Okay, full disclosure: As a Red Sox fan, I want the Phillies to win the Series, period. Heck, there’s even a good reason for that one, as a pure fan of the game. That reason, of course, is Chase Utley. With two home runs in Game 5, Utley now has five homers in the World Series, tying the single-series record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977–a Series the Yankees won. If Utley ties or even breaks Reggie’s record in a losing effort, it just wouldn’t seem right. (Then again, the 1960 Yankees still hold most of the records for team offensive production in a single Series, and they lost that in seven games, thanks to three double-digit wins and four losses by three runs or less. So maybe that’s not important.)
Here’s why the Phillies need to win Game 6: a return to the way things used to be.
Now, I may be young, but I’m not so young that I don’t remember a Series that went seven games. That last happened in 2002, and although I probably wasn’t paying attention to that one, I do remember 2001, probably the best Series of
my lifetime the period of my lifetime that I would reasonably be expected to remember (the only debate when limiting it to my lifetime would be 1991 vs. 2001, but I was just a toddler in ’91.)
I’m talking about pitchers making three starts in a series. I’m a fan of the history of the game, and way back when, three-man rotations in the postseason were the norm (and four-man rotations in the regular season, but that’s besides the point.) And when three-man rotations in the postseason were common, a pitcher would pitch Games 1, 4, and 7. (Okay, okay, that actually happened in the 2001 World Series, too, although the Diamondbacks did use four starters–Schilling in 1, 4, and 7; Johnson in 2 and 6; Brian Anderson in 3; and Miguel Batista in 5). If this series ends tonight, we’re denied that. But if the Phillies send it to Game 7, C.C. Sabathia makes his return for Game 7. I’d rather see the Phillies win that game, too, but either way, Game 7 is what I want to see.
Well, so much for that. The Phillies won game 5 of the NLCS to advance to the World Series. Incidentally, I was wrong about no starter starting three games in a seven-game series during my lifetime. Curt Schilling started three games in the 2001 World Series, with one win and two no-decisions.
Joe Maddon is creating a big stir once again. He has switched around his rotation, bringing Scott Kazmir back on normal rest for Game 5 and holding James Shields out for a potential Game 6. Personally, I think this is a good move on the Rays’ part. Up 3-1, they only need one more win, and Shields, their best pitcher, hasn’t been great at Fenway this year, or any other time in his young career, for that matter. By sending Kazmir up against Daisuke Matsuzaka tonight, they may indeed be hurting their chances of winning Game 5, but they’d still have a 3-2 series lead and a very favorable Game 6 pitching matchup at home of Shields versus Josh Beckett. Incidentally, that extra off-day between Games 4 and 5 works both ways, and the Red Sox could conceivably bring Jon Lester back on normal rest for Game 6, allowing the ailing Beckett an extra day of rest before a potential Game 7 matchup with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays. I think this is the Red Sox’ best chance of winning. I also don’t have enough faith in Terry Francona to believe that this is going to happen. Good luck against Philly, Rays.