And That Happened: World Series

Yankees 3, Phillies 1: The Empire Strikes Back. Sorry, that was totally hacky. I haven’t looked, but I’m guessing that line is being used by no less than two dozen outlets this morning. Anyone that can find them and make a note of it in the comments gets bonus points. Anyway:

In the copious back and forth I had with Phillies fans in my “it’s not time to panic yet, Yankees” post, almost everyone said that Burnett would get lit up last night because, well, I don’t know exactly why. Yes, the guy was a bit erratic down the stretch, but he was still an above average pitcher this season, totally capable of dropping a nice performance like this one last night. Teixeira and Matsui shaking off the cobwebs was welcome too. And for the “good outcomes don’t mean good decisions were made” file, how about Molina picking off Werth and Posada hitting that pinch hit RBI? I bet Burnett still has good stuff and wins last night even if Posada was behind the plate, but with it breaking down the way it did, Girardi will probably get some genius points today, for whatever they’re worth.

Ah, Pedro. I love the guy. Like I said over at NBC, I hoped like hell that he would be able to catch some 1999 lightning in a bottle. He didn’t quite do that — who could? — but he gave a solid and gutsy performance, showing all of the smarts and guile he’s always had, even if he doesn’t have the velocity anymore. But really, if you had told anyone before the game that he’d throw over 100 pitches, lasting into the seventh and giving up only two runs before his exit, you would have assumed a Philly win, right? He was just met with a better performance by his counterpart. That happens.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve been enjoying this World Series so far. I’m a pitching guy, and we’re four for four in solid starting pitching performances. Here’s hoping it keeps up.

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  1. Levi Stahl said...

    Am I the only person who didn’t think the line-out DP started by Howard wasn’t obviously a blown call? Buck and McCarver called it as if it were open and shut, but I never saw an angle that I thought gave definitive evidence—to the contrary, the best I could determine was that the ball did just get into Howard’s glove on the fly.

  2. YankeesfanLen said...

    The Bergen (NJ) Record came up with “Pie Guy on Target”.  The stupid, Daily News, as usual, couldn’t be bothered to wait, so they had the back page of a Knicks loss (dog bites man). OTOH, it was the Racing Final, Moon Town won the 7th at Keeneland paid $5.80 and that scamp Bill Gallo finally appointed Cliff Lee the hero and Yankees bullpen the goat of game one.

  3. Jacob said...

    @Levi Stahl – It looked to me like it was the wrong call, but it wasn’t of the same magnitude as the Cuzzi, McClelland, and Bucknor calls.  It was a close play, and I doubt we’d even be talking about it if not for the rash of blown calls earlier in the postseason.

  4. John Willumsen said...

    World Series Fun Fact: Both winning starters hail from the great state of Arkansas. The losers: California and the Dominican Republic.  Up next San Diego, California faces off against Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Given that Louisiana borders Arkansas, and that California has already lost in the W.S., I’m predicting a Yankee victory. And that, ladies and gents, is science.

  5. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    But John, Cole Hamels is a Capricorn and Andy Pettitte is a Gemini—you clearly didn’t take that into your detailed analysis!

  6. John Willumsen said...

    Do we know what house Mars is in? Without that, we’re forced to rely on the arcane science of vague geography. Hey it’s still better analysis than Fox provides. Zinger!

  7. Steve Watson said...

    It was a blown call – though an understandable one. The ball bounced in the dirt, but both announcers talked about it. I think they’re just hesitant to call out the umps for too long. They’ve probably been told not to.

  8. MatthewA said...

    @Levi: Besides, one could argue that the later blown call on the Utley ground ball (which was a bit more egregious) nullifies it. They blew a call both ways.

    Two wrongs make a right, right?

  9. Simon DelMonte said...

    It’s Turn Back the Clock week.  Two pitchers’ duels, a complete game, and even a reliever going two innings!  That’s how I like my baseball, too.

    If only someone would explain how a low scoring 8 1/2 inning game with only two mid-inning pitching changes took 3 1/2 hours.  I know both teams are rather deliberate, but this is still grating on me.  And once again I will say that if one or both teams have a bad pitching night, the game will go four hours without extras.

  10. Funzo said...

    Whatever genius points Girardi got for starting Molina he lost tenfold for having Derek Jeter bunting with 2 on and no out.

  11. Brian said...

    Funzo, I seriously doubt Girardi told Jeter to bunt in that situation.  I’ve seen some Yankees fans posting this morning that Jeter will do that at his own discretion on occasion, which of course, is stupid.

  12. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jeter was quoted in the NY Times today saying that Girardi took the sign off with two strikes but that he did it anyway. Called himself “dumb.”  I’m sure the Yankees fans will let him have it for attacking Jeter like that.

