A.J. Burnett is my daddy….

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Okay, okay, so thanks to A.J. Burnett,  I was wrong about Game 2.…. Very, very wrong.  But I have to admit something I never thought I would: I’m okay with being wrong….. as long as it leads to some amazing baseball.

One of my favorite things about baseball is the unpredictability of every game and the excitement of every pitch; especially in October….. What we got last night was World Series baseball at it’s absolute finest.  In a postseason that had lacked spice and drama, the buildup to Game 2, as well as the game itself, more than redeemed the entire playoffs. Seriously….Think about it….. Name one memorable thing from the postseason other than Manny Ramirez walking out on the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLCS. (Although this should be a surprise to no one by this point.) Thought of anything yet? No? That’s because as far as excitement goes, this postseason has been duller than a Pirates/Nationals game in September. However, that all changed in one epic press conference by one man: Pedro Jaime Martinez. (You can catch a breakdown of it here) In this interview, he flatly stated that he was the most influential player to ever play at Yankee Stadium, and if putting himself above some of the all time greats (Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig, Cobb, Williams, Mays…. etc.) wasn’t enough, he went on to comment on the brawl during the 2003 ALCS which culminated in his DDT of Don Zimmer,

Pedro Zimmer

Anyone else up for round 2?

(one of my favorite baseball fights of all time) saying that Zimmer instigated the confrontation by insulting Pedro’s mother,  Zimmer fired back, saying Pedro was “full of crap”, and just like that, it was on baby! The fans were pumped up, the media had a field day, and the players even seemed a little more excited than usual for the upcoming game.

I mention all of this to make one point: Pedro made Game 2 fascinating. There’s nothing more fun to watch as a baseball fan, or even a sports fan in general, than the old gunslinger, coming back for one more shootout with his old rival. ( Some of the best examples: MJ dropping 55 against the Knicks in The Garden after his first retirement, Jack Nicklaus winning The Masters at the age of 46, and best of all, the Patriots inevitable victory over the Colts in this years playoffs)  There are always so many questions: does he have anything left? Will he fall flat on his face? What reaction will he get from the opposing crowd? All of these and more were answered throughout Game 2 on Thursday night. By outsmarting hitters rather than overpowering them, Pedro gave the Phils 6 outstanding innings, exceeding every expectation anyone could have had for him in this start, and putting them in position to win a pivotal second game. And added another chapter to his hall of fame career. Everything was set up for a storybook night for Pedro and the Phillies. There was just one problem….. A.J. Burnett had other plans.

Burnett

A.J. Burnett made this a series again....

In my column on thursday,  I ripped A.J. Burnett for being, among other things, a complete waste of talent and money who would never put things together when it matter most. To make a long story short: A.J. Burnett is my daddy. After Game 1, I thought we had seen the best pitching performance of the series, but I would have to put Burnett’s right up there, if only due to the total surprise of it. After having a perfectly mediocre regular season and a disappointing postseason, I was ready (along with others) to count him out for good. But on a cold night, in a must-win Game 2 for the Yankees (and it was a must-win), he was absolutely the man. For seven innings, he kept the Phillies in check while only allowing one run, (which probably should have been an unearned run due to A-rod’s non-error error in the second inning. ) Before the game, Mark Grace commented that Burnett “usually has a series of about twenty pitches where he loses control). Not in this game.  In Game 2, Burnett gave manager Joe Girardi exactly what he needed: a direct path between the start of the game and Mariano Rivera. If Girardi had needed his bullpen, there’s no doubt in my mind the Phillies would have one that game. But due to the excellent starting pitching, and a shaky eighth inning double play, Mo Rivera was able to slam the door, something he doesn’t fail at very often.

With all this attention being put on the Yankee pitching staff, it’s important not to overlook the importance of Mark Texiera’s  fourth inning home run off of Pedro Martinez. (Breaking out of a 8 for 43 start to his playoffs.) Up to that point, the Yankees had not scored an earned run off of this Phillies’ pitching staff, and regardless of their level of confidence, it was vital for them to put a crooked number or two up on the scoreboard. Yes, I know that three runs is by no means an offensive explosion, but I think that it will give the Yankee hitters confidence to build on for Saturday’s Game 3 matchup.  And with the type of lineup they have on this team, that could be trouble for Cole Hamels.

Some closing thoughts from Game 2:

I know that everyone is jumping all over the umpiring crew for some of the mistakes made in Game 2, but let’s look at the facts: they got less than five calls wrong the entire game, and only two of any significance, both bang-bang plays. Let’s give them a break, and at the same time, give them some credit for the job they’ve been doing so far. I know that everyone wants perfection, but let’s settle for outstanding, okay?

Second: what has happened to Alex Rodriguez this series? He had a couple of good games in the previous rounds, and everyone assumed he was going to light up this series as well, but so far he has disappointed on a massive level. But good news for Yankees fans, I think he’s gonna have a big game tonight against Hamels.

One final thought: Did Charlie Manuel read Grady Little’s guide to coaching before last night’s game? Did he really think that sending Pedro out for the seventh inning would end well? When has that ever been a good idea? It wasn’t a smart decision, and it probably cost them that game.

Little

Is this really the best coaching example to follow?

Now on to Game 3.

Cole Hamels v. Andy Pettite. This could be an outstanding matchup if only Cole Hamels can recapture his form from last year’s playoffs. He was outstanding last year , but so far this year he has been less than impressive (1-1 with a 6.75 E.R.A.) Barring a massive letdown, we pretty much know what to expect from Andy Pettite by this point in his career. There’s no way that he isn’t ready for this game, games like this one are the reason the Yanks brought him back for this season. I can see him pitching an absolute gem, but so far I haven’t had the best luck with those types of predictions, so who knows what the hell will happen.

At the start of the series, all anyone could talk about was the matchup between these two offenses, but thus far, it’s been the pitching that has dominated the action. It’s going to be interesting to see which team can break out of this slump first, that team should be the one to take this series. If the Yankees can get a solid start from Pettite and get their bats back on track, they will have a golden opportunity to grab control of this series and add a 27th title to their already impressive collection.

Prediction:

Cole Hamels is just off this year, there’s no way that he’s one hundred percent healthy right now. I commend him for playing through the pain, but I don’t see him pitching up to the standard he set for himself last fall. It’s about time for A-Rod to have a monster game, and that Yankee lineup showed signs of life the other night.  Also, I think Andy Pettite is going to give them a great chance to win with a solid outing:

my pick: 7-3 Yankees.yankees

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