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MLB World Series 2009 News | Archive October 12, 2009

 

Lidge rewards Manuel’s confidence

By Tim Brown
October 12, 2009


DENVER — Sunday night, cold and unforgiving, bore down on Charlie Manuel and Brad Lidge and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Game 3 of the National League Division Series, cold and calculating, hunted them down, poked at their psyches, teed up their frailty.

Over four hours it gained, an inch at a time, eying them sideways while they unconsciously shivered.

If the Phillies are going to defend their World Series championship with anything like the uncommon deftness with which they won it, they will have to pitch the ninth inning.

And that means the rest of the Phillies will have to get them there, and Manuel will have to pick a guy to do it, and Lidge, if he’s going to be that guy, will have to finish it.

It’s a lot of variables. It’s very fragile. And doesn’t Charlie Manuel know it.
Yet on the night of perhaps the coldest postseason game ever played – it was 35 degrees at the first pitch, 29 degrees by the fourth inning, 28 by the sixth, 27 by the time Ol’ Charlie handed the ball to Lidge, 26 when they got on their bus – the Phillies made it work, Manuel made it work, and Lidge made it work.

“I was hoping to get a chance,” Lidge said.

In beating the Colorado Rockies, 6-5, and in taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, Lidge, who had blown 11 of these in the regular season and amassed an ERA of more than 7.00, stood in there against the towel wavers and the doubters and all those April-to-September indignities.

He picked up the baseball and his shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, told him, “OK, let’s get through these guys,” and Lidge dismissed it with a casual, “Yeah, yeah.”

“What’s that mean?” Rollins asked, in no mood for casual, not after fighting with numb fingertips all night.

“You’re right,” Lidge said, soothing Rollins. “We’re going to get it done.”

It wasn’t immaculate. Somewhere this side of Rivera, the other side of Papelbon. In there. He walked two and they were on base when Troy Tulowitzki made the final out, a short fly ball to left field. He got Jason Giambi to foul out to third base for the second out, using a brand new cutter he thinks might be pretty good against left-handed hitters. It’s not perfect, granted: Todd Helton took those cutters over his hands and walked and potentially made a small problem larger.

No, nothing you’d hang in the living room. But the Phillies are so past judging anything after the eighth inning on aesthetics. Just a half-inning earlier, after all, Colorado closer Huston Street couldn’t keep a tied game tied. Rollins had singled, Shane Victorino had bunted him to second and Chase Utley had topped a ball off his own thigh (yes, the umpires missed another call, it’s just going to be one of those postseasons) to reach first and move Rollins to third with only one out. Ryan Howard drove him in with a fly ball to center field. Closers screw up, and it’s usually in the ninth inning, and it’s always drama-filled. But the Phillies had their run.

And that was what Lidge had to protect. That, and almost four hours of baseball that preceded him, make it almost seven months of baseball that preceded him. On a night when Phillies rookie J.A. Happ started and survived only three innings, when he was followed by Joe Blanton and Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin, when Eyre sprained his ankle and limped off the field, when Charlie Manuel held him back for this ninth inning, Lidge saw it coming. Everyone saw it coming.

“As the game went on, you knew Brad was going to come in and close,” Rollins said. “This time of year, it’s not about your pride. It’s about getting your job done. It’s still Brad’s job.”

Manuel, who proved himself a World Series championship manager last fall, was staking his reputation on this pitcher who’d failed him over and over, who’d been pulled out of the job for a while because he was risking everyone’s postseason and sanity.

Presented with his first save situation of this postseason, Manuel could have pitched Brett Myers or Chad Durbin or even Pedro Martinez in the middle of the game, saved Madson, and found a softer place for Lidge, a closer who on the final day of the regular season had come up with, oh boy, a new pitch.

Manuel made a pretty good living and got a big fat ring in part because of the way Brad Lidge pitched for him this time last year.

As Lidge said, “I’m ready to go. When the postseason comes around, it’s different. Everyone starts over.”

Sounds good to the manager. Maybe they don’t all land this way for Manuel, either in strategy or outcome. For the moment, however, it’s put him one win from the Dodgers (again) in the NLCS, with Cliff Lee on the mound Monday afternoon, and with one more ninth inning behind him.

The more the better.

As Lidge said later, “We’ll see how it goes.”

