pedro Martinez (0-0, 0.00 ERA in postseason)

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Lee Stifles Yanks

Cliff Lee pitched with no discernible pattern all night, constantly changing speeds and zones to baffle the Yanks.  He also got two solo homers from Chase Utley off C.C., who was good but a bit off his game early, as the Phillies beat the Yanks 6-1 in Game 1 of the World Series.  The Yanks did not help their cause by lunging at a lot of junk, exactly what it was thrown to induce.  They failed to stay back, wait for that to drift out of the strike zone, and if necessary steer pitches the other way. This is something they will need to address the rest of the series, for most of the Phillies starters feature change-ups and junk pitches.

That said, this was just one game.  Lee was great, out-dueled Sabathia, and went the distance.  He fanned 10, including Teixeira twice and A-Rod thrice.  Losing home field advantage also hurts.  But winning Game 2 will help right things, and the Yanks have been a good road team all year.  Stay positive, people.  No one said this would be easy.  Of course, I am also sure none of us, myself included, thought yesterday would look so hard.

Thanks to everyone for dropping by the inaugural Heartland Digital Living Room.  Sorry it couldn’t have been a more joyous occasion.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 8:25 am  Comments (2)  

Game 1 World Series HDLR: Phillies @ Yankees, 10/28/09

Welcome to the World Series, Everyone!

Below, as per Sam Borden, is tonight’s Yanks’ starting lineup.  The Big Guy takes the hill tonight in the first World Series game for the Yanks in six years, facing former Cleveland teammate Cliff Lee in a match-up of top-flight lefty starters.  The lineup stays the same to start the World Series as it ended for the ALCS, with Jorge batting fifth and Matsui sixth.  I like C.C.’s and the Yankees’ chances tonight, and in the series overall.  The Phillies are the defending World Series champs, they have a deep and dangerous lineup, and have improved their rotation.  That said, I think the Yanks have a better pitching staff overall, especially the bullpen, and have a far more patient and equally deep lineup.  I see A-Rod staying hot, Teixeira heating up, The Captain being himself, and Melky and Swish turning over the lineup well.  I am also opening up the Heartland Digital Living Room for tonight’s game, so click here to enter.  I have an important meeting until 6 CT or so, and will do my best to be back around 6:30 CT, just before game time.  Although I will have the chat window via CoverItLive set up, people will not be cleared to comment until I get in, so feel free to post comments on the game thread below in the interim.  I set up plenty of digital leather recliners, and set out loads of pizza, chicken wings, cold coldies, and chips and spicy salsa, so come on in and dig in.  Get the Series start right with a big W, guys.  No letup now.  Enjoy the game, everyone.  Let’s go, Yankees! Clap clap clap clap clap.

YANKEES
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Cabrera CF

Pitching: LHP CC Sabathia (3-0, 1.19 ERA in postseason)

PHILLIES

Lineup TBA

Pitching: LHP Cliff Lee (2-0, 0.74 ERA in postseason)

Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

HDLR Tonight

Weather permitting, I will open up the Digital Living Room for tonight’s game.  I have an important meeting from 4-6 tonight, but will do my best to get things up and running by 6:30 or so.  Hope to see you there.

Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm  Comments (2)  

So Long, Steve Phillips

Word on the sports street is that ESPN finally axed Steve Phillips, ersatz baseball analyst and former GM of the Mets, for his sexual indiscretions with a production assistant. (Hat tip to Nick from Across the Pond for sending this along)  Phillips publicly acknowledged the affair gone awry when the woman, Brooke Hundley aged 22 (less than half Phillips’s age), began harassing Phillips’s wife in “Fatal Attraction” fashion, with letters and phone calls ridiculing her for allegedly having no motivation in life–other than raising the family’s four children and tolerating her husband’s previous history of philandering, of course. ESPN described the termination as follows:

“Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN,” network spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a statement. “His ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged, and it became evident it was time to part ways.”

Duh.

What took them so long?  In fact, one has to wonder how it is that Phillips ever stayed on at ESPN as long as he did.  Goodness knows the purported sports news network appeared ready to ditch him before, considering their airing endless bouts of his GM tryouts during the long afternoons of sparse summer programming in 2006.  Remember those?  Ahh yes, Phillips and his smug mug infesting America’s airwaves even more than usual with his and the network’s televised games of pretend, with Phillips on a dais posing as a GM of a different professional team each day, and real reporters with actual jobs to do and leads to follow forced to divert their energies and lug clipboards with insipid questions to these poorly contrived dog-and-idiot shows to query some has-been about what he would do in fictitious situations should he ever hold a GM job again. What a colossal waste.

