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Hamels vs. Pettitte Square Off in World Series Game Three


If you would have told me the Yankees would have only scored four runs in the first two games of the 2009 World Series, I would have been pleased. With that being said, I also would have thought the Phillies would have taken the first two games with the Yankees'  run total being as low as it was.

So instead of taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, the Phillies head back to Philadelphia tied 1-1 with the Yankees. Surprisingly, many of the "experts" on your favorite web sites and sports networks are not singing the Yankees' praises right now, something I almost surely thought would happen after their Game Two win. After all, it was a big win, and with the Yankees facing a shakier than shaky Cole Hamels tonight with Andy "Big Game" Pettitte taking the mound for "The Best Team Money Can Buy," you would have to think it looks pretty good for the black pinstripes. Pettitte has been outstanding in the 2009 Postseason for the Yankees. And despite the problems of the Yankees along with the Phillies having home field advantage in their favor, New York is favored in Vegas for Game Three. This series however, has thrown us its share of spiked curveballs, and Game Three may bring us more of the same. Here are the keys to tonight's game.

The Phillies MUST bring out the bats against Pettitte and must work better at-bats- They failed to do so against A.J. Burnett, and if you play the Yankees in a close game and don't have the lead after the seventh inning, chances are you will lose. Pettitte isn't exactly the type of lefty that baffles other lefties, so hopefully the Phils will have an easier time tonight than they did against Burnett. Ryan Howard looked awful at the plate Thursday, and the others weren't too far behind him.  If Pettitte is throwing first pitch strikes at the consistency Burnett was, the Phillies must act on it.

Get Pettitte out of the game and beat up the Yankees bullpen- The "bad" side of the Yankees bullpen is not exposed when they have the lead and can get the ball to Mariano Rivera. He didn't look exactly sharp last night, throwing 39 pitches in two innings. However, Rivera is Rivera, and he isn't the best of all-time for nothing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the rest of the series if the Yankees keep these games close and need to use him several times.

Hamels needs to go at least seven or eight innings- A constant problem with Hamels seems to be that all-important fifth or sixth inning. If he can escape these with minimal or no damage, he can usually go seven or even eight innings if his pitch count is low. The Phillies can also rest the bullpen (something the Yankees may not be able to do) if he can give his team a lift. However, Hamels has not given the fans or his team one reason to be encouraged about any outing he has pitched this postseason. Moreover, his vocal support of Charlie Manuel lifting him in the pennant winning clincher last week raised some eyebrows. Hey, Jamie Moyer threw a gem against the Rays in last year's Game Three after two horrendous postseason starts, so maybe lightning can strike twice.

The Fans- The fans must bring it tonight. Think of the intensity of last year's World Series and this year's NLCS. Now, multiply that by 100. These Yankees have NEVER played in an environment this hostile. The Phillies are 11-1 in their last 12 postseason games at Citizens Bank Park. However, the Yankees only lost eight games at home after the All-Star break this year, and look what the Phillies did in Game One.

Right now this is anyone's series. Two out of three is feasible for the Phillies this weekend. On second thought, three out of three would be even better. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Phillies have lost every Game Two this postseason and have won every Game Three. If they can keep this pattern going, they will be in very good shape. Let's hope Hamels has one classic game in him this postseason. If not, I am really not looking forward to writing the preview for Game Four. At all.................

photo: www.mccall.com