We surely will.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


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Familiar faces push Yankees to the ALCS

By Jeff Passan
October 12, 2009


MINNEAPOLIS — The New York Yankees are not cold-blooded decision-makers like the Boston Red Sox. Sentimentality matters. Some players aren’t commodities, expendable and disposable and recyclable when they hit a certain age, and for that, on Sunday night, the Yankees were thankful.

The four survivors from their last championship run in 2000 continue to wear pinstripes for two reasons. Because they are Real Yankees, the born-and-bred (and capitalized) sort, and there is always a place for them, even when gray creeps into their hairlines. And also because all four – Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, youngest to oldest – can still play a lick.

“If you don’t produce and don’t contribute here,” Jeter said, “they’ll go and get somebody else.”

And that they’ve done, the sum of so many transactions finally returning the Yankees to their rightful spot, the American League Championship Series, following a 4-1 victory against Minnesota that capped a three-game sweep and ended the Metrodome’s reign as a baseball domicile.

While Games 1 and 2 were won by nearly $250 million in mercenary arms – CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett’s – Pettitte carved up the Twins in Game 3. And Posada hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning. And Jeter made a brilliant defensive play the next inning, catching Twins runner Nick Punto taking too wide a turn around third base, relaying the ball to Posada and watching him gun down Punto at third. And Rivera finished off the eighth inning and pitched the ninth, the 53rd time in the postseason he’s gone more than three outs.

Only one other pitcher has thrown in that many postseason games, period. Such is the legacy of the survivors. Pettitte’s victory tied him for first all-time with 15 playoff wins. Posada could jump to third in games played by the end of the World Series. Jeter adds to each of his records – games played, runs, total bases, hits, plate appearances and, yes, strikeouts – with each passing October day.

Together, they have spent parts of 57 seasons with the Yankees, only Pettitte’s three-year vacation with Houston interrupting 15 unabated years. Each debuted in 1995, and never before or since has a team seen such greatness in a single wave: two no-doubt Hall of Famers and two borderline, as much for their team accomplishments as individual.

The Yankees overpaid to keep them around, lavishing $189 million on Jeter, $52.4 million on an aging Posada, $45 million on Rivera and $16 million a year twice on Pettitte. In the years without a championship, they provided not just stability but a reminder of what Yankees teams used to look like. Finding that balance proved difficult enough that the Yankees chased off the manager of their 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000 championships, Joe Torre, and spent the last four years getting booted before reaching the ALCS.

“It has been a long time,” Rivera said.

By Yankees standards, at least, the sort that turned increasingly antiquated with no hardware to show for more than a billion dollars spent on payroll this decade. Boston was the new power of the AL, its scouting and player-development machine churning out two championships while the Evil Empire looked more like a Weeble, bobbing to and fro and trying to find some semblance of balance.

It came this year. The Yankees won 103 games. They watched Boston self-destruct in the first round against Los Angeles. And they did some destroying themselves, picking apart Minnesota despite a lineup full of bats that spent the majority of the series acting like they’d taken one too many Lunestas.

“We are kind of sputtering along a little bit,” Pettitte said, “and when we give up the lead, our guys fire right back and score some runs.”

The most opportune wasn’t Posada’s home run, either. Just as he did in Game 2, Alex Rodriguez, longtime postseason goat, smashed a series-altering home run. This one ended Carl Pavano’s shutout, evened the score at 1-1 and continued his evolution into legitimate contributor.

And perhaps that’s what the Yankees most needed – someone aside from the four survivors to grab the wheel and steer. For so long the Yankees depended on the remaining cogs that no new ones emerged. Certainly Rodriguez is too old to be finding his first postseason success after such ineptitude. Better late, of course, and better that it’s with the four survivors remaining and hoping for another ring almost a decade after their last.

“You can’t take Alex out of that equation,” Posada said. “He’s been the key of our success this year. It says a lot about what he did today and the last three days.”

The entire season, really. Rodriguez tried something new. He listened, he studied, he matured. What took him 34 years to figure out paid off in about 34 seconds.

“I knew I couldn’t change all the 0 for 4s and 0 for 5s, and all the guys I left on base,” Rodriguez said. “And I also knew that I was 34, not 44, and I have an opportunity to do things right both on and off the field.