So was Phillips and his interminable anti-Yankees bias, fondness of the Mets, and blather about batters’ and pitchers’ techniques as if he ever knew or evaluated those well.  If nothing else, this gives ESPN an opportunity to move someone actually informed into the “Baseball Tonight” studio to balance out Kruk’s drooling broadsides, and Gammons’s oft-informed but pro-Boston soliloquies.  I wouldn’t mind Herschiser there, but he does fine during games.  I also don’t mind Winfield and Perez, but don’t think they add a lot of substance.  Winfield in particular needs to loosen up a bit, though he is likable and knows hitting and fielding inside and out.  I think Steve Stone might be a good choice, but he has become ensconced in the Chicago market covering the White Sox, a real coup for them.  Suggestions, anyone?  I also think that the network’s broadcasting crews should have just two people, which is plenty and would minimize the blather that charlatans like Phillips routinely belched.

Back to Phillips.  Initially I refrained from commenting on this for a few reasons.  One is that I have been very busy with work lately.  Another is that I genuinely feel that such personal matters are best left alone, particularly when families are involved.  I said the same about Sarah Palin’s daughter’s early pregnancy, feeling that regardless of my detesting Palin for tons of valid reasons, that had nothing to do with such a family matter.  In a related way, I feel for Phillips’s wife, who is now divorcing his worthless hide.  Deservedly so, especially since she already stuck with him when he habitually pulled his extracurricular nonsense when he was GM with the Mets.

But now that there is some finality to Phillips’s career, at least at ESPN, I feel that I can say without reservation that Phillips was one of the most loathsome figures ESPN ever had–maybe why they kept him on, to gin up activity even if it was negative toward him and his nonsense.  What an insufferable hack, practically worthless except for perhaps allowing the tendentious pronouncements he disgorged to serve as an object lesson of how not to be a good analyst at ESPN.

Good riddance, Steve.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Back To The Show! Yanks Beat Angels 5-2, Advance to World Series

Yes, YES YES! YES! YES!  Great stuff in The Bronx last night as the Yanks beat their nemesis Angels 5-2 to advance to the World Series for the first time in six years.  Lefty was simply outstanding, going 6 1/3 strong and allowing 7 hits, a walk, 1 run earned, and fanning 6 on 99 pitches/64 strikes.  From the beginning, he was smooth, efficient, and in control of all his pitches.  His curve was particularly sharp and he used it with precision to both get ahead and strike out Angel batters.  JD broke through with a two-run single to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead in the fourth that they would never relinquish, and the team took advantage of a couple Angel errors in the eighth to tack on crucial insurance runs after the Angels cut the lead to one off Mariano.

The game started with the Yanks stranding six runners in the first three innings, not unlike Game 4.  That hurt, for they trailed 1-0 in the third as Mathis led off the third with a double, and Abreu’s two-out single scored him.  But the Yanks broke through in the fourth with a terrific rally off Saunders.  Cano came back from 0-2 to work a walk, Swish singled, Melky bunted them over, Jeter worked an eight-pitch walk, and JD lined a 2-1 fastball to left center, 2-1 Yanks.  After struggling in the ALDS, JD really came around in the ALCS, batting .300 with 5 RBI.  Teixeira’s infield single re-loaded the bases, and Saunders walked A-Rod on a close 3-1 fastball inside, 3-1 Yanks, ending Saunders’s night after getting worked over for 30 pitches in the fourth.  But Oliver entered and got Jorge to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP, clipping the threat short in a still productive fourth.

Andy kept the Angels in check, getting a 4-4-3 DP to end the fifth.  The Angels threatened in the sixth with a two-out rally when Hunter got an infield single on a slow roller to A-Rod, and Vlad blooped a double to right on a pitch down and away, one that only Vlad would consider tantalizing, second and third.  But Pettite got Morales on a comebacker off his glove and right in front of his face to escape.

After Teixeira’s 5-5-3 DP ended the sixth, Lefty got Kendrick on a liner to Swish, then gave up a single to Rivera, ending his night and earning a standing ovation from a raucous Yankee Stadium crowd.  Joba entered and was sharp, getting Mathis on a grounder that took a bad hop and bounced up hard on Jeter but thankfully careening right to Cano, standing on second, for the second out.  As I reminded my daughter as we watched, that is why players move and move to the ball when it is hit–you never know what can happen.  Joba then got Aybar on a 6-3 to end the seventh.  A-Rod smoked a single up the middle to start the seventh but Jorge’s second DP ball erased him.

