Carpenter (Sports Illustrated Photo) or Hudson (AP Photo)
“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver
What a night for baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals came back to defeat the Astros after falling behind 5-0 and the Boston Red Sox narrowly held off the Baltimore Orioles 8-7 after leading by scores of 5-1 and 7-3. The Atlanta Braves fell again to the Philadelphia Phillies to allow the Cardinals to tie them for the Wild Card lead. With the Tampa Bay Rays coming from behind to defeat the Yankees and turning a triple pay in the process the Rays and the Sox remain knotted for the AL Wild Card. The hopes of four teams are on the shoulders of four men. John Lester, David Price, Chris Carpenter and Tim Hudson.
Price (Getty Images) or Lester (AP Photo)?
The cool thing about this is that the races have come down to the last day of the season and these is the real possibility that both could remain tied and force not one but two one game playoffs to make the post season. This has never happened. There have been one-game playoffs to enter the post season before but never two of them in the same season. If by some chance the Brave and Cardinals end up tied they will have to face each other in a playoff and the same is true for the Rays and Red Sox. Does it get any better than that? As a baseball fan I think not.
The Cardinals will start Chris Carpenter who is 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA in September against the Astros. The Astos will start veteran Brett Myers who is 7-13 with a 4.31 ERA for the season but has been great in September with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.58. The question is will the Cardinals be able to take this all the way home? The stumbling Braves will send Tim Hudson up against the Phillies. Hudsonis 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA in September and lost in his last outing against the Phillies. Philadelphiawill start Joe Blanton 1-2 5.03 ERA who spend most May and all of June July and August on the DL.
The American League race has Boston’s John Lester who is 1-3 in September with a 6.07 ERA facing Baltimore’s Alfredo Simon who has had a miserable September. The question in this contest is whose bats will show up big? Down inTampathe Rays will start their ace David Price 12-13 3.35 ERA who has a 0-2 record in 5 starts with a 3.08 ERA in September. The Yankees have not announced a starter for Wednesday’s finale. The question here is can the Rays nail down one last game?
In the end it comes down to four starters for the four teams vying for the Wild Card. John Lester, David Price, Tim Hudson and Chris Carpenter. Four men, four teams, two playoff berths.
This will be an amazing finish to the regular season. Who would have bet on this on September 1st? Not me, but I am not unhappy.
Part Two: Written after the game
Hideki Matsui World Series MVP
Yankees Pitchers against Phillies Batters: Andy Pettitte had very good stuff in the first five innings giving up one run on a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Rollins following a 1 out triple by Carlos Ruiz. In the sixth Ryan Howard hit a one out two run homer driving in Chase Utley off of Pettitte who then stuck out Jayson Wirth. With 2 outs Raul Ibanez doubled down the line to right. Joba Chamberlain came in to get the final out of the Phillies sixth. Ruiz singled and Jimmy Rollins hit into a fielder’s choice and then Chamberlain walked Shane Victorino. Joe Girardi then pulled Chamberlain for Damaso Marte who came in to face Chase Utley who he struck out to end the inning. Marte struck out Ryan Howard who with the “K” set a new World Series record of 13 strike outs. The Yankees then brought in Mariano Rivera who struck out Jayson Wirth for the second out. Raul Ibanez doubled to center after battling Rivera at the plate. Pedro Feliz then popped out to Posada in foul territory to end the inning. Rivera faced pinch hitter Matt Stair to lead off the ninth getting him to line out to Jeter at short. Carlos Ruiz came up next and worked the count full before drawing a one out walk. Jimmy Rollins flew out to Swisher in right bringing up Shane Victorino. Ruiz took second on a strike to Victorino who after a battle with Rivera where he worked the count full grounded out to Cano at second to begin the celebration for the Yankees and their fans.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi Led the Yankees back to the Top
Phillies Pitchers against Yankees Batters: Pedro Martinez struggled and was hit hard by Hideki Matsui who homered in the second with Alex Rodriguez on base and who singled with the bases load in the bottom of the third to drive in two more. By the end of the fourth he had pitched 62 pitches, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and hitting Mark Teixeira with a pitch. Pedro was pulled by Charlie Manuel at the end of the fourth for reliever Chad Durbin who gave up a double to Derek Jeter to lead off the bottom of the 5th. Jeter was advanced by a sacrifice bunt by Jerry Hairston who Mark Teixeira hit an RBI single to drive in Jeter. After walking Alex Rodriguez Durbin was relieved by J.A. Happ who gave up a double to left to Matsui scoring Teixeira and Rodriguez. By the end of the inning the Yankees were up 7-1. With one out and one on the Phillies sent in Chan Ho Park who got Derek Jeter to hit into a fielder’s choice and Jerry Hairston to fly out. In the bottom of the seventh Park got Mark Teixeira on a strike out but gave up a grounder with eyes which got through for a base hit to Alex Rodriguez. Park left the game as Scott Eyre came in to face Matsui. Rodriguez stole 2nd as Eyre struck out Matsui. Eyre then walked Posada and stuck out Cano to end the inning. In the 8th Eyre remained in the game getting Nick Swisher to ground out to third for the first out and Brett Gardner to ground out to second. With two outs Brett Myers came in to face Jeter who singled to right for his 175th career playoff hit and got Jerry Hairston to fly out on a soft fly to left.
With the win the Yankees won their 27th World Series and their first in the new Yankee Stadium. In a historic sense it was fitting. In 1923 the Yankees won their first World Series title in the inaugural year of the original Yankee Stadium which sat silently in the dark next to the new ballpark. Hideki Matsui was the Series Most Valuable Player and the Yankees won their first series since they beat the Mets in the “Subway Series of 2000. For the Yankees it was the end of a long streak of frustration in post season play. The Yankee “old guard” of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera returned to glory, additions since the last series win including Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Matsui and Johnny Damon got their rings as Yankees while Sabathia and Rodriguez shook off years of frustration.
In my next post I will give my analysis and reflections on the Series, the playoffs and the 2009 season.
World Champion Yankees