Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez provided the heroics for the Yankees in their 8-5 win Sunday night in Game Four of the 2009 World Series, but when there are heroes in the game of baseball, there also must be goats.
Unlike other sports, baseball is mostly a zero sum game.
If a pitcher gets a really big (or final) out, then the hitter didn't "come through in the clutch." If a hitter gets the big hit, such as Pedro Feliz hitting a game tying home run in the bottom of the eighth, then the goat is the pitcher who served up the gopher ball. In the latter case, that would be Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain gave up the tying homer when he perpetuated one of pitching’s cardinal sins, missing your location. On that fateful pitch to Feliz, catcher Jorge Posada called for a fastball low and away. Chamberlain threw the ball up and over the plate, missing his location by a good two feet.
Joba got away with the same pitch two batters earlier, when he struck out Jayson Werth leading off the inning, but Feliz should be credited with looking at the pitch sequence to Werth, and adjusting to the 3-2 offering from Chamberlain.
Much has been made of Damon's great at bat, but Lidge picked the wrong spot to be heavy with the fastball. One batter earlier, Lidge struck out Derek Jeter on a 3-2 slider, and Lidge's slider seemed to be back to its 2008 form, as it was biting ferociously towards the ground every time he threw it.
Both Hideki Matsui leading off the inning, and Jeter were both retired on terrific sliders.
Why then did Lidge primarily throw fastballs to Damon after getting ahead in the count? If he had confidence in throwing a slider to Jeter 3-2, why not Damon, too? Especially after Damon fouled off three straight fastballs. And if you are going to throw another fastball, the only place an outside fastball should be located is low. After seeing so many pitches that at bat, anything up and away is like a batting practice pitch.
But that wasn't even Lidge's biggest gaffe. After Damon reached first base, he immediately stole second, and then stole third about two seconds later. But Damon took advantage of Lidge "watching the game from the field," a bonehead non-play.
For example, in the eighth inning when Robinson Cano popped a single down the left field line, Phillies pitcher Ryan Madson was covering third base, because both short stop Jimmy Rollins, and third baseman Pedro Feliz, were trying to catch the ball, as third base was vacated.
I teach my players that if you are standing around watching the game, you are doing something wrong. Pitchers, especially, need to move all over to back up bases on throws, or covering bases when they are vacated. I have pulled players off the field in the middle of the game, because they did not move defense. And it wasn’t because the other team benefited from that lapse.
Lidge needed to be at third base as soon as Damon tried to steal second.
That play was only possible as the Phillies had the Teixeira shift on, moving three infielders to the right base side of second base, with the third baseman covering the short stop position. Feliz was more towards second base because of Damon's threat to steal.
What I never understood about the left handed shift (and why don't they ever shift for pull conscious right handed hitters?), was why do they move the short stop over to the right side and leave the third baseman on the left side? The short stop usually has more range, and is a better athlete. With only one fielder on the third base side with more ground to cover, wouldn’t you want your best range fielder to cover more ground?
In employing the shift, a team should move their third baseman over to the right side and leave their short stop in his own position. That means only one fielder is out of position rather than two guys.
Can this guy please not swing at every inside pitch thrown to him? He is getting himself out every single time by swinging at bad pitches on (and off ) the inside corner. Half the pitches he swings at are not even strikes, and with less than two strikes, there is no reason to go after those inside pitches.
He is getting a steady diet of inside stuff all playoffs long and has been struggling as a result. He has only had good swings at pitches, which are over the outer third of the plate. It is all about pitch selection.
I say this a lot, but Rogers Hornsby was the greatest right handed hitter ever. Check out his 1920 to 1926 seasons , especially 1922 and 1924. Absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, his first mantra in hitting was "get a good pitch to hit".
Cano is not doing that, and that is the main reason why BABIP is such a stupid stat. Cano's BABIP would be better if he swung at pitches which resembled strikes. You do not have to strike everyone out in order to pitch effectively. Many hitters swing at inside pitches as a defensive mechanism. That is what Cano is doing, and it is killing his BABIP, and the Yankees.
He wanted the ball on three days rest, and he is getting the ball on three days rest. During his career, his overall numbers on three days rest are much better than his overall number on "regular" rest. But since it has only been four times he has started a game on three days rest, it is anybody's guess what will happen tonight.
But since two of those occasions happened last season, we know the current AJ can get the job done.
And he will as the Yankees figure out Cliff Lee tonight and win a tight one 3-2.
I have to go with this prediction as I had the Yankees winning in five games.
*By the way, I loved it when the Yankees got together in the dugout after their three ninth inning outburst. Joba went to Alex and said something to him, probably thanking him for saving his butt and "picking him up".
And then Posada went to Joba and said a few encouraging words directly into Joba's ear, likely reassuring the young right hander after Chamberlain gave up the game tying home run.
Its shows how close this Yankee team has become. And that credit must go to Joe Girardi.