Mariano entered for a six-out save in the eighth.  Figgins started with a typical Mariano garbage hit, a bloop barely past the reach of a sprinting Jeter in shallow left.  Teixeira made a great diving stop on Abreu’s grounder, 3U and Figgins to second.  Hunter grounded out to Cano on what could have been an RBI single, but Cano was cheating toward the middle to hold Figgins, two down.  Vlad scored the first postseason run off Mariano in New York in ages, singling through the hole on the right side, 3-2 Yanks, but Mariano got Morales on a 4-3 to end the inning.

The Yanks got big insurance runs in the bottom half.  Cano worked a four-pitch lead-off walk off Santana, Kazmir entered and Swish bunted, but Morales’s throw bounced off Kendrick’s glove at first, Swish safe.  Melky bunted and Kazmir floated one well over the leaping Kendrick into right field, scoring Cano 4-2.  Jeter grounded out to Kazmir, JD walked, and Teixeira ripped a long sac fly to center, scoring Swish, 5-2 Yanks.  A-Rod walked again, but Weaver got Jorge looking, ending a chance to completely blow it open.

But honestly, that was that, for I knew like most others that Mariano wasn’t going to allow more.  He buzzed through the last three, getting Kendrick on a 3U, Rivera on an F8, and fanning Matthews Jr. to end the game and ALCS.

In a spirited late-night chinwag with Frank the Sage, we paid considerable respects to the fallen Angels, truly a tough team.  The Sage put it well when he said that, with all due respect to the Red Sox, it is the Angels who have been the Yanks’ biggest nemesis this decade, certainly in the playoffs.  It is the Angels beyond whom the Yanks could not advance come October.  In the immortal words of Inspector Clouseau, Not anymore. This was a tough series win, one well earned, and one that I and a good many of us knew had to occur.  The Yanks had to get past the Angels, they had to solve their playoff nemesis just as the Angels had to and did solve theirs in Boston.  That New York did, and they did it with good pitching and some timely hitting.  They will need to improve their RISP hitting against the Phillies, going 2-8 last night but stranding 12.  They also played good defense (including getting a great 9-3 DP from Swish doubling off Vlad in the second) and committed far fewer mistakes than the usually mistake-free Angels.  But pitching won the series, with the Yanks holding Figgins to .130, Abreu to .160, Morales to .167, and Rivera to .200.  That’s simply outstanding.

The Big Guy got the ALCS MVP, although it could easily have gone to A-Rod or could have been shared between the two.  Regardless, C.C. was money, as was A-Rod.  Kudos to Melky (.391) for having a heck of an ALCS, too.

Not to be overlooked in all the mirth, what a great way to open the new digs, getting to the World Series in its first year.  Honestly, although I had a few worries about some of the super-rich and their selective presence draining from the atmosphere, the new Stadium sounds an awful lot like the old one–LOUD.

I have to confess to being tempted to advocate pitching C.C. last night to seal the deal.  But truly, who better to have going on the mound than the man who is now the winningest postseason pitcher in the history of the game? Pettite’s gem earned him his 16th playoff victory, the most ever.  The guy is flat-out money, and was dominant when he had to be. I can’t say enough about Lefty; great performance in what has been a great year for him.  Great move bringing him back; great.

Back to the World Series for the first time since 2003, and it starts Wednesday night.  Although I am still under the weather, I am feeling a bit better, and may open up the Digital Living Room Wednesday night.  Funny how a trip to the World Series changes one’s outlook.

Enjoy it, Yankees fans.  We have been blessed thus far this year, and I don’t think it ends here.

[Edit: Thanks to everyone for stopping by The Heartland lately.  Last week, there were over 2,000 site visits, well more than usual.  I greatly appreciate that people come here to discuss baseball, and it still honestly surprises me that this blog has drawn any sort of attention despite my lack of spare time.  Thanks a lot, really.]

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 9:19 am  Comments (10)  

Game 6 ALCS: Angels @ Yankees, 10/25/09

Below, as per Sam Borden, are tonight’s lineups.  Swish stays put, batting eighth.  His defense keeps him in the lineup, as his switch-hitting, but he needs to get going now.  The Yanks send Lefty to the hill to clinch the series, win the Yanks their 40th pennant, and pinch their ticket to the World Series.  I like their chances, especially at home where it will be loud, and with an experienced Pettite taking the ball.  Get it done tonight, guys.  Enjoy the game, everyone.  Let’s go, Yankees! Clap clap clap clap clap.

YANKEES
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: LHP Andy Pettitte (1-0, 2.84 ERA in postseason)

ANGELS
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: LHP Joe Saunders (0-0, 2.57 ERA in postseason)

Published in: on October 25, 2009 at 3:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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