Oct 27, 2009

Big Apple vs. City of Brotherly Love: Who will win?

by Jake Petersen and Jordan LoSasso

Jake Petersen
Sports Editor

When Mariano Rivera entered Sunday night’s American League Championship Series in the 8th inning to “Enter Sandman” blaring through the Yankee Stadium sound system, that’s when I knew that my New York Yankees would be heading back to the World Series for the first time since 2003.

Even though Rivera gave up a run scoring single to Vladimir Guerrero in that eighth inning (his first run allowed at home in the postseason since 2000), I pumped my fist in triumph as Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning, ending with an emphatic strikeout of Gary Matthews Jr. to give the 39 year-old his 37th postseason save.

My faith in Mariano goes far greater then my assistant’s (Jordan LoSasso) faith in his closer, Brad Lidge, who blew 11 saves this year for the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies and struggled with his control throughout the season. Granted, Lidge has converted all three of his saves chances this postseason and has not allowed a run, but bottom line is, he is no Rivera. You can bet, if Lidge comes into the game with the bases loaded and Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira are standing at the plate, Phillies fans will be sweating bullets.

I have to admit, the Phillies offense scares me a little. One TBS broadcaster pointed out that the Phillies lineup is “an American League team playing in the National League” the other night during the Phillies 10-4 win over the Dodgers. I have to agree with him, but the Yankees lineup is scary good from one through nine and loaded with power, a main reason why the Bronx Bombers lived up to their nickname and blasted a league leading 244 dingers this year. With a lineup that features Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui and Melky “The Melk Man” Cabrera, the Phillies pitching staff will certainly have its hands full. They haven’t faced a lineup this good since — well, never.

Couple a dominating offense with great starting pitchers and a lights-out bullpen, and it is clear to see why the Yankees are the obvious favorites in this match-up. A New Yorker-turned-Pennsylvanian myself, most of my friends are Phillies fans and despise my love for the Yankees — which will make it even sweeter when we wrap up our 27th World Series title. My gut feeling is that, while both offenses are powerful, the Yankees pitching staff (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte) will shut down the Phillies. The Phillies staff of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez will be facing the best lineup in the Majors, and I don’t foresee them having much success. My prediction is the games will be close and packed with drama, with the Yankees pulling it out in game six in front of a packed Yankee Stadium on Nov. 4 (if the weather holds up).

So there you have it, Yankee fans. It took us long enough to get here but we’re finally back in the Fall Classic where we belong. Put the sparkling cider on ice, strap on your seat belts, and let the trash talking begin, because this World Series is shaping up to be a battle between two great teams and two great cities — a battle between the Big Apple and the City of Brotherly Love.

Contact Jake Petersen at jtpetersen@liberty.edu.

Jordan LoSasso
Asst. Sports Editor

Brad Lidge stood on the mound at Coors Field in the freezing weather of Colorado to record the final three outs in game three of the National League Division Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies.

The 50,109 Rockies fans in attendance suddenly felt enough excitement to cheer through the winter conditions, because they knew the struggles Lidge suffered during the season, and his 11 blown saves meant they had a chance to win.

As he stood on the mound, team leader and shortstop Jimmy Rollins looked him in the eyes and told him, “You’re going to get them out.”

When Lidge replied with nothing more than “Yeah,” Rollins quickly retorted the lack of confidence saying, “What does that mean?”

In those short seconds, Lidge recognizing his own lack of faith, stared back at Rollins and said, “You’re right. We’re going to get this done right here, right now.”

Both players were proven right after Lidge retired the side, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the series.

It is not just that Lidge has seemed to find his groove in the playoffs, saving three games in three chances and winning another without allowing a run that I think the Phillies will win the World Series, though it will be a big contribution since the team’s main weakness was its bullpen throughout the season.

The Phillies have leadership that motivates, humbles and supplies teammates with confidence in times of need, in critical moments and in World Series clinching games.

Pat Burrell was struggling in the 2008 playoffs and after a lackluster performance in the batting cage prior to game five of the World Series, Rollins could no longer refrain from letting his longest tenured teammate know what he was thinking.

“I want number five, I don’t even know you,” Rollins quipped at Burrell, whose uniform bears the number five.

Burrell responded to the challenge with a double in the bottom of the seventh inning and would later score, proving to be the game-winning run.

My reason could be because of the Phillies playoff experience after back-to-back runs to the World Series that allows players to perform at their best when it matters most — in the clutch. Because, one through eight, the Phillies lineup has turned in clutch performances.

Ryan Howard’s league leading 14 RBIs this postseason have been helpful, but his game-tying, two-run double deep down the right field line against the Rockies after being down by two runs was clutch.

So was Jayson Werth’s game winning bloop base hit into right center field to clinch a berth in the National League Championship Series, following Howard’s double.

Perhaps the most clutch hit in Phillies history was in game four of the NLCS. The Phillies were up 2-1 in the series and one out away from forfeiting home field advantage back to the Dodgers with the series even at 2-2.

The Phillies were down one run with pinch runner Eric Bruntlett on second and catcher Carlos Ruiz on first, and the home crowd at Citizens Bank Park was frantically waving their “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels. With one out left, Rollins was in the batter’s box facing one of the best closers in the game, hard throwing Jonathon Broxton. Rollins waited for his pitch, a 98.8 mph fastball, and lined it to the right center field gap. As the ball flew to the wall both runners scored with the raucous crowd cheering so loud they drowned out the television announcers.

Their ability to perform in the clutch is not the sole reason for my opinion either. Maybe it is their toughness. With two players, Chase Utley last season and Raul Ibanez this year, postponing surgery that would have sidelined them for most of the season, toughness is legitimate reasoning.

“They’re a tough club, not just wins and losses but how they approach the game. They play it hard, and they play it that way all the time. They play with a relentlessness, and they absolutely refuse to be beat,” Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Sports Illustrated.

Toughness is too small-minded. The Phillies are more than any single characteristic or description, except one — heart. They have the perseverance, leadership, team chemistry, strong work ethic, experience, clutch play and toughness. Combining all those characteristics gives a team life, hope and optimism in any situation, no matter how daunting, proven by that meeting on the mound between Rollins and Lidge.

When two teams of equal caliber talent square off in a battle of Broad Street versus Broadway in the World Series, heart will be the deciding factor, and the Phillies have it.

Contact Jordan LoSasso at jlosasso@liberty.edu.

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