Back-to-the-wall baseball games are always cool, and tonight’s Phils-Yanks Game Six might turn out to be stellar for one reason and one reason alone: if Andy Pettite can’t give six, maybe seven innings of run-preventing pitching, mark my words that the New York Yankees will absolutely lose the World Series.
Am I serious? Yes, I’m serious.
The Yankees, as we have seen this postseason, have no real bullpen to speak of. Joba Chamberlain has given everyone outside of New York reason to mock the Yankees for ever babying his monstrous arm, “Phil Coke” rhymes with enough appropriate words, Phil Hughes seems to have fallen off the map, and we all learned everything we needed to learn about Damaso Marte a loooong time ago. Yes, Mariano Rivera is the undisputed greatest closer of all time, but with nothing to bridge the gap between a theoretically struggling short-rest Pettite and the lights-out Rivera, how exactly would the Yankees stand a chance? And with Joe Girardi’s three-man rotation in effect, the only quality long-relief arm the Yanks have on board as insurance Game 5 starter A.J. Burnett.
Charlie Manuel, on the other hand, finds in the tough but unenviable position of facing what I like to call “desperation managing,” that do-or-die bullpen management that turns Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Scott Kazmir et al from last night’s starter into tonight’s last hope; for Manuel, there is no Game Seven, so he effectively has absolutely nothing to lose (even though he at the same time has everything to lose). But for Girardi, a Pettite that can’t deliver means burning through tomorrow’s bullpen tonight, which in turn may be the only hope any of us has in the face of a winter of A-Rod’s Redemption, Jeter’s Joy and other nauseating non-stories polluting the offseason.
This is not to say the Phillies will pull it off, nor is this to say Pettite is anything less than a magnificent postseason pitcher or Sabathia couldn’t carry the team in Game Seven if he had to. But if they can go a step beyond beating the Yankees and actually neutralize their entire staff tonight, there is no reason to think the Phillies don’t repeat. Not that anyone wants them to, but it’s at least a slightly less horrid outcome than the alternative.