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World Series matchup: pitching

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yankees

What We've Learned So Far:

-- That ace CC Sabathia is light years removed from the pitcher who struggled mightily during the 2007 and 2008 postseasons. He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in the game today, and he's 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA this postseason. In addition, it clearly doesn't hurt that he's left-handed, because the powerful middle of Philadelphia's lineup leans heavily that way.

-- That closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera remains as potent a postseason weapon as the baseball gods have ever invented -- and that Manager Joe Girardi isn't afraid to use him for multiple innings.

What We Still Don't Know:

-- Whether the Yankees will use a three- or four-man rotation. It would be an aggressive play to go with three starters -- as it could require Sabathia to pitch on short rest in Games 4 and 7, and A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte to start on short rest in Games 5 and 6 -- but it would spare the Yankees from turning to fourth starter Chad Gaudin. Most likely, the Yankees will let circumstances dictate.

-- If Girardi trusts his set-up men. It was telling that, in ALCS Game 6, Girardi used Joba Chamberlain as a bridge from Pettitte to Rivera, bypassing Phil Hughes. Girardi seems to be losing faith in Phil Coke too.

Phillies

What We've Learned So Far:

-- That Cliff Lee is a stud. Their ace, acquired in a trade in July, is 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three starts this postseason, and opposing hitters are batting .165/.193/.212 off him. His matchup against CC Sabathia, his old Cleveland teammate, in Game 1 (and possibly Game 4 and Game 7) could be epic.

-- That Brad Lidge is back. Their closer, who lost his job briefly after blowing 11 saves in the regular season, is back to his old self, spotting his fastball and putting the bite back in his slider. He's 3 for 3 in save opportunities and Manager Charlie Manuel no longer has any qualms about giving him the ball in the ninth.

What We Still Don't Know:

-- How the Phillies will line up their rotation. Games 2 and 3 will be Pedro Martínez and Cole Hamels. Because of their depth, they don't need to pitch Lee on short rest in Game 4 -- but they may choose to anyway, because he's their best. Lefty J.A. Happ and right-hander Joe Blanton will open in the bullpen.

-- Whether Hamels can return to 2008 form. In the 2008 playoffs, Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA. In 2009, he's 1-1 with a 6.75. If the 2008 Hamels shows up in this series, the Phillies suddenly look very close to unbeatable -- but he hasn't given any indication that might happen.

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