Five reasons the Phillies could still win

SI.com’s Jon Heyman compiles five reasons why the Phillies can still pull off an upset and rally to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Here are his top 3:

1. The Phillies aren’t called the Fightin’ Phils for no reason. And they aren’t the defending champs for no reason, either. As Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, “We’re playing the world champions, and it’s going to take a world-championship effort to beat them.” Being down 3-2 isn’t going to faze the Phils. They create comebacks without the fanfare and cream pies that have marked the Yankees’ wonderful season, but the Phillies did post a National League-high 43 come-from-behind wins. Manager Charlie Manuel considered talking to them as a team before Game 5, but Jimmy Rollins said Manuel merely threw up his hands when it became clear the Phillies were as focused as ever. According to Rollins, the only major change they made going into Game 5 was to remove Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind from their pregame clubhouse soundtrack. (Not sure if Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom is a worthy replacement, but New York-based songs are definitely not the way to go.)

2. They are road warriors. The Phillies were a baseball-best 48-33 on the road this year.

3. Chase Utley is currently unstoppable. Reggie Jackson couldn’t be found for the first time this Series on Monday, but it would have been interesting to see what he would have had to say about Utley tying Jackson’s World Series record with five home runs. Utley’s five have come in one less game (five to six) and mostly against left-handers (four of five were vs. lefties, three vs. CC Sabathia). “He’s not missing pitches. He’s tough,” Sabathia said. “He’s not missing, so you have to make (all) quality pitches.”

Not to be a downer, but it’s tough to beat any team three times in a row, especially the Yankees. I realize the Phillies are a quarter of the way there, but winning two in a row at Yankee Stadium will be tough, especially with CC Sabathia on the bump in Game 7.

We’ll see though – I know a lot of casual baseball fans will be rooting for them to knock off the “Evil Empire.”

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Can Cliff Lee save the Phillies’ season?

The Phillies acquired Cliff Lee at the trade deadline this season to help bolster their starting pitching and help get the back to the World Series. But now that they’re back in the Fall Classic, the Phillies need one more thing from Lee: To save their season.

Lee will pitch Game 5 against the Yankees tonight in a do-or-die game for the Phillies, who trail 3-1 in the best of seven series. So far, Lee is 3-0 in the postseason and has only allowed two earned runs on 20 hits over 33.1 innings of work. He has also fanned 30 batters, has only walked three and has a sparklingly 0.54 ERA.

But even though he has been masterful so far, the problem is that this is the second time the Yankees will be facing Lee this week. Even though they lost, the Rockies fared a tad better against Lee in Game 4 of the NLDS than they did in Game 1. And Colorado doesn’t have near the offensive firepower as New York does.

If the Yankees are going to be crowned world champions tonight, the top of their order must come through, unlike in Game 1 of this series. Outside of Derek Jeter, who had three hits and scored a run, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 1-for-12 against Lee in their first outing. While A-Rod has been on fire since then, he looked lost in all four of his at bats against Lee in New York while striking out three times.

Time will tell if Lee can continue his dominance in the postseason, or if A.J. Burnett and the Yankees will put the final touches on their championship run.

Blanton to start Game 4 for Phillies – not Lee

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has decided to start Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the World Series instead of ace Cliff Lee on short rest.

What this means is that Lee won’t be available for a possible Game 7 because he’ll pitch Game 5 now. Considering Lee has never started on short rest in his career, Manuel may have had little choice but to pitch Blanton in Game 4.

Blanton started Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays in last year’s World Series and combined with four relievers on a five-hitter in a 10-2 Philadelphia win. So he has World Series experience and shouldn’t be fazed by the pressure, although he did allow four runs in six innings against the Dodgers in his only postseason start this season.

It’ll be interesting to see how New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi counters the move. There was talk that CC Sabathia would start Game 4, but Girardi may decide to save his ace to face Lee again in Game 5. Considering several Yankees (including Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez) have had success off Blanton in the past, Girardi might want to save Sabathia in order to go toe to toe with Lee.

The chess game begins…

Burnett sharp in Game 2 as Yankees even series

The Yankees needed a strong outing from starter A.J. Burnett on Thursday, and that’s exactly what they got.

Burnett held the Phillies to one earned run over seven innings as the Yankees won Game 2 of the World Series, 3-1. Burnett attacked hitters with his fastball and his curve was nearly unhittable as he struck out nine and limited one of the best offenses in baseball to only one run. Closer Mariano Rivera didn’t allow a run in the eighth or ninth innings to earn his 38th career postseason save.

This win was huge for the Yankees on a couple levels. Not only did they tie the series, but they also don’t have to go to Philadelphia down 0-2. While the Phillies accomplished their goal of winning at least one game in New York, the momentum has swung in the Yankees’ favor and now they have confidence heading into Philadelphia.

Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel will get some heat for allowing Pedro Martinez to start the seventh inning (the Yankees wound up tacking on another run to go up 3-1 after Martinez allowed the first two batters to reach base), but Martinez wanted to go back out and Manuel showed confidence in his starter. If Martinez got through the seventh, Manuel would have been lauded for saving his bullpen and trusting Pedro to work through the inning. Instead, he’ll likely receive criticism for not going to his bullpen.

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Yankees bench Swisher for Hairston Jr.

In a move that will no doubt bring a smile to most Yankee fans’ faces, the Bronx Bombers have decided to bench Nick Swisher in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr. for Game 2 of the World Series.

From Rotoworld.com:

Hairston is 10-for-27 (.370) lifetime against Phillies starter Pedro Martinez and Swisher is 11 for his last 77 (.143) with one homer dating back to the regular season. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Hairston hasn’t faced Pedro since 2004 and hasn’t started in right field since joining the Yankees.

This move won’t be the difference in whether or not the Yankees can even the series, but something had to be done. Swisher has been awful so far in the postseason and Joe Girardi had waited long enough. If Hairston is productive right away, I doubt Swisher will return to the starting lineup the rest of the series.

Then again, if Hairston is just as brutal, then who knows what Girardi will do in order to conjure up some more production from his outfield.

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