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Even Stephen

Let’s start with the controversy. Or the closest thing to it that I can get on this board. Last week, after the Yankees dramatic victory, I was one of the few people to come out and defend Grady Little’s decision to keep Pedro in the game. To further back up my statement, I’m going to give you a hypothetical.

Say it’s Game 7 of the World Series. It’s the top of the eighth, and it’s been a dramatic, scoreless pitching duel. Your starter gives up a single, then a double, to give the opposing team runners at second and third, with nobody out. You decide to stick with your starter, and he goes on to give up a two run single, and you lose the game 2-0. Correct?

Wrong. Very wrong. You get the next guy (who happens to be the number three batter, and the best power hitter on the team) to ground out to the first basemen, holding the runners where they’re at. You intentionally walk the next batter, so now the bases are loaded with only one out. Because you don’t go with your reliever and stick with your tired starter, the next guy hits a grand slam and you lose the game 4-0. Right?

Wrong again. The starter gets the next batter to ground out of the double play, getting HIMSELF out of a major jam. He then goes on to pitch a hitless ninth inning, and the game goes into extra innings at 0-0. Not wanting to get off your horse, you ride him into the tenth, where once again, he gets the opposing team to go out one-two-three. He’s all ready to come out in the eleventh, but your team scores, and he doesn’t have to. You win the World Series, and the pitcher who threw this gem goes on to be series MVP.

This is EXACTLY what happened in the 1991 World Series. The pitcher was Jack Morris. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up watching baseball in the 70s and 80s, but I still expect pitchers to finish their games. Had Twins manager Tom Kelly gone to the pen, he might have lost the game, and the Series. But he rode the best guy he had, and he won.

Pedro Martinez had a chance to be a hero. Unlike Morris, he had a two-run lead. He just didn’t get it done. As for Grady Little and his deciding to keep Pedro in there, I agree that Matsui turned on one good, but it’s hardly like Posada hit the snot out of the ball as he blooped one into center.

Things are getting underway in Miami, and everything is tied up. I went back to see how important a game 3 is when the two teams have split going into it, and if history repeats itself, it’s critically important. Since 1983, surprisingly only 6 World Series have started 1-1. The seasons were 1983, 1984 (yes, the Tigers), 1992, 1993, 1997, and then last year. Of those 6, every team that won Game 3 went on to win the World Series. And the math supports it. You win game three, you can go .500 the rest of the way and still take it home. You lose, and you HAVE to win 3 of 4.

It should be a good pitching matchup as Josh Beckett tries to continue his run of good pitching by going up against the veteran Mike Mussina. Bottom of the first, and it’s 0-0.

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