Everybody did the same thing in their own way, playing out the World Series in their head before it started. If you were from Philadelphia, you spent your time trying to map out a way for the Phillies to win four games.
This was my personal map: Cliff Lee wins Game 1 and Game 5; the Phillies’ hitters get to CC Sabathia in a raucous, all-hands-on-deck Game 7 at Yankee Stadium; and, in between, they clobber Andy Pettitte one time, ideally in Game 3.
Well, scratch that.
My map-to-four really did not mention the name Cole Hamels. The reason is that I did not see the possibility of Hamels pitching a gem -- not at this point, not after all of these months. I just didn’t see how it could happen against this potent a lineup. That it did not happen in Game 3 should shock no one. That Hamels circled the drain early, again, was always the likely outcome.
His pitching line: 4 1/3 innings and 5 runs allowed. A lot of it was just Hamels being Hamels in the 2009 version. He was very good for three innings and then, well: adversity, lost concentration, you know. “Things kind of started snowballing on him,” said Phils manager Charlie Manuel, who also went out of his way to say that he did not question Hamels’ mental toughness.
The result of this was that they were going to need to hit Pettitte and they were going to need to hit him hard. And it looked like it was going to happen, too. The Phillies had his pitch count into the 50s after only the second inning, and they had a 3-0 lead. But then Pettitte settled down. The adversity did not get to him, unlike Hamels. The difficult parts of the game did not submerge him. But for an error by third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Pettitte would have retired nine straight Phillies before Jayson Werth’s home run in the sixth inning. Dire trouble, a really difficult night, cruised instead toward a comfortable conclusion for Pettitte: six innings, four runs. He had seven strikeouts, all of them on sliders.
For the Phillies, it just wasn’t enough. “He shut us down,” Manuel said. “The biggest thing for Pettitte was, he closed down our lefthanded hitters.”
The Phils are now hitting .216 in the series as a team. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino are both 2-for-11 (Utley’s were both huge Game 1 homers). Pedro Feliz is 1-for-11. Ryan Howard is 2-for-13.
After Hamels, they did the serial bullpen dance, with J.A. Happ, Chad Durbin and Brett Myers each allowing single runs along the way. It was 8-4 as the Phillies got to the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen. But the energy had been sucked out of the ballpark and out of the lineup by then. You could see the red tail lights headed in the direction of the Walt Whitman Bridge as the Yankees batted in the top of the ninth inning. Carlos Ruiz hit a ninth-inning homer but it didn’t matter. The only good thing for the Phillies was that it caused Yankees manager Joe Girardi to go to the bullpen for closer Mariano Rivera to get the final two outs on a night that they would have preferred to give Rivera a rest.
And now, Sabathia vs. Joe Blanton in Game 4. Sabathia vs. Blanton in the game that will either even the series or push the Phillies to the precipice. There are people who wanted to see Lee in Game 4 on short rest but it really would have been a panic move. There are people who would have rather seen Happ in this starting spot in the playoffs instead of Blanton, and that will be the great off-season debate if this all goes badly. There are arguments both ways -- because Happ was so good for so long on the one hand, but also because Happ hasn’t seen the seventh inning since August, before he suffered that oblique injury. The answer there is unknown and unknowable.
This is what they are left with, Sabathia vs. Blanton. And I have to tell you, I don’t know a lot of people who had them winning this one as they drew up their own personal roadmaps to a repeat championship. And, well, as Manuel said, “If we’re going to get going, it’s time for us to do it.”
Meanwhile, a single voice loudly shouted as the fans filed past the press box toward the exits: “Seven-game series, folks. Seven-game series.”