Phillies and Yankees meet in 2009 ‘Fall Classic’
By Joe McGehee
The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees are the final two teams standing after the nearly seven-month marathon of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season nears its climax. One team will walk away as World Champions, while the other will face a long off-season of wondering just what went wrong.
As to be expected, the New Yorkers come into the World Series heavily favored, with most “experts” picking them to wrestle the crown away from the defending champions in six games. The Yankees have an incredibly deep line-up designed to batter opposing pitchers into submission, and their starting rotation features two former Cy Young Award winners in CC Sabathia and Andy Petitte.
However, the “Fighting Phils” have pretty a potent line-up of their own, and a starting rotation that boasts two former Cy Young Award winners in Cliff Lee and the ageless Pedro Martinez. The factors many of the “experts” failed to recognize were the Phillie’s heart and resilience.
Regardless of the outcome, the 105th edition of the “Fall Classic” looks to be perhaps the most offensively-explosive match-up in MLB history. Not only do both teams feature high-powered offenses, but they also play in stadiums that are “hitter-friendly”, to say the least.
The Yankees (244) and Phillies (224) ranked first and second respectively in regular season home runs, while both teams led their league in runs scored. To add to the potential offensive fireworks that could leave many pitchers writhing in postseason agony, New Yankee Stadium (161) and Citizens Bank Park (149) also ranked one and two in balls leaving the park.
Consider for a moment a selection of names in the respective line-ups: Alex Rodriguez; Mark Tiexiera; Derek Jeter; Ryan Howard; Chase Utley; Raul Ibanez. These players alone seem capable of blowing several fuses in the scoreboard. But, when you consider the bats around these superstars in the line-up, it is easy to see that there will be many crooked numbers hung in each half inning.
Those of you who have watched the World Series consistently will struggle to remember too many blow-out wins in October. So, even with two teams with such potent offenses, it only stands to reason that the series will not feature as many high-scoring games as the stats may suggest. October, and this year, November baseball games are usually closely-contested, low-scoring affairs with both managers thinking three moves ahead to quell any potential big innings.
Pitching will play a huge role in deciding who walks away with the title – as it always does – but pitching in these bandboxes may prove challenging to both staffs. New Yankee Stadium has played closer to the size of a telephone booth in its first year of existence, and Citizens Bank Park has long been considered a launching pad.
Keeping the ball in the park will only be one concern for two pitching staffs facing formidable hitters on the brightest stage MLB has to offer. Both teams feature enough speed and gap-to-gap power to make the specter of extra-base hits enough to keep both Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi close to the Mylanta bottle.
Aside from the obvious key match-ups like closers Mariano River and Brad Lidge facing any of the numerous big bats in each line-up in the ninth inning, look for the less glamorous face-offs like Phillies’ starter turned reliever J.A. Happ coming into the game in the seventh or eighth inning to face left-handed-hitting Hideki Matsui, then staying in to force Tiexiera to bat right-handed, which historically has been his weaker hitting side.
Also, keep a close eye on who the Yankees hand the ball off to in the seventh and eighth innings ahead of their all-world closer Rivera. With Phil Hughes losing the edge he had earlier in the year, don’t be surprised to see former starter Joba Chamberlain take the hill in the waning moments of close games.
This series promises to be a hotly-contested, closely-played battle between two highly talented teams that have not lost any love for the other. The battle between New York and Philadelphia in what the media has dubbed the “Turnpike Series,” will be about much more than winning a championship. In many respects, it will be a battle for East Coast supremacy, and bragging rights lasting all the way up to the start of Spring Training in 2010.
Even though many are picking the Yankees to prevail, I predict the Phillies will win a close series in seven games, becoming the first National League team to win back-to-back World Series titles since Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in 1975 and ‘76.
Print This Article