Both teams feature interesting pitching match-ups, starting with Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia and ending with Brad Lidge vs. Mariano Rivera.
Cliff Lee has been the best pitcher in the postseason thus far. He’s been dominant after an overall very strong season despite a few bumps in the road. Pedro Martinez takes the hill in Game 2 after an outstanding regular season with the Phillies and a great Game 2 start in the NLCS against the Dodgers in which he threw seven shutout innings. His numbers, however, are not as strong on the road or against the Yankees and pitching with the “Who’s your daddy?” chants could be a formidable task for Pedro. One difference is, I don’t see him being intimidated by the Yankees or their fans. Not that he was before, but it seemed like they used to get to him. Now, he is just viewing his entire experience as fun while he goes out and just throws. Cole Hamels is the x-factor for the series. If he could somehow return to his dominant 2008 form, the Phillies rotation is far better than New York’s and the Phillies would win the series. A mediocre Hamels makes it close. The Phillies could use Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ or use only three starters.
CC Sabathia is New York’s horse, and what a dominant one he is. He’s been tremendous for the Yankees all season and especially in this postseason. The Phillies did beat him in the playoffs last year, and would have beat him in May had Brad Lidge not blown the save. They’ve still won the last two games he’s started against them. AJ Burnett was a big free agent signing for the Yankees, but didn’t live up to expectations. While Hamels is the Phillies’ question mark, Burnett is New York’s. He seems like a pitcher that the Phillies could hit. While it’s not yet been announced, Burnett will likely start Game 2 against Pedro in Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettite is the Yankees’ reliable veteran much like Pedro is for the Phillies. Should teams require a fourth starter, the edge goes to Blanton or Happ over Chad Gaudin. Lee and Sabathia match-up well, Pedro and Pettite are the two solid and crafty veterans while Hamels and Burnett are the struggling stars.
The Yankees have the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball, and Mariano Rivera has delivered time and time again in his postseason career. Brad Lidge appears to have regained some of his confidence and while Rivera and Lidge are the only two closers to not blow a save in the postseason thus far, Rivera has the distinct edge. The rest of each team’s bullpen is a bit shaky. Ryan Madson has been pretty good and Chad Durbin has been outstanding, but as we all know the Phils have plenty of question marks in the ‘pen. Phil Hughes has struggled for the Yankees thus far in the playoffs, while Joba Chamberlain is where he belongs but hasn’t been spectacular. New York hasn’t gone very deep into their bullpen in the postseason because their starters have gone so deep into games. Expect for them to get tested more in the World Series. The middle relief is fairly even, but Mo puts NY over the top.