11/03/09 1:52 AM EST
Bodley: A mound of difference
Amid rotation machinations, Manuel's latest move works
"No way am I going to do that," Manuel told me during a phone conversation the other day. "Cliff Lee has never started on short rest, plus he had surgery the year before last. He'll take his normal turn."
Lee said he had a brief conversation with Manuel, said he'd never worked on three days' rest and the skipper told him he wouldn't. End of conversation.
The Phillies kept the Yankees from clinching the championship Monday night at Citizens Bank Park with an 8-6 victory, and had it not been for Lee's solid performance, chances are the World Series wouldn't be returning to New York for Wednesday's Game 6 -- and possibly Game 7 the day after.
We'll never know what would have happened if Lee had started Sunday's Game 4 against Sabathia, who wasn't sharp and wasn't involved in the decision. The Yankees snapped a 4-4 tie against struggling reliever Brad Lidge to win, 7-4.
The Yankees still need just one victory to wrap up their first World Series title since 2000, but if they don't, second-guessers are going to have a field day with Girardi's decision.
Manuel, on the other hand, told me he had a hunch when Lee started it would be in a must-win situation, and that's just what it was Monday night. The veteran skipper thought Lee working on normal rest was the best scenario.
Pedro Martinez, who pitched well in Game 2's loss, will start Game 6 on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium fully rested. No announcement has been made, but it's almost a certainty Girardi will send 37-year-old Pettitte out again -- with three days' rest.
If the defending champion Phillies can somehow pull out another victory, I have a hunch Manuel might start Lee, who threw 115 pitches Monday night, if only for three or four innings in a Game 7. Thursday will be his normal day to throw in the bullpen.
Long odds on short rest
The Yankees will bring their $161 million left-hander, Sabathia, back again on short rest. The difference, though, is that Sabathia has done this often in his career -- and many times with success.
Burnett didn't make it out of the third inning Monday night and obviously wasn't sharp. He gave up six runs and threw 53 pitches, and he departed after walking Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to start the third.
Girardi said he didn't think working on short rest was Burnett's problem.
"I don't think there was any correlation," Girardi said. "He just lacked command tonight, similar to what he did in Anaheim. But he was able to recover better there. Tonight, he just wasn't able to get it going."
Girardi insisted he won't back down from his pitching plan despite how ineffective Burnett was.
"You know, if Andy physically feels good, he's going to go on Wednesday," said Girardi. "This is something that we talked about all throughout. We'll check with our guys. If he feels good, he's going."
When asked about Lee returning, Manuel joked, referring to the old Braves line "Spahn and Sain, pray for rain."
"Maybe it'll rain the next day and I can get him in on three days' like you guys are talking about.
"Really, the seventh game would be on his day to throw in the bullpen, and I'll see what goes on from there. I'll talk to him."
Lee was not at his best in his second World Series start, but he pitched well enough to hold the Yankees off while the Phillies built a big lead.
By winning Monday night, the Phillies saved this Series from being another of the forgettable best-of-seven tournaments of the last few years.
There hadn't been a six-game Series since 2003, when the Florida Marlins shocked the Yankees.
Coincidentally, in Game 6, it was 23-year-old Josh Beckett, who working on three days' rest, pitching a brilliant five-hit shutout.
The last Series to go seven games was in 2002, when the Angels downed the San Francisco Giants.
So, if future Hall of Famer Martinez can give the Phillies a solid effort and push the Series to a seventh game, pitching will be the burning topic.
"I think I'll be fine, but you're going to have to talk to Charlie," Lee said. "I don't know what his plans are. I'll be ready to pitch whenever they want me to."
As for his second victory in this Series, he said: "Any time you go out and give your team a chance to win as a starting pitcher, you've got to feel good about it, especially now. Basically, our backs were against the wall, a do-or-die situation."
It will be exactly the same Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium.
I'm convinced not giving into temptation to pitch Lee on Sunday was enormously important.
On the other hand, by starting Burnett on three days' rest, the Yankees may have been deprived of popping champagne corks in Philadelphia.
It remains to be seen if a team can win a World Series with a three-man rotation.
That's obviously the subplot as this revitalized battle moves north to Yankee Stadium.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.