Matsui carries Yankees to World Series victory

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Whether it was the remnants of a weekend cold or simply not having the extra day of rest he’s often been accustomed to, Pedro Martinez showed up Wednesday with far from his best stuff. He still managed to hold his own against eight of the Yankees’ nine hitters in two times through the order. Unfortunately, he had no answer for Hideki Matsui’s hot bat.
Matsui had a two-run homer in the first, a two-run single in third and a two-run double off J.A. Happ in the fifth to drive in six runs as the Yankees won 7-3 and clinched their 27th World Series.
Andy Pettitte, working on three days’ rest, got the win by allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings in a gutsy performance. He walked five, but he largely stayed out of trouble until Ryan Howard homered in the sixth. Before that, Chase Utley, Howard and Raul Ibanez had been hitless against him for the series.
Martinez lasted only four innings, and he wouldn’t have made it that far if not for some poor at-bats from the bottom of the lineup. There was no way the Phillies could have scratched him before he took the mound, but they must have known from the start that he was going to struggle with his velocity clearly down from where it was in Game 2.
*****
That’s the story of the game, with a little Mariano Rivera mixed in. The story of the series should be the Phillies’ inability to put together rallies. Both teams had a two-run homer tonight. Both teams had two doubles. Both teams had exactly 10 singles+walks. Yet the Yankees scored seven runs and the Phillies three.
It was typical of the series. The Phillies had the higher OPS, yet they just couldn’t get multiple hits in a row. 10 of their 12 homers were solo shots. The Yankees were much better at hitting with men on base. Mark Teixeira had an awful series, but the rest of the top five was able to carry a bottom four that ended up doing little.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel never deviated from his plan at any point during the postseason. Cliff Lee didn’t start on three days’ rest during any of the first six months, so he wasn’t going to do it in October. Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz were red hot? It didn’t matter. They were going to keep hitting where they had in the regular season.
The Phillies needed to look for an edge or two in order to beat what was a superior Yankee team, but they just employed the same strategies that worked for them all year long. While it’s not the only reason they lost, the reluctance to adapt didn’t help matters.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.