The Breakdown: Three Days and a Cloud of Rest

The Phillie Phanatic pumps up the crowd during the World Series pep rally today outside City Hall. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

As first reported by early Sunday morning, the Yankees have defeated the Angels for the right to face the Phillies in the World Series. There is no cheering in the press box, but there was plenty of it in my living room, where mental preparations were being made for a cross-country flight to southern California early Tuesday morning. The sentiment, I'm sure, is shared by the majority of the Phillies organization. An Amtrak charter is a hell of a lot more convenient than a plane.

But while the Yankees victory over the Angels was a victory in terms of travel logistics, it also sets the stage for one of the most intriguing World Series in quite some time. You want hype? How about two of the top five television markets in the country squaring off? You want stars? How about four of the last eight regular season MVP winners on the field? You want a pitching duel? How about a pair of Game 1 starters whose ERAs are barely over the legal limit (OK, that's an exageration)?

I've used the word several times over the last couple days to describe a potential Phillies-Yanks World Series: Spectacle.

Of course, in the end, the game is the thing. So we're going to spend the next day or two breaking down this match-up, while also keeping you up to date as the Phillies shape their roster and their rotation.

Speaking of rotations. . .


Three Questions: The Yankees Rotation

1. How will Joe Girardi will set up his rotation?

 Lefty C.C. Sabathia will face former teammate Cliff Lee in Game 1. And A.J. Burnett will almost certainly pitch in Game 2. But the big question involves when Girardi will give both pitchers their next start.

In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Yankees were aided by an extra off day, which enabled them to go with a three-man rotation while pitching only Sabathia on three days rest, and only once. In the World Series, however, the extra off day is eliminated. So if the Yankees bring Sabathia back for Game 4 on short rest, they would likely have to do the same with Burnett in Game 5.

Advantage, Phillies?

Not so fast.

Burnett has started four games in his career on three days rest and is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA, allowing 19 hits and two home runs while striking out 24 and walking 10 in 27 innings.

During the regular season, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA in four starts on short rest. His most recent postseason start came on three days rest, when he allowed one run on five hits against the Angels in a 10-1 win in Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 20.

So there is a strong possibility that the Phillies will face Sabathia or Burnett in four of the first five games of the World Series, with Andy Pettitte starting Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park.

The good news is that they faced all three pitchers during a May series at Yankee Stadium, when they came a Brad Lidge blown save away from a sweep.

2. Why is Sabathia such a force?

Like last year's NLDS against the Brewers, the Phillies' fate will likely lie in their ability to scratch together enough offense against Sabathia to support whoever is facing him on a given day. While it is possible we see three Lee-Sabathia match-ups, the Phillies sound hesitant about sending Lee out on three days rest, something he has never done before. So there is a chance Sabathia could face three different starting pitchers if this series goes seven games.

Here is what the Phillies will be dealing with in Sabathia:

  • He has allowed just three earned runs in 22 2/3 inning in three starts this postseason. In his two ALCS starts, he allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out 12 while walking 3 in 16 innings. He has allowed one home run this postseason.
  • He has allowed just two home runs in his last 11 starts dating back to the regular season. The Yankees are 3-0 in Sabathia's starts this postseason and have won 14 of his last 15 starts dating back to the regular season.
  • He has a proven ability to pitch lights out on three days rest. While Lee has been even more dominant than Sabathia this postseason, the Yankees likely will not have to face him twice in the first four games. And even if they do, there is no telling how Lee will respond.

3. How have the Phillies fared against the Yankees' triumverate of starters?

Games 1/4: C.C Sabathia
at Citizens Bank Park: Sabathia's only career start in Philly came in Game 2 of the NLDS last year, when the Phillies beat him 5-2. The game had two highlights, one of which led to the other: After Pedro Feliz's one-out double tied the game at 1-1, Brett Myers drew a nine-pitch two-out walk, which was followed by a Rollins walk to load the bases. Shane Victorino then hit a 1-2 pitch for a grand slam that seized control of the game. Sabathia lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits. The good news? Myers might be on the postseason roster. The bad news? He almost certainly will not face Sabathia. The worse news? Sabathia was pitching his fourth straight game on three days rest at the time.

Career vs. Phillies: 3 GS, 1-1, 4.35 ERA (10 ER in 20.2 IP, 1 HR)

Last outing vs. Phillies: 5/24/09, at NYY, L 4-3, 8 IP, 9 H, 3 R/ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0 HR
The Phillies rallied with two outs in the third, getting a single from Carlos Ruiz, an RBI double from Jimmy Rollins, and an RBI single from Shane Victorino. Their other run came in the sixth, when Raul Ibanez hit a no-out RBI double that drove home Victorino from first. Sabathia was making his fourth straight start on short rest.

Games 2/5: A.J. Burnett
at Citizens Bank Park: 6 GS, 2-3, 5.04 ERA, 5 HR in 30 1/3 IP.

Career vs. Phillies: 17 G, 16 GS, 5-8, 4.75 ERA

Last outing vs. Phillies: 5/22/09, L 7-3, 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R/ER, 2 BB, 7 SO,  3 HR
Burnett has had mixed results against the Phillies. In his last start at Citizens Bank Park, he held them to two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings of 6-3 win while a member of the Blue Jays last May. But at Yankee Stadium this May, the Phillies hit three home runs off of him en route to a 7-3 win. Jimmy Rollins led off with a home run in the first inning, Carlos Ruiz hit a two-run home run in the second, and Jayson Werth hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Shane Victorino also tripled off of Burnett.

Game 3: Andy Pettitte
at Citizens Bank Park: 2 GS, 1-0, 0.75 ERA (1 ER in 12 IP)
Career vs. Phillies: 7 GS, 2-2, 3.67 ERA
Last outing vs. Phillies: 5/23/09 at NYY, W 5-4, 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R/ER, 2 HR, 5 SO, 2 BB
John Mayberry's three-run home run in the fifth and Raul Ibanez's solo shot in the second were the extent of the Phillies' offense against Pettitte. The Phillies took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, where Brad Lidge allowed three runs for the blown save.


We'll have much more throughout the day, including a breakdown of the Yankees' vaunted line-up, and our projection of the Phillies rotation, which, after further review, has changed since we appeared on Comcast Sports Net's playoff preview show last night. I, like Fergie, gotta feeling, that Pedro Martinez is going to pitch Game 2.

Charlie Manuel is scheduled to meet the media at noon, when he is expected to regale the press corps with a story about the time when he was managing rookie ball and the team bus broke down and he used a 38-ounce Louisville Slugger to fix the spark plugs.

Mazal Tov!