“Yeah, we can learn from all them.”

Work ethic from Jeter. Consistency from Rivera. Composure from Pettitte. Playing through pain from Posada. So much more from all of them. No one survives more than a decade in New York without intangibles to match the great physical attributes.

“A lot of things get said about their payroll and all that stuff, but the bottom line is they are just great baseball players,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And aside from all the other stuff, they are very, very talented. That’s why they make a lot of money. … They know how to get it done. They know how to finish people off.”

Which they did, taking an inferior Twins team, stepping on its throat and refusing to lift the boot. Ahead, now, is a Friday date at Yankee Stadium for Game 1 of the ALCS with the Angels, a team that in 2002 and 2005 beat the Yankees in the first round.

Already they’ve been called out by Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu, a Yankee for three seasons before they let him go last winter. Though he has thrived with the Angels, Jeter is right: few others do. Ted Lilly(notes). Alfonso Soriano. Maybe Jose Contreras and Dioner Navarro. Can’t forget Torre, whose Los Angeles Dodgers await an opponent in the NLCS.

He, too, wants vengeance on the Yankees for wronging him, and so the natural order of baseball is falling back into its proper place. Everyone is shooting for the Yankees, the baddest team, the biggest threat and the one with those familiar faces.

After all these years, the four survivors are still alive and kicking – and hitting and pitching. Now, finally, they’ve got a worthy fifth wheel along for the ride.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


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First Freeway World Series possible — Angels, Dodgers each one step from meeting in Fall Classic

By Mark Newman
October 12, 2009


The Yankees, Phillies and Rockies are like traffic congestion right now to the average fan around Los Angeles. Both clubs in the L.A. market have advanced to the League Championship Series, the first time each has gotten this close to meeting the other in the World Series.

A day after the Dodgers swept the Cardinals, the Angels staged an unforgettable ninth-inning rally Sunday in Boston to sweep their nemesis, the Red Sox. The Dodgers will host the National League Championship Series opener Thursday against either Philadelphia or Colorado, and the Angels open Friday at Yankee Stadium.

"Oh man, that'd be great for the city," Dodgers first baseman James Loney said. "We play those guys tough every time. We get a bunch of fans out there, too. It's definitely fun playing those guys, a great atmosphere."

"These guys [Red Sox and Yankees] are bests over here," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said Sunday in Boston. "But I'll tell you, the West Coast right now is the Best Coast."

Hunter was careful to add: "I'm not that dumb [to talk much about it]. You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself."

To a man, everyone around the Dodgers and Angels who was asked about a possible Freeway Series framed his comment with exactly the same perspective.
Each club has a best-of-seven series in front of it that will be a thrill ride capable of going either way. But there is now a reality in terms of at least logistical planning. Many people are booking hotels in Los Angeles to cover a complete World Series stay, just in case.

Just ask Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who made a clutch Game 2 start against the Cardinals. Amid champagne spraying in St. Louis on Saturday, he said: "Totally too far to look in the future, but I'm sure it would be incredible for the city of L.A., and it would be fun for us, too. It'd be pretty crazy, I'd think. Travel would be nice."

Kershaw was born one year before the Bay Bridge Series of 1989, and he grew up hearing about what that event was like -- though those who lived through it remember the horror more than the Oakland A's sweep of the San Francisco Giants. This is the 20th anniversary of that one-market California World Series, which was marred by the tragic Loma Prieta earthquake.

--

One-city or Metropolitan-Area World Series

Year Winning team        Losing team
1906 Chicago White Sox   Chicago Cubs
1921 New York Giants      New York Yankees
1922 New York Giants      New York Yankees
1923 New York Yankees   New York Giants
1936 New York Yankees   New York Giants
1937 New York Yankees   New York Giants
1941 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1944 St. Louis Cardinals   St. Louis Browns
1947 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1949 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1951 New York Yankees   New York Giants
1952 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1953 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1955 Brooklyn Dodgers     New York Yankees
1956 New York Yankees   Brooklyn Dodgers
1989 Oakland Athletics     San Francisco Giants
2000 New York Yankees   New York Mets

--

A Dodgers-Angels matchup also would end this decade on a similar note to how it began. In fact, what a contrast. Start with the Yankees over the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series, in America's largest city. Then possibly finish it with Angels vs. Dodgers in the 105th World Series, in America's second-largest city. Joe Torre, who managed those Yanks, manages these Dodgers.

