Game 4 was an instant classic, and Game 5 got preeetty interesting near the end, so it's a tough act to follow for Game 6. With the New York Yankees leading 3-2 in their heart-pounding series with the Philadelphia Phillies, it's Old vs. Older on the mound tonight: Andy Pettitte for the Yanks, and Pedro Martinez for the Phils.
While both hurlers failed to impress me with their "stuff" during the regular season (though their numbers were more than acceptable), I must admit that I've been pleasantly surprised by their collective success in the postseason. Both Pettitte and Pedro had excellent playoff track records coming in, but it's a little different when you're approaching 40 years old and the end of your career(s).
Or maybe it isn't different at all.
Pettitte brings a 3-0 record in over 24 innings of '09 playoff work to the hill this evening, while Pedro has allowed only three runs in 13 innings. Neither throws as hard as they did during their respective glory days, but that's hardly surprising. While they have lost some zip over the years, both Pettitte and Pedro have developed a greater understanding of their craft, a phenomenon that veterans like Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux have articulated in the past. Tonight's starting pitchers understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of the opposing hitters.
But that doesn't necessarily guarantee them success. Take a look at the last three scores in this World Series: 8-5, 7-4, and 8-6. That's 38 runs. The Philly and Yankee bats have come alive, and I highly doubt that Game 6 will be a pitchers' duel between two of the more well-respected veterans in baseball.
I think both teams would be happy if their starter got them around six innings, and three runs. Even six innings, four runs would keep their team in the game, taking into account the offensive emergence of the past three games.
Any way you slice this one, it's a coin flip. I think Pettitte is the physically stronger of the two at this stage in their careers, and I still can't trust Ryan Madson or Brad Lidge at the back of Philly's bullpen. In the end, neither Pettitte or Pedro will get into the seventh inning, and it will come down to the relievers. As is often the case, no one has seemed to have an answer for Mariano Rivera this postseason, so the Yankees have the advantage.
In addition, despite surrendering the game-tying home run to Pedro Feliz, Joba Chamberlain's stuff looked explosive in his last appearance. He threw his fastball with confidence, and it was bursting through the zone around 96 mph. If he can command his sharp slider he should be effective in an expected appearance tonight.
I'm taking Mo and Joba over Madson and Lidge right now, and it's probably going to come down to that. I'm giving Pettitte the slight edge in the starting pitching department, in spite of his short rest. I think the Phillies have been playing with fire when it comes to Pedro, and a lineup as potent as New York's is bound to get to him at some point.
Hey, I want to see a Game 7, but logic is telling me it's Yankees 6, Phillies 4 this evening. Congrats to the Yankees and their fans, if that's the way it shakes down.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. John has also done some work for NBA.com. Check him out on Twitter as well.)