  13. Steven said...

    Last night Fox gave some very interesting closeup views of Molina catching Burnett’s pitches, and suddenly I understand why Molina is and needs to be his catcher. His breaking ball that slips back over the outside edge of the plate to lefties was called a strike all night… but it was clear that almost none of them had any part of the ball over any part of the plate. Molina has amazingly soft hands, and he framed those pitches beautifully, never moving his glove and giving the ump an extra look. Since the ball is moving right to left from the pitcher’s perspective, by the time it settled in Molina’s glove it was now at least a little bit   “over” the plate as the ump looked down. He stole at least a dozen strikes that were simply not strikes. It was a brilliant catching display. (I’m a Seattle guy who spent the year frustrated that neither of their catchers could frame a pitch properly and probably cost the team more games with their lack of catching grace than they did with their lack of hitting.)

  14. Beanster said...

    @Funzo: Girardi took the bunt off with two strikes and Jeter took full responsibility. I’m betting it never happens again. Putting in Hairston for Swisher also paid off so Joe gets a break for one day at least.

  15. MJ said...

    …Putting in Hairston for Swisher also paid off so Joe gets a break for one day at least.

    But as Jason from IAATMS has said, just because a decision works out doesn’t make the decision the right one.

    I’m really dreading the G5 in Philly went the bottom of the order is Cabrera, Molina, AJ.  Ugh

  16. Nate said...

    Of course Howard knew he didn’t catch it on the fly, otherwise he would have had no reason to throw to 2nd. He would have just trotted over to 1st for the double-off. Not surprisingly, neither Buck nor Timmy noticed that. Minus Captain Obvious points for them.

  17. Adam said...

    @Nate – your thought about Howard was mine, too. The only thing clue that Howard short-hopped it was his reaction.  There’s NO way he throws that ball if he caught it on the fly.  Imagine it was Little League, and little Georgie ran on a popup to first because he didn’t know the rules.  Little Ryan’s coach would be SCREAMING “touch the base!” not “Throw it to second!”  That’s a muscle memory that never gets lost.

    Apparently the bridge to Mariano is the Tacoma Narrows.  Hope Andy can go 7.

  18. Jamie said...

    Re: steven + home plate ump

    yea, molina framed every pitched very well and blocked so many balls in the dirt that posada would of had no chance to get to.  he saved at least 3 wild pitches i bet. 

    if you go back and look at the pitch f/x you’ll see the ump ‘missed’ about 13 strikes for burnett alone(should of been called balls).  burnett just kept going back to the well.  he’s was on his A game.  the help from the ump just made him that much better.

  19. MJ said...

    if you go back and look at the pitch f/x you’ll see the ump ‘missed’ about 13 strikes for burnett alone(should of been called balls).  burnett just kept going back to the well.  he’s was on his A game.  the help from the ump just made him that much better.

    AJ benefited more from the lower strikes than Pedro, but they both were getting the calls on the outside part of the plate.  AJ just went there far more than Pedro did but it looks relatively consistent on both sides.

  20. Mark S. said...

    Re: Burnett and the strike zone.  Yes, Burnett got major help from home plate umpire Jeff nelson.  So did Pedro.  According to that Pitch FX data, the most egregious call of the night was a called strike to Cano that Pedro threw about 16 inches off the plate to the left side (from the Umpire’s perspective).  Nelson was totally giving away that side of the plate to whoever wanted to throw there, and it seemed every pitcher in the game knew it. 

    Re: Howard and the non-double play.  Even Howard basically admitted he short-hopped it.  Howard’s quote after the game: “Did I catch it?  well, he called him out.”

    ALSO, on the Chase Utley double play:  Victorino was way, way out of the basepath trying to break up the throw at second, and should have been called for interference anyway.  The only one I heard bring this up was Buck Showalter on the ESPN postgame.  But if you look at the replay, Victorino is nowhere near the vicinity of the bag (the rule states you have to be able to touch the bag when sliding, or else it’s interference), so the Phils did not get ripped on a call there.

    Finally: The lack of umpire accountability is disgraceful.  Crew chief Jerry Davis said after the game that replay confirmed they made the right call on the Howard non-DP.  Um, no Jerry.  Replay confirmed you made the wrong call.  Howard throwing to second after he knew it was short hopped (instead of stepping on the bag) confirmed you made the wrong call.  Howard’s quote after the game confirmed you made the wrong call.  YOU MADE THE WRONG CALL.  The very least you can do is man up about it.

  21. Funzo said...

    RE: Jeter bunting

    Yeesh, so he did…urghh…struggling…to blame Jeter…can’t seem to…badmouth…Captain Handsome…

    Aha! Maybe he’s just *saying* it was his decision now to protect his manager. So selfless, that Jetes.

    OR…maybe it was A-Rod that called for the bunt. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Screw that guy!

  22. Mode:Theif and Lair said...

    On the Howard double play.  Those of you who said the fact that he threw the ball to second showed he didn’t catch the ball, I think,  are wrong.

    I was taught that you don’t assume the ump is going to call it an out, so you need to play it like you didn’t.

    This way, if the umpire doesn’t call it out on the fly you still can get the double play the way Howard tried to do it.

