Friday, October 30, 2009

Yankees STILL Pedro's Daddy

Pedro Martinez can blab all he wants to the media about being the "most influential athlete" to step foot in Yankee Stadium, but he also knows this: the Yankees are still his daddy.

It's been five years since Pedro has donned the uniform of the Red Sox and his repertoire and game plan have changed, but the Yankees' formula for beating him remains the same: good pitching and tough, grind-it-out-at-bats to drive up Pedro's pitch count quickly.

A.J. Burnett delivered the good pitching Thursday, allowing one run in seven terrific innings, and the Yankees made Pedro work hard in six-plus innings en route to a 3-1 victory in Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium to even the best-of-seven at 1.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Yes, Sox fans can crow all they want about the 2004 ALCS, but the fact remains that the Sox won that series despite Pedro, not because of him. He went 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in three outings, two starts.

Despite that, Pedro spouted off in his media session Wednesday about how his treatment by the New York media made him the most influential athlete to ever play at Yankee Stadium.

Bullocks. What Pedro fails to realize is that the only reason he garnered so much attention is because he played for the Red Sox. Had he played for the Mariners or Angels or Tigers, everyone in New York still would recognize his talent and greatness, but no one would care at all about anything he said. It's only because he played for the Yankees' archrivals that he gained significance.

But when you spew babble like that, you had better deliver, especially in the World Series.

Pedro pitched well, but he certainly didn't deliver.

Pedro did a good job mixing his pitches and keeping the Yankees off balance, but the Yankees dgrindout out at-bat after at-bat against Pedro. Martinez threw 17 pitches in the first, 26 in the second and 16 more in the third.

With Pedro at 59 pitches through three, you knew that if the Yankees kept it up, it would only be a matter of time before Pedro would crack or the Yankees would get to feast on the Phillies' middle relief.

Pedro cracked first, serving up a leadoff homer in the fourth to Mark Teixeira on a 1-and-0 changeup up to tie the score at 1.

The Yankees continued to work Pedro through the next two innings and with his pitch count soaring into the 90s in the sixth, the Yankees struck again, this time with two outs as Hideki Matsui lined a 1-and-2 curveball into the stands in right to give the Yankees the lead for good at 2-1.

And when Robinson Cano flied to end the sixth, Pedro's pitch count stood at 99. He should have been done. Every Yankee fan knows that once Pedro hits 100 pitches, he become increasingly vulnerable.

But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had his inner Grady Little working and sent Pedro back out for the seventh. He paid for that decision as Jerry Hairston Jr. -- who started in right in place of Nick Swisher because he had been 10-for-27 in his career against Pedro -- and Melky Cabrera led off the inning with singles.

That was it for Pedro as Manuel brought in Chan Ho Park, but pinch hitter Jorge Posada made sure the Yankees took advantage of the opportunity with a single to center to make it 3-1.

Pedro ended up allowing the three runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out eight and threw 72 of 107 pitches for strikes. The reality is the Yankees should have tacked on one more run to his line.

That is in part because of Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter and in part because of ... you guessed it ... the umpires.

With runners on first and second and no outs, Girardi had Jeter, the Yankees' all-time hit leader who has a major league record 168 postseason, to sacrifice. Are you kidding me? Jeter? Really? He should be swinging away!

Even worse, after falling behind 0-and-2 and having the bunt sign taken off, Jeter still tried to bunt on the third strike and it went foul for a strikeout. C'mon Derek, you've got to know better than that!

Then the umpires got in the act.

Johnny Damon followed by hitting a low screamer down the first base line that Ryan Howard trapped before taking a two steps toward first, then firing wildly to second in an attempt to force Posada, who got in safely. First base umpire Brian Gorman, however, ruled Howard caught the ball on the fly and Posada was call out for a double play when he was tagged by Jimmy Rollins.

Replays, however, show the ball hit the dirt as it skipped into Howard's glove. The umpires huddled but did not overturn the call. Pedro was saved another run.

Not that it mattered with the way Burnett pitched. He was sharp and he was outstanding.

It was almost as if he was trying to prove something after his awful outing in Game 5 of the ALCS, in which he allowed four runs before recording an out in the first inning.

No such trouble this time as he retired the side in order on 12 pitches in the first.

But it's rare that Burnett can get through a start cleanly and he ran into a little trouble in the second as Raul Ibanez blooped a ground-rule double down the left field line with two outs before Matt Stairs rocketed a grounder that Alex Rodriguez -- who went 0-for-4 and is 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in the two games -- should have picked clean. Instead the ball got under A-Rod's glove for a single, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

Burnett, though buckled down, striking out Pedro Feliz to end the inning and then surrendering a single, a double and two walks the rest of the way. When he handed to ball directly to Mariano Rivera to start the eighth, Burnett had retired eight straight, four on strikeouts.

Burnett ended up allowing just the one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out nine, threw 68 of 108 pitches for strikes and went a long way toward proving he is, in fact, New York tough and worth the big contract he signed in the offseason.

And with a day off today, Girardi didn't mess around with his suddenly leaky bullpen. It was Mariano for six outs or bust.

It was nearly bust, except the umpires blew yet another call, this time in the Yankees' favor.

With one out in the eighth, Rollins walked and Shane Victorino singled to put runners on first and second. Chase Utley, the Phillies' hero of Game 1, then hit a sharp ground to the right side that Cano fielded and fired to Jeter at second for one out. Jeter then made the relay to first to get Utley and end the inning.

Only thing is, Utley was safe. Replays show Utley's foot hitting the base before the ball was in Teixeira's glove.

Sometime these blown calls do, in fact, even out.

Rivera would have little trouble in the ninth, striking out Howard -- who struck out four times on the night -- and getting Jayson Werth to line out to second. Ibanez then doubled, but Rivera struck out Stairs to end it and earn his 38th postseason save.

Yet after the game, Pedro was still talking, telling the media that if he pitched for the Yankees, he would be king.

"It’s just that I don’t play for the Yankees, that’s all," The Hartford Courant reported Pedro as saying. "They love the fact that I compete. If I played for the Yankees, I’d probably be a king over here."

Not quite, Pedro. In New York, in order to be king, you'd actually have to back up your talk and win the game.

Runners In Scoring Position
World Series
1-for-9 (.111)
Game 2
1-for-5 (.200)
Game 1
0-for-4 (.000)
ALCS
12-for-64 (.188)
ALDS
6-for-17 (.353)
Regular Season
419-for-1,543 (.272)

Up Next
World Series Game 3
Saturday at Phillies, 7:57 p.m., FOX

Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16 ERA; Postseason: 2-0, 2.37 ERA in 3 Starts)
vs.
Cole Hamels (10-11, 4.32 ERA: Postseason: 1-1, 6.75 ERA in 3 starts)

Hamels has been very inconsistent this year. He was the World Series MVP last year and has the ability to dominate. He's also young and may be the victim of the Verducci Effect. Pettitte is Mr. Postseason with a record 16 postseason victories. You can almost count on a solid start from him. If Hamels is not sharp, it could be a long night for the Phillies.

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