Yanks head home with 2 chances left to win Series

BY foxsports • November 9, 2009

The way Alex Rodriguez sees it, the New York Yankees are in solid shape. They won two of three in Philadelphia and still have a pair of chances to wrap up the World Series back home in the Bronx. Andy Pettitte is expected to pitch Wednesday night in Game 6 and then CC Sabathia in Game 7, if needed. "Obviously, you want to get greedy and win all three," Rodriguez said, summing up the weekend at Citizens Bank Park. "But we did what we had to do." New York squandered its first opportunity to clinch championship No. 27 when A.J. Burnett flopped in Game 5 on Monday night. He gave up six runs in two-plus innings, and the defending champion Phillies held on for an 8-6 victory that cut their Series deficit to 3-2. "You just feel like you let a bunch of guys down," Burnett said. "It's the worst feeling in the world to have the chance to do something special and fail like that." The Yankees have pinned their hopes on their top three starting pitchers, planning to throw them all on three days' rest late in the Series if necessary. First, it was Burnett in Game 5, then it likely will be the 37-year-old Pettitte in Game 6. Sabathia started Game 4 on short rest and almost certainly would do the same in the finale. Is it possible those guys are running out of gas? "If Andy physically feels good, he's going to go on Wednesday," manager Joe Girardi said. "This is something that we talked about all throughout. We check with our guys. If he feels good, he's going." New York's strategy is a departure from the norm in baseball over the last two decades. According to STATS LLC, no team has won the World Series using only three postseason starters since the 1991 Minnesota Twins. No matter who is on the mound next, though, the Yankees had reason to be confident as they bused home after midnight Tuesday. New York has won 37 of its last 46 games at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte has 17 postseason wins, five that closed out a series - both major league records. Sabathia was the team's best pitcher all year and is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five starts this postseason. Rodriguez and Johnny Damon keep getting big hits, the Yankees are tagging Philadelphia's shaky bullpen, and designated hitter Hideki Matsui can return to the starting lineup in the American League park. "It should be beneficial to us," Damon said. Plus, Phillies ace Cliff Lee isn't scheduled to start again after earning his second win of the Series in Game 5. "What's that old saying?" Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "Spahn and Sain, pray for rain? Got an off day tomorrow, maybe it'll rain the next day. I can get him in on three days' (rest) like you guys are talking about. No, I look at it actually in a sense right now, the seventh game would be on his day to throw in the bullpen, and I'll see what goes on from there. ... I'll talk to him about what he thinks about if he can pitch at all." The Yankees face 38-year-old Pedro Martinez in Game 6, though he pitched well in a Game 2 loss to Burnett, and probably a struggling Cole Hamels in a potential Game 7. Chasing their first title since 2000, the Yankees can clinch it in their new ballpark. That'd be quite a way to christen the $1.5 billion palace in its first season. "It would be great," said catcher Jorge Posada, who will be back in the starting lineup for Game 6. Light-hitting backup Jose Molina caught Burnett on Monday night, as usual. Still, the Yankees have their share of issues to worry about. No. 3 batter Mark Teixeira is slumping in front of Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano is struggling, too. Regular center fielder Melky Cabrera is sidelined for the rest of the Series with a strained hamstring, making Brett Gardner a starter. The middle relief has been unreliable throughout this postseason, making Yankees fans wonder whether they could hold a tight lead for closer Mariano Rivera. And Chase Utley has five home runs in the Series for Philadelphia, tying a record set by Yankees Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson in 1977. "It's pretty impressive what he's doing. That's hard to do in batting practice sometimes and he's doing it in World Series games," Damon said. "He's found a groove. It's our job and our pitchers' jobs to find a way to get him out of that groove. Hopefully, we have something better planned for him on Wednesday." And if not, then Thursday. "We just have to remember that we are up in the Series. They still have to beat us two times," Damon said.