If you love pitching, this World Series is the sort that you can only dream about.
Let’s recap what we’ve seen so far:
In Game One, Cliff Lee threw an absolute gem, allowing only one run, which was unearned, while racking up 10 strikeouts over nine innings. CC Sabathia countered with a pretty impressive performance of his own, pitching seven strong innings and allowing two earned runs, both on solo shots from Chase Utley.
In Game Two, A.J. Burnett nearly matched Cliff Lee by dominating the Phillies hitters over seven innings. Mariano Rivera finished off the Phillies in the eighth and ninth with the sort of pitching that we’ve come to expect from him over the years.
However, not to be outdone, the Phillies also looked impressive on the mound, with Pedro Martinez allowing three earned runs over six strong innings and the bullpen allowing no runs over their collective two innings pitched.
In fact, with the sole exception of the last two innings put up by the Yankees' bullpen in Game One, it is hard to remember the last time a World Series was so completely dominated by pitchers over the first two games.
The old saying, that great pitching beats great hitting, was put to the test in the first two games, and resoundingly proven true.
Believe me, this Series features great hitting and great pitching in abundance.
The star-power in both lineups is mind-blowing. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are future Hall of Famers. In the other dugout, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are well on their way to enshrinement in Cooperstown as well. Both teams have surrounded these key players with lineups full of All Stars.
It paid off during the regular season. The Yankees posted the second best batting average in the AL at .283, while leading the league with 244 home runs and an average of 5.65 runs scored per game. So far, they have only scored a total of four runs in the World Series, while batting a miserable .222 with 22 strikeouts.
The Phillies haven’t fared much better. While they too featured a potent offense in the regular season, leading the NL in runs scored and homers, they have struggled, for all but two innings, to figure out New York’s pitching, batting only .231 with nine strikeouts.
Yet, nobody is wondering why the sluggers have vanished from both teams.
To find the answer for that, all you have to do is take a look at the men on the mound. We’ve seen a three former Cy Young Award winners in Sabathia, Lee, and Pedro, and a guy who is brilliant when his game is on in A.J. Burnett. Throw into the mix the man who will most likely be remembered for a long time as the greatest closer in history, Rivera, and the credentials of these pitching staffs are impressive.
They’ve lived up to their reputations so far, and they did it in a ballpark that was not friendly to pitchers in its inaugural season. They’ll have to continue that trend inside another hitter’s park in Philly.
Now, I’m not sure what to expect from the offenses in Game Three. Cole Hamels was the hero of last year’s playoffs for the Phillies but has struggled to find that form again. Andy Pettitte is reliable but not brilliant. In Citizens Bank Park, both offenses could be primed for an explosion on Saturday night.
Provided both teams stick to a three-man rotation, however, we should see more brilliant pitching again in Game Four and Five.
Technically, this series is tied, 1-1. Really, the score is Pitchers two, Batters zero.
Which is just the way it should be.
Baseball is at its best when there are epic pitcher’s duels combined with just enough long-balls to make things interesting. These are the types of games that fans want to see, rather than those with final scores of 10-8. I can enjoy the occasional lighting up of the scoreboard, but I would hate to see a whole World Series like that.
I’m not suggesting that fans like to watch bad offense, but rather great pitching. There is a world of difference between watching Jorge De La Rosa shut down the Padres in a sloppy game and Lee shut down the Yankees in a brilliant one.
And behind brilliant pitching, this World Series just might become the best one in a long, long time, because there is nothing more exciting in baseball than Game Seven of the World Series.
I, for one, am excited that for the first time in a long time, it looks like we might have a seven-game World Series. Sure, either team could come out and rip off three straight wins, but that looks unlikely to happen.
That is because the pitchers won’t let it happen. The firepower of five combined Cy Young awards and the world’s greatest closer has been too much for the hitters with five collective MVP trophies to handle.
So buckle up for round two of Sabathia-Lee and A.J.-Pedro, and pray that we get to see the two aces go head-to-head one more time in a Game Seven.
The last great World Series happened when Curt Schilling and the Diamondbacks shocked the Yankees in 2001. What stood out about that Series? It was great pitching in five of the seven games. Since then, the Fall Classic has become mundane and boring in one-sided blowouts.
The Yankees and Phillies have the chance to resurrect it, behind a series that has the potential to feature some of the most epic pitcher’s duels in the history of October.
Now let’s hope they don’t blow it.