The Phillies didn’t need this weekend for Games 6 or 7 of the NLCS; they are already in the World Series. The Eagles don’t get a chance to make up for their debacle in Oaktown last week until Monday night against the dysfunctional Deadskins. The Sixers don’t tipoff until Wednesday night in Orlando. So, what do we Philadelphia sports fans root for this weekend?
Well, we can always lean on the ole standbys of “whoever is playing the Giants [Arizona] or the Cowboys [Atlanta].” That is always a good time. Yet, with the Phillies #1 in the city and awaiting their shot at history, the ALCS clearly has the largest implications on the Philly sports scene. And, with the Angels exciting win in Game 5, sending the series back to New York, under very iffy weather conditions, many things are in play. But, just what do we really want?
Honestly, with the way this postseason has gone, I am not really “afraid” of facing anyone, at this point. I think the Phillies can go toe-to-toe with anyone. In fact, I (and many Phillies fans with which I’ve spoken) actually look forward to a WS date with the Yankees because they would be so much more fun to beat. But, for the sake of argument, we are going to operate under the assumption that it would be “better” to play the Angels in the series because they are probably an inferior opponent, therefore theoretically giving the Phils a better shot at a repeat title. So, with that said, here is what I think are the best possible results of the ALCS this weekend (we will also assume that Saturday’s game is up in the air because of weather, but we won’t complicate things with the possibility of two rainouts this weekend):
- Rainout Saturday, Angels win Sunday and Monday: If we are really looking at what is best for the Phillies, there is one player that we are clearly rooting for this weekend–Mother Nature. A rainout this weekend would be phenomenal for the Phightin’s. An Angels win in a Game 7 on Monday would be absolutely perfect for the Phils. The Angels may use even use Lackey on three days rest if there is a Game 7 on Monday and, although the Halos have a deep pitching staff, having to hold Lackey until Game 3 could be crippling (though, he would be ripe for another Game 7 victory, like he had as a rookie in 2002).
- Angels win Saturday and Sunday: I had a lot of trouble deciding between #2 and #3 and what I thought would be better, but ultimately, I had to put aside my desire to beat the Yankees and just accept the fact that a WS title, anyway you can get it, is really all that matters. And, I think that as much as I think the Yankees pitching staff completely hinges on the durability of their ace, the Yankees offense is still terrifying. So, I think that anyway we can get the Angels, we should take it. The problem with this scenario is that, if the Angels can get wins from Saunders and Weaver this weekend, they will go to the World Series with their staff ready to go, in the order they would like it.
- Rainout Saturday, Angels win Saturday, Yankees win Sunday: Like I said, I think this scenario is very close in “preference” to #2. If there is a rainout on Saturday, the Yankees will have to make a decision on Sunday’s starter. Both Pettitte and Sabathia will be ready on regular rest. So, do they throw Sabathia and try and end the series, even though that means that he would be unavailable for Game One of the World Series and lined up for Game Two on three days’ rest (and unable to make three starts in the Series, as they are hoping)? Or, do they throw Pettitte, hoping that they come through and then they can start the WS with Sabathia? Personally, I think it’s an easy call–they should throw Pettitte–and that’s what I think Girardi will do. BUT…that opens them up to a pretty terrible scenario (for them) because if Pettitte doesn’t get them a win in Game Six, Sabathia will have to throw on Monday. This means that he will not be available until Game Three. That would be a HUGE advantage for the Phils–not having to face Sabathia in the first two games in Yankee Stadium. No matter how the Yankees choose to work their staff, if the ALCS is still being played on Monday, the Phils may become the odds-on favorites to win the Series.
- Angels win Saturday, Yankees win Sunday: Obviously, as I’ve said before, I think the Angels present the easier opponent (though, by no means, an easy one). And, obviously, the extra day that the rain may gift the Phils would be nice. But, if we have to play the Yanks and Mother Nature doesn’t “cooperate” with our plans, just getting the Yankees to a Game Seven would be a GIGANTIC gift from Mike Scioscia to his Philly hometown. Sabathia is going to throw Game 7, which means that he would be unavailable for Game One, and could only pitch Game Two on three days’ rest. And, if he doesn’t throw Game One, there is no way for him to possibly pitch three games in the Series. This would be phenomenal for the NL Champs.
- Rainout Saturday, Yankees win Sunday: This would, at least, force Girardi to make the decision on starting pitcher that we described in the #3 scenario. Again, I think Girardi will choose to throw Pettitte and save Sabathia, but he might not. And, if he doesn’t, then we get the same advantage as described in #4.
- Yankees win Saturday: Obviously, the worst case scenario for the Phillies is if the game is played tonight and the Yankees win. In fact, I think that if the Yanks win tonight, it’s better for them than even if they had won Thursday. They will be all set up with their pitching staff, they will have a bit of momentum, in winning at home, and they will not have the week of rust that the Phillies are currently trying to stave off. So, this is bad.
All in all, I think that, all being equal, the Phillies would be a decided underdog against the Yankees. I think they would probably be a slight favorite against Anaheim. But, the advantage that the Yankees would have is slim enough so that if, for whatever reason, they cannot throw Sabathia in Game One, their advantage is nullified. So, this weekend, as we watch, we should, first of all, root for the Angels to win the AL Pennant, so we can avoid that stacked Yankee lineup. But, if it has to be the Yankees, let’s see if we can somehow get, instead of a matchup of the past two AL CY Young winning Indian pitchers (Lee vs. Sabathia), we get to face that headcase, AJ Burnett.
(Another random note: if Burnett has to pitch Game One, then he will have to pitch his second game in Philly, which means that the Yanks will not have a DH that game. That would create a tough decision for Girardi, in who to catch. Can he really give up Posada’s bat in a lineup that also has the pitcher?)
All of that analysis aside, I really want to face the Yankees because I think we are going to beat them, and that would be awesome! But, either way, let’s go Mother Nature!