If the World Series goes seven games, most figured the deciding game would feature the third edition of a duel for the ages between Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia. But even after Lee’s dominant performance in Game 1, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will not use his ace on short rest.
According to Fox Sports, the veteran skipper has opted to give the ball to right-hander Joe Blanton in Game 4, pushing Lee back to Game 5, and eliminating the possibility of the southpaw being on the mound to start Game 7.
“You’re taking a chance on pushing [Lee],” Manuel told the Web site, noting that Lee has never pitched on three days’ rest in his career. “We don’t want to hurt him. Blanton fits for us.”
Lee was allowed to throw 122 pitches in Game 1 to finish off the Yankees — a decision that drew some criticism — so it was expected that he might not be able to pitch on anything less than normal rest. But Manuel intimated that he never planned to use Lee three times in the World Series in the first place.
Blanton is a boom-or-bust choice, given his past performance. The 29-year-old went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA during the regular season, but was highly vulnerable to the long ball, surrendering 30 home runs, 16 of which came at Citizens Bank Park. Despite that, the crafty righty logged a 7-4 record with a 3.77 ERA at home this year. He allowed four runs in six innings of work in his only previous start in the postseason against the Dodgers.
Manuel said that he chose Blanton over left-hander J.A. Happ because of Happ’s versatility as both a specialist and possible long reliever. Blanton, however, is 0-3 with a brutal 8.18 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees and has coughed up five homers in just 22 innings.
Should the Fall Classic return to New York, the Phillies would again turn to Pedro Martinez in Game 6, and most likely Game 3 starter Cole Hamels in Game 7. Lee would be available for multiple innings out of the bullpen in an “all hands on deck” situation in the hypothetical finale.
The Phillies’ decision leaves an interesting set of scenarios on the table for Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
He can stick with CC Sabathia on short rest in Game 4 and set him up to start a possible Game 7. This would leave New York with two options for Games 5 and 6. The pinstripes could go with Burnett and Andy Pettitte, respectively, both on short rest. Alternatively, they could pitch righty Chad Gaudin in Game 5, followed by Burnett on regular rest in Game 6 and Pettitte as insurance for Sabathia in Game 7.
Should Girardi hold Sabathia back to pair him with Lee in Game 5, the Yankees would insert Gaudin into the rotation for Game 4, and pitch the trio of Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte in the final three games of the series, if necessary.
The World Series resumes on Saturday night, with Pettitte taking on Hamels in Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park.
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