    If the ump calls the batter safe on the line drive and you just run to the bag asuming the ump called it an out you would only get that one out instead of the chance for a double play.

  23. Kevin S. said...

    Along what Mode said, Howard definitely appeared to start going toward the bag before he changed his mind on it.

  24. Mark S. said...

    Even if I accept that Howard is just playing good, fundamental baseball that he was taught in Little League, how does that explain his quote after the game where he basically admits it hopped?

    Or the fact that the replay really, really makes it looks like it hopped?

    Or the fact that Buck, McCarver, every postgame analyst, and everyone who saw the game excwept for a few Phillies fans and crew chief Jerry Davis thinks it hopped?

  25. Mode:Theif and Lair said...


    None of your questions are relevant to what I said.

    In a play happening that fast, you don’t want to waste anytime wondering what the ump is going to call.  The safest bet, if odds are still good in getting the double play, which they were, is to play it the most conservative way possible.  That’s what he did.

    Now, once Rollins has the ball, he’s looking that way and sees that the ump called the batter out on the catch, he has time to make a decision to just tag the runner.

  26. Nate said...

    I’m not harping on Howard. He made the “correct” play, but these guys know when they pick it. Even Jorge knew he didn’t get it on the fly.

  27. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Wow, that was fast.  OK, I’ll admit it: I obsessively read the Allentown (and Scranton) newspapers every morning, and I ripped it off from them. In fact, if you go back and check, you’ll see that every ATH I’ve written since April 2008 is a word for word copy of the Allentown sports page.

    I’m such a fraud.

  28. Carroll said...

    The Mercury (Potstown, PA) The Asbury Park Press (New Jersey), The Post Star (upstate NY)…  Okay, I’m cherry picking.  I suggest that any bonus points go to one who finds “A New Hope” headlines following the Cliff Lee game.

  29. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    I was wondering why all the references to high-school football and Little League… now it makes sense!

  30. Jack said...

    That Howard play was bogus, but I really don’t blame the 1B umpire because his positioning is terrible there (no fault of his own, just regular positioning for that play).  The call or atleast an overturn of that call should’ve been made by the home plate umpire.  But then you have the same problem that sometimes messes things up in the NFL, did the rest of the play happen on the assumption that the first call was right?  If the 1B ump said that ball did bounce, does Howard take the out at 1B?  I think thats part of the reason why it WASN’T overturned. 

    There were many signs that it was picked on a bounce.  One, was the sheer fact that he threw to second base, which is pointless since he could’ve just tagged first for the double play.  Second, when you catch a low line drive (even in the OF) your first instinct is to raise the glove and show the umpire that you caught it.  You see it all the time from OFs.  Howard didn’t do that either, he ran to 1B, and I’m assuming he had enough time to get the man out at 1st, even with Damon running. 

    Saying all this, the Damon ball and the Utley ones aren’t as bad as the ones before in the postseason.  They just get extra attention as a result of all the other bad ones.  In these cases, I can atleast understand how they made these mistakes. 

    The Utley one, was a simple bang bang play.  And if you watch the replay, you can see that Utley hit the bag with the tip of his foot.  A good amount of umpires listen for the bang on the base, while looking at the glove (some do it the other way too I guess) and maybe the “pop” wasn’t as loud as it normally is because of how Utley made weak contact with the bag at first.  Again, wrong call, but atleast I understand that it was close enough where I can say thats its a mistake that isn’t uncommon. 

    On Burnett, he looked sick, nasty, and filthy yesterday.  To shut a Phillies lineup like that down for 7 innings was just magnificent.  The Cliff Lee one was better because he went the complete game, but given the same amount of pitch counts, I think Burnett goes 8 yesterday, but they probably didn’t want to push him too much if they wanted to stick with the 3 man rotation. 

    Rollins looks like he could break out soon.  I’ve seen him a good amount because he was my SS in a bunch of fantasy leagues (Thanks for pretty much nothing JIMMY) so I’ve watched his ABs, and he looks close to breaking out.  He seems to be getting good swings on some pitches, which wasn’t the case for most of the year, where he’d get like a double in the first inning and then look lost for the rest of the game.  A-Rod seems close to breaking out as well from his little mini slump in the postseason, there were some foul balls off Pedro that I thought he just missed it. 

    Fun series, I got to admit.  It has that special type of excitement about it, two best teams from each league, two high powered offenses, and pitching very well at the moment.  Hopefully it goes 7, and has some crazy ending to it. 

    One of which, I thought of today.  Game 7, Phillies up one in the bottom of the 9th.  Swisher on 1B (Yes, have to make it as improbable as I can, so bear with me) and Jeter at the plate with 2 outs.  He hits it deep to RF, and its a HR, as a 35 year old Jeffery Maier makes a legitimate catch after the ball crossed the wall, and then in celebration puts up his hands, which hangover the wall and is called for interference, and the Phillies win.  Hows that for karma? 

    Or with how the umpiring it, in the same situation, Jeter hits it off the upper deck, and it bounces back onto the field and is ruled in play.

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