Torre would be asked about it constantly. Just don't ask him about it now. He is maybe the last person to be caught looking beyond a postseason series. Mike Scioscia, the Angels' manager whose club won in seven against the Giants in a 2002 all-California World Series, answered the question in his postgame interview session on Sunday.

"We're not going that far right now. Believe me," Scioscia said. "We have a huge challenge in front of us. Before we talk about a Freeway Series, we're going to have to beat an incredible team."

The first one-market World Series was in 1906, when the White Sox upset the 116-win Cubs in six. The 1944 World Series was even on the same field -- Sportsman's Park, where the Cardinals beat the Browns (now Baltimore Orioles) in six.

Then, of course, there have been numerous Subway Series -- 14 in all -- going back to the halcyon days when New York was the unquestioned baseball capital of the world with the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.

"Any World Series with L.A. in it, I'd be happy with," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "I'm not going to think that far ahead, but a Freeway Series would be cool. We have to take it one step at a time."

How special would a Freeway Series be for the Weaver family and its two pitchers? Jered played a huge role in the Angels' sweep, while his older brother Jeff was performing admirably in middle relief for the Dodgers against the Cardinals club he helped to the 2006 title.

"I told him 'congratulations,'" Jered said Sunday, amid the champagne celebration in the Angels' clubhouse at Fenway Park. "I haven't had a chance yet to check my phone. I hope it's still dry. I'm sure I'll have a bunch of text messages. We're not going to talk about that yet. We've still got a ways to go. We'll see what happens.

"That would be real special for the family. No doubt about it. That would be real special."

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


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The morning after: MLB turns out the Metrodome lights

By Joe Christensen
October 12, 2009


Several baseball writers ended up at Maxwell’s on Sunday night after bidding goodbye to Major League Baseball at the Metrodome. The Phillies and Rockies were tangled in a close late-inning ballgame on TV, and it was heartening to hear the temperature at Coors Field was 27 degrees. That could be Target Field some October.

As Brad Lidge survived his latest tightrope act, you could see the players’ breath, and some were wearing those ridiculous, yet practical, Elmer Fudd ear-flap caps. But it was baseball. Sweet postseason baseball.

I knew it wouldn’t hit me until the very end, but just before leaving the Metrodome, I looked at all the blue seats, looked at the baggie, with those big yellow ads, looked at the mangy green carpeting, and looked down at the pressbox seat where I’ve spent so much of the past five years. Wow, I thought, this is really it.

Earlier Sunday, the Twins had led several members of the national media on a tour of Target Field, and it was nice to hear their reviews coinciding with our reviews. “A lot of nice touches,” one well-traveled scribe said. It’s neat to think about all the firsts coming in the new ballpark, with those exhibitions against the Cardinals on April 2-3 and the regular season home opener April 12 against the Red Sox. (Corrected.)

But today, as snow falls outside my window, I’m still thinking about all the good times inside the Dome. The Twins sure made it fun. Others might be bitter about the latest 3-and-out postseason, but not me. They capped a 17-4 regular season finish by winning a game for the ages. After that tiebreaker triumph over Detroit, the Twins awoke last Wednesday as 10-to-1 underdogs to win the AL pennant, and 20-to-1 long shots to win the World Series, according to www.bodog.com. The Yankees were 4-to-5 and 9-to-5, respectively.

The Twins got beat by a well-oiled machine. Yes, they beat themselves with inexplicable baserunning gaffes, a lack of timely hitting and shaky relief. But with Kevin Slowey, Justin Morneau and Joe Crede injured, it would have taken a near-perfect effort for the Twins to survive the first round.

You want to talk about changes for 2010: Third base? Shortstop? Starting pitching? A lifetime extension for Joe Mauer? La Velle and I will spend the cold months covering those decisions inside and out. Matter of fact, we’re getting started today. (Look for more in tonight’s first editions.)

But before we move on, I want to pay last respects to the Metrodome. As depressing as it was to walk inside on countless gorgeous days to watch a game meant for the outdoors, the Dome had its moments. It was quirky and downright goofy at times, but for 28 years, it was still Major League Baseball. I’m grateful for having such a good seat.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


 













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