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Manuel Should've Avoided Starting Pedro Twice

Even after the Yankees' 8-6 loss to the Phillies on Monday night, a game in which the Bronx Bombers had the early lead and blew a chance to close out the series in five games, there was a palpable sense of calm among players and fans alike as the series headed back to Gotham via Amtrak. It's almost as if this series was destined to close out at the new Yankee Stadium.

And for good reason.

It's not just because the Yankees want to christen their overpriced luxury liner of a stadium with a world championship in its inaugural season. And it's not just because Andy Pettitte, who is now the winningest pitcher in postseason history, will be on the mound for yet another pivotal October - er, I mean November - affair on Wednesday evening. If Pettitte were to notch a win in game six, he'd accomplish an extraordinary superfecta - as he'd add that to his clinching victories for the AL East title, the Division Series and the Championship Series.

No, what makes this game six in New York so appropriate, so profound and what may ultimately elevate it to its now-destined tragic conclusion for the Phillies is the fact that Pedro Martinez will be facing his old rival and scourge - again. It appears almost downright cruel that Pedro, in the late sunset of his brilliant career, would have to start two games in one series at Yankee Stadium.

After all, the future first ballot Hall of Famer did far more than what could have been expected of him in game two where, in a losing effort, he threw 107 pitches in six-plus innings and held the vaunted Yankee lineup to just three runs. More impressively he tallied eight strikeouts, rendering A-Rod and others helpless on several occasions. For sustained stretches last Thursday night he was channeling the Pedro from a decade ago. And if Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had taken Pedro out of the game prior to starting the seventh inning, his stat line would have been truly outstanding.

But should Manuel have arranged his pitching rotation differently and avoided the specter of starting Pedro twice in the Bronx? Logic and instinct both concur on this query - yes. After watching him pitch around trouble and fool them repeatedly last week, I doubt the Yankee hitters will fail again to produce more offense. With fastballs only reaching 90 at best, it will be a difficult task for Martinez to rely solely on finesse. The Yankee hitters are too patient and they are not a team that is easily fooled twice - with Cliff Lee as the current exception proving the rule.

For New York, Andy Pettitte did not have his best stuff in game three. But he brought his usual mental tenacity and he was able to do what he's always done, pitching out of trouble in big games and keep his team within striking distance. He will relish the opportunity to perform his trademark stare-below-the-cap stance and singular pickoff moves and clinch yet another title for the Yankees.

There is a question about how Pettitte will perform on short notice. He is only 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA when pitching on three days rest. But as the lefthander said, "I know I felt terrible the other night and that was on six days' rest. I am just going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can."

And the clear advantage for Yankee manager Joe Girardi is that he only needs five innings from Pettitte. With Rivera fully rested and already penciled in for the last six outs, the Yankee skipper will likely need only two innings from his middle relief corps.

More than any other sport, baseball needs a rich narrative as it is essential for compulsory viewing and Pedro supplies a more compelling and dramatic layer to the storyline.

Who knows, maybe this will turn out to be a lightning-in-a-bottle moment for Martinez and he'll shock the world and put the Phillies in a position to stage a historic comeback. Imagine how tense the Yankees would be in a game 7? Would the raging ghosts from 2004 make their way down the coast from chilly New England overnight and make this Yankee squad the team to perform the second worst choke in their storied franchise history?

No chance. Pedro and his Phillies teammates were doomed to head back to his city of torment for a doleful denouement.

 

Award-winning columnist Tim Joyce provides regular commentary for RealClearSports. His work has also appeared in Yahoo.com, MSNBC.com, and Tennis Week. Email: joyce.timothy@gmail.com

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