When the whole baseball season comes down to Game 6 of the World Series, there’s no rest for the weary.
But, that may be the thing which prevents the New York Yankees from ultimately holding on to what used to be a seemingly safe three games to one lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
There’s no doubt that the Yankees’ lineup is loaded and powerful, or that they have the best closer in the game in future Hall of Fame Mariano Rivera. Or even, that on a full four days of rest, the Yankees have a championship caliber starting pitching staff.
After all, those are all of the key ingredients which have pushed the Yankees to the very brink of winning their 27th world championship.
However, what if one of those things changed significantly enough in Game 5, and then in Game 6, and finally, in a Game 7 as well?
Well, we’ve actually already seen the first of those three scenarios, when Yankees’ Game 5 starter A.J. Burnett, going on only three days of rest, was rocked for six runs, all earned, in only 2+ innings in the Yankees’ 8-6 loss which sent the Series back to New York for Game 6 Wednesday night.
Speaking of Game 6, Yankees’ starter Andy Pettitte will also be pitching on just three days of rest.
And, should that not work out as New York hopes, the Yankees’ Game 7 starter, will be the ace of their staff, C.C. Sabathia, but he too, would be pitching after only three days of rest.
That all means that the difference between another Yankees’ championship and a World Series collapse could likely be riding on the one area of their team which doesn’t measure up to any of the aforementioned ones — the Yankees’ bullpen, otherwise known as the all important bridge from New York’s starters to world class closer Mariano Rivera.
So far, Yankee relievers Phil Hughes, Brian Bruney, and Phil Coke have all been ineffective during different times in this year’s World Series, and Joba Chamberlain blew a save in the eighth inning of Game 4, even though the Yankees later won that game.
Of course, more than just the Yankees’ bullpen would be available if needed in a possible Game 7. Any starter other than Pettitte would be ready to throw an inning, or to a batter, maybe even just a pitch, whatever it would take to get the ball to Rivera.
Although, if the Yankees can’t do that against an equally dangerous Phillies’ lineup which can often score late once it gets the opposing starting pitcher out of the game, Rivera might never get the chance to close out a world title as he’s done four times before.
Perhaps Pettitte will get Game 6 to Rivera himself. Or, if Pettitte and the Yankees’ bullpen fail, maybe Sabathia might even throw a complete game a night later.
But, if the short rest affects both Pettitte and Sabathia from this point, the way it seems to have limited Burnett in the Game 5, the Yankees will need their bullpen to play a key role in at least one of the next two games, and be the connection from either Pettitte or Sabathia to Rivera.
Through 103 regular season wins, an AL East title, ALDS and ALCS championships, and three World Series victories, the Yankees have made it this far on their journey.
But, to reach the promised land, they still need to travel to the other side of where they are now and avoid any Phillie pitfalls with a bullpen that might very well be called upon to be their bridge to a championship.