Though a very interesting game, there is really very little news to report. Cliff Lee is still great, AJ Burnett still has great stuff, but does not bring it all the time, and both teams can hit. I am not sure if I agree with Girardi’s strategy of 3 days rest for all, but as he is one game from a World Series Championship, I can hardly argue with it.
I would make the argument for throwing Gaudin in Game 5 over AJ Burnett. Chad Gaudin is clearly not a better pitcher than AJ Burnett, but when AJ Burnett pitches in an NL stadium, the Yankees lose Jorge Posada AND a DH. If he would have waited until Game 6 to throw, a bit of his downside would be negated. Obviously this is using a bit of hindsight, but I think it just makes more sense to throw Gaudin. He is undoubtedly fresh, and though the Phillies have seen him before after his many years in the NL, he would be a decent option. There would be no pressure on him as no one would really expect him to outduel Cliff Lee and he would have nothing to lose really. It may seem a bit like forfeiting Game 5, but it puts the Yankees in the best position to succeed overall. Burnett and Pettitte on full rest in Games 6 and 7 would be an undeniable advantage. Now, if the series goes to 7 games, the Yankees will be both in panic mode, and will be forced to throw CC again on 3 days rest. He did well the first few times doing this with Milwaukee last year, but after a while he broke down. That is the last thing the Yankees want. I feel Girardi was a bit short-sighted in making this decision. He was effectively telling the team he expected the series to be over in 6 or less. That, in turn, tells the Phillies, that if they win Games 5 and 6, they are not level, but ahead as even the Yankees manager was projecting that notion. It certainly would not guarantee a Phillies victory, but it would be a huge boost of morale for the Phillies. If Burnett had outpitched Cliff Lee, this would all be different, but he did not by any stretch of the imagination.
I am a little surprised that Manuel sent Cliff Lee out for the 8th inning, but I guess you do not want to pull punches, especially when this was in all likelihood Lee’s last start this season. Use every ounce of him you have, I guess. However, it also reflects on the current confidence in the Phillies pen. This is somewhat of a tossup issue honestly, but the results suggest going to the bullpen in hindsight. I might have left him in too, but I hope Manuel at least considered putting in Durbin or Park to start the 8th.
With all this said, I think this one ends at Game 6. The baseball fan in me, as well as the Yankee-hater in me, would be ecstatic to see it go 7, but I think it ends, fittingly, with Pettitte. Pedro was outstanding in Game 2, but it just was not enough, and I think this will be the case again. The Yankees will get to celebrate in New York. To use a ton of Jay-Z references in one sentence, the Yankees will get to “Run This Town” because they are “Already Home” and are clearly showing that “Empire State of Mind”. I could keep going, but I will mercifully stop. I hope it goes 7, but it will be Yankees in 6. Seeing the baseball season end is always sad, but it is even worse when you know the axis of evil came out on top. Regardless, my hat goes off to the Yankees on their Championship.