Girardi’s three-man rotation has produced mixed results so far in the Fall Classic. Workhorse lefty CC Sabathia was not his dominant self in Game 4, and the Yankees narrowly escaped what would have been a damaging defeat. Then, the mercurial A.J. Burnett fizzled in Game 5, allowing the Phillies to climb back into the series.
Call it a 1-1 tie, to date, for Girardi’s master plan.
The second-year skipper’s alternative would have been to use righty Chad Gaudin instead of Burnett in Game 5. That option might not have worked much better, considering the 26-year-old logged a 4.64 ERA during the regular season. But would six Phillies have crossed the plate in just two-plus innings under Gaudin’s watch? Moreover, the final score of the game was 8-6, so in hindsight, a stellar pitching performance was hardly a necessity for the Yankees to end the series on Monday night.
Now, the pinstripes must turn to Pettitte, and contend with Pedro Martinez once more. The veteran left-hander allowed four runs on six innings in New York’s Game 3 win, but he reportedly told several teammates that he had “nothing” in the tank before the outing. That certainly does not make him an ideal candidate to start Game 6 on three days’ rest.
And even though Pettitte is the winningest pitcher in postseason history, there are other obstacles for him to overcome.
Pettitte was far more hittable in Yankee Stadium this season than he was on the road, allowing 111 hits and 14 homers in just 100 innings of work. Opponents hit .285 against the 37-year-old at home, leading to a pedestrian 4.59 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.
Pettitte also hasn’t pitched on short rest since he was with the Houston Astros in 2006. Normally, the seasoned playoff stud breeds confidence, but his words to the media leading up to Game 6 were not reassuring.
“I don’t know how I’ll feel,” Pettitte said. “I know I felt terrible the other night, and I was on six days’ rest. I just am going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
That’s all Girardi and the Yankees can ask for, but if Pettitte is truly pitching on fumes, even his best effort may not be enough.
For the Yankees, a 3-2 lead rests on Pettitte’s fatiguing left shoulder. If he’s unable to deliver their 27th championship, all bets will be off in Game 7. It will be all hands on deck for the Phillies on Thursday night, with Cliff Lee likely available out of the bullpen after a two-day hiatus should Cole Hamels falter again. The pinstripes will have their hopes pinned entirely on another short-rest gem from Sabathia.
At that point, Girardi’s master plan would be behind in the count 1-2. If the Phillies win the World Series in seven games, New York’s three-headed rotation monster — and the man who created it — will have struck out.
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