Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Barely a Pulse

The Yankees left AJ Burnett in just one pitch too long, that pitch a big three-run home run off the bat of Bengie Molina in the 7th inning that gave the Rangers back the lead over the Yankees on Tuesday night. Which, unsurprising given the way this series has played out so far, quickly turned in the later innings into yet another bitter, ugly blowout for the Texas Rangers who now hold a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the 2010 ALCS. Knowing they have ripped the cover off the ball on offense in this series, knowing they have caused the Yankees and their vaunted starting rotation and bullpen to pitch to an ERA in the series of around 8 runs per game, and most of all knowing that they need just one more win and that they have a mister Clifford Lee pitching one more game, this one only if needed in Game 7 in Texas, the Rangers are suddenly looking awfully good to win this series. I 100% support the decision to pitch Burnett last night if I am the Yankees, but in the end this loss with Cliff Lee looming on the horizon seems as close to the death knell as you're gonna get without seeing Jete and A-Rod grabbing their bats with their heads hung low and heading into the dressing room after one more Rangers win here. The bottom line is this: the Yankees have not lost this series so much as the Rangers have won it. Texas has outplayed the Yankees in every facet of every single game so far, far outhitting the Yankees while at the same time clearly outpitching the Bombers as well, among both the starters and the bullpens. Give a ton of credit to manager Ron Washington, who I told you all just before this series started was saying all the right things as far as how to beat a team with the payroll and the individual accumulated skill of the players on the Yankees this year. He has his team not just thinking but knowing they are superior on both sides of the field than their big-money New York counterparts, and it shows. I haven't believed the Rangers were going to lose any of the games so far in this series, and with the exception of the 8th inning in Game 1 when the Yankees busted out with five unanswered runs, I've been totally right. The Rangers are the better team, they have better personnel and are far better coached, and the proof is in the pudding. One more win out of one more game in New York and then two in Texas -- including Cliff Lee in Game 7 if needed, did I mention him already? -- and the Rangers will advance to their first World Series appearance in franchise history. Exciting times to be from Texas these days. Except if you like the Cowboys!

Interesting, we could be just one day away from a similar 3-1 hole for the Phillies in the NLCS, as Joe Blanton of the Phils will face off tonight against 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner of the Giants in what is now a very big game for Philly after Matt Cain pitched a shutout against the Phillies in Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon. Joe Blanton is clearly not one of Philly's "big three" pitchers, but I like his chances against a very young kid in easily his biggest game as a major leaguer, and a guy with a WHIP of 1.30 who also is the clear #4 starter in the Giants' rotation. If the Phils can find a way to win this game on the road on Wednesday, we even things back up at 2-2 in the series and then we just need to win 2 of the last 3 games of the series, with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels starting, and with two of those three games at home in Philadelphia. That should be doable for the Phils, if they can get their heads out of their asses when there are runners in scoring position. But if Bumgarner wins tonight over Blanton, then we're looking at another 3-1 series advantage for the underdog. And, while I think it is clear that the Phillies have more of an ability to still come back and win a series with homefield advantage and down 3 games to 1 than the Yankees would given the Phils' incredible 3-man combination in the rotation, at the end of the day it is very hard to like anyone to win three straight games against a team that features the level of historically incredible starting pitching that the Giants bring to bear.

Both series continue on Wednesday, this time with the Yankees having the afternoon game to fight to extend their season for one more day, and then the Phils needing to step up big time in the nightcap or risk putting themselves into a very, very deep hole.

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