SportsProf

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Monday, November 02, 2009

At Citizens Bank Park Last Night -- Phillies/Yankees

1. The Yankees deserve a lot of credit for what they did in the off-season. They knew that they had to upgrade their starting pitching, and by doing so they put themselves in a position to win it all. CC Sabathia did a great job on short rest -- he's a war horse.

2. Once again, a team's weakness gets magnified in the post-season. Phillies' fans would have been devastated had Brad Lidge performed last year in the World Series the way he did last night. Last night, Phillies' fans were simply resigned after the game -- after all, Lidge has pitched that way for much of the season.

3. Wily old foxes can kill you in the post-season. Johnny Damon's at-bat in the top of the ninth and his baserunning were terrific -- guys like that -- even past their prime -- are great to have in the post-season.

4. If you had told me that after four games A-Rod and Mark Teixeira were going to be hitting a combined .100 after four games, I would have told you that the Phillies would be tied at 2 or up 3-1. Instead, a good team has other players step up, and the Yankees had plenty on offense to mask overall poor performances of the guys who helped get them there all year (and, yes, A-Rod did have a huge hit in the top of the ninth).

5. I don't think that Carlos Ruiz should have made the throw on Damon's steal of second. Lidge has no pickoff move, so to speak, and there's a risk that the ball goes into center field. Instead, the Phillies' "Teixeira shift" left third base uncovered, and Damon made a heads up play.

6. For Yankees' fans who are asking "what's with Ryan Howard", the Phillies' titanic slugger goes through periods of drought. Unfortunately for the Phillies, he's in one now.

7. At one point last night Phillies' fans could feel the tide of the Series turning -- right after Pedro Feliz's home run off Joba Chamberlain. We were thinking, "Okay, if Lidge can hold in the top of the ninth, we can win in extra innings and have Cliff Lee beat A.J. Burnett on short rest to go back to New York up 3-2." I'm sure that Yankees' fans were fearing the same thing. That's how close a World Series can be.

8. The Phillies have had trouble in this Series honoring their good offensive efforts. Against the Dodgers, they followed good offensive innings with shutdown innings from their pitching and defense. They had taken away the Yankees' mojo with Feliz's home run, only to have Lidge give it back.

9. Phillies' fans aren't shocked, though. Cole Hamels has pitched in the post-season the way he's pitched all year, and Lidge pitched last night the way he did for most of the year. To beat a team like the Yankees, they need a better effort from both.

10. I look for Cliff Lee to beat Burnett today. Burnett's a righty on short rest against a lefty lineup. Lee has been on fire in the post-season. If the Phillies can come through, they'll head to New York with a crafty Pedro Martinez on full rest against Andy Pettitte on short rest. The odds for winning it all are very long, but the Phillies can make a Series out of it if these two pitchers can come through.

11. Raul Ibanez continues to look bad at the plate. He's a far cry from the guy who crushed the ball in the first two months of the season. He seems to be rising up on his toes and then trying to chop down on the ball hard, as opposed to turning more evenly through the strike zone. The result -- he's making a lot of outs.

12. Last night's crowd at CBP didn't get off to a good start, and the Yankees helped take them out of the game by getting two off Joe Blanton in the first. Blanton pitched okay if not great. It wasn't that the Yankees hit the ball hard off him (the way they did off Lidge) by any stretch, but the Yankees placed the ball well and made their own breaks. Blanton did enough to keep the Phillies in the game.

13. Parking near CBP was interesting because of the post-game hangover of the Eagles' crowd (which was giddy at the Birds' trashing of the Giants). You walked thrown garbage-strewn lots with RVs blasting loud music and people partying to get to CBP. Thankfully, after such a disappointing ending, there were so many open exit gates that you could leave the lots quickly and get home as soon as possible (which most of us needed to do). The traffic experience was fine; the post-game exit very silent.

14. Going into the post-season, I thought that with their pitching the Phillies would win one Series; they've won two, but the road could end today at CBP. The Yankees' pitching has been better, and their hitting has been good enough to prevail. For the Phillies to come back, two of Rollins, Victorino, Ibanez and Howard have to get hot -- and in a hurry. That's a tall order.

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