Thoughts, analysis and observations in the wake of the Phillies’ 8-6 Game 5 win over the Yankees…
* For the first time in six years, the World Series has been extended to six games. Not since the 2003 Fall Classic between the Marlins and Yankees has a series gone this deep, and it’s about time. We’ve been waiting for a compelling, drawn-out World Series, and at last we’re getting it from two star-studded teams. Every game that’s been played so far has featured compelling storylines.
* Forget about A-Rod. Chase Utley can’t be stopped at the plate right now. The Phillies second baseman slugged two more homers tonight, giving him five for the series. That ties him with Reggie Jackson (1977) for the World Series record, and Chase still has one (or maybe two) games left to try to break the record. “Obviously, it’s great company,” he said. “At some point maybe I’ll look back on it and see how special it is. But right now, my goal is to win two more games.”
* This series is ultimately going to be decided on which club’s rotation is able to fight its way through the final two games. Everyone’s exhausted at this point, and plenty of guys have and will be asked to pitch on short rest. Joe Girardi didn’t confirm it after tonight’s game, but Andy Pettitte will almost certainly get the ball Wednesday night for Game 6 on three days’ rest. We saw how A.J. Burnett handled short rest tonight — he didn’t. Can Pettitte come up bigger? His postseason track record says yes, but nothing’s a given anymore. And if he can’t, what does CC Sabathia have left in the tank for Game 7, pitching for the third time in nine days?
* Pedro Martinez will definitely start Game 6 for the Phillies, and he’ll be the only guy left on normal rest. Though he didn’t win Game 2 in the Bronx, Pedro pitched well enough to win, and you’ve got to think he’ll be ready for this challenge. He lives for these kind of big games in hostile territory. Get ready for plenty more “Who’s Your Daddy?” chants from the Yankee Stadium crowd on Wednesday.
* Who starts Game 7 for the Phillies if they prevail Wednesday? Don’t rule out Cliff Lee coming back on TWO DAYS’ REST. Yes, that’s right. Charlie Manuel does not want to give the ball to Cole Hamels, and Hamels doesn’t sound like he wants the ball anyways. Manuel’s only other choices would be rookie J.A. Happ or Game 4 starter Joe Blanton on three days’ rest. The hunch here is that Lee could start and go as far as his arm will allow him, and then Manuel would piece together the rest of the game with Happ, Blanton and the rest of the bullpen. For what it’s worth, Lee made it clear he’s available if needed, and Manuel wouldn’t rule out the possibility of his ace returning to start.
* Who closes for the Phillies in Game 6 and/or 7? Who knows anymore? After Brad Lidge blew Game 4, Manuel decided to go with Ryan Madson in Game 5. It nearly backfired, with Madson allowing the first two Yankees to reach base, but he rebounded to get a huge double play grounder out of Derek Jeter, and then struck out Mark Teixeira to end the game. I understand that Lidge has been a disaster all year, but he had been really good in the postseason until Sunday night. And even then, he looked great in retiring the first two batters in the ninth before Johnny Damon battled through a nine-pitch at-bat to single and ignite the winning rally. It may have worked tonight, but I still think it was the wrong move by Manuel to bypass Lidge, and that could create problems in Games 6 and 7.
That’s it from Philly. I’m heading back home tomorrow, and Ben will re-pick up the series at the Bronx, chronicling the thrilling conclusion. And yes, no matter how this one turns out, I expect there to be plenty more thrills before it’s over.