Game 3 set for yet another starting pitchers' duel

Updated: October 31, 2009

John Munson/The Star-Ledger via US Presswire

Andy Pettitte is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three postseason starts, two of them coming on the road.

In the first two games of the World Series, starting pitching dominated, and Game 3 won't be any different with a matchup between the Yankees' Andy Pettitte and the Phillies' Cole Hamels. With 16 career postseason wins (the most all time), Pettitte is coming off a very positive start in the Yankees' ALCS Game 6 win against the Angels. Before that game, Pettitte said, "This is why I came back to play, to pitch in these games." If the Phillies don't change their approach as they did in the first two games, when they allowed Yankees pitchers to throw first-pitch strikes without making them pay, then Pettitte will capitalize on those mistakes.

The biggest difference between Pettitte and CC Sabathia is that CC has a more dominant fastball and a better breaking ball. Pettitte throws that hard cutter, and he pitches inside more to right-handed hitters than Sabathia does. Sabathia's changeup has gotten a heck of a lot better, though. What I saw from Pettitte against the Angels was how he worked the righties outside, and that's something that has never really been in his arsenal. Now that he can pitch to both sides of the plate with movement in and away from right-handed hitters, his balls are going to be a lot tougher to hit.

So far this has been a series dominated by starting pitching. Sabathia was great, but Cliff Lee was far superior in Game 1. A.J. Burnett was absolutely phenomenal Thursday night, but Pedro Martinez wasn't far behind. The key for Hamels will be to rely on the breaking ball more. I talked to the Dodgers' hitters in the NLCS, and they said he was a two-pitch pitcher. He rarely ever throws a breaking ball, so they didn't have to look for it. If you are a two-pitch pitcher going up against the Yankees and you aren't making the ball move in any way, shape, or form, then they have the ability to throw up a lot of runs. If I'm Carlos Ruiz and I'm catching for Hamels, I'm forcing him to throw his breaking ball as much as possible just to give them something else to think about.

As far as the condition of Hamels' elbow, everyone I talked to said there is nothing wrong with him. I talked to Hamels before Game 1 of the World Series and he said he feels great physically and feels like he's up for the challenge. He also said he'd rather face the Yankees' lineup than his own lineup. Hamels has never lacked confidence. And I always say really good pitchers don't struggle for three or four starts in a row. They usually figure something out and eventually dial up a good performance.

The Phillies have the edge in Game 3 because they are playing at home. But it wouldn't surprise me if this was a close game. With the Yankees losing the DH, they are going to have to scramble. Hideki Matsui is one of their toughest hitters and at times can be a force in the middle of the lineup. Any time you have to take out a middle-of-the-lineup guy in a big series, it weakens your offense. Now we'll be looking at a very different lineup behind Alex Rodriguez without Matsui. He's a power bat the Phillies don't have to account for anymore, and that's a huge advantage.

Citizens Bank Park is going to be loud and electric. It's not going to intimidate the Yankees, but the Phillies' hitters will definitely feed off it.

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Ryan Howard has had some of the most dramatic righty-lefty splits in baseball over the past four seasons, and the numbers are even more stark when you add off-speed pitches to the equation. As an example, he has a .351 batting average against fastballs from right-handed pitchers, but slugs just .339 against left-handed off-speed pitches.

Howard's World Series started well, as he went 2-for-4 with two doubles (both on fastballs) against left-handed pitchers in Game 1. On Thursday night, Howard struggled, finishing 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against righties A.J. Burnett and Mariano Rivera. In Game 3, he'll face off against Andy Pettitte, a southpaw who excels with his off-speed pitches against left-handed hitters. Howard has struggled against Pettitte in his career, going 1-for-9 with a single and a strikeout.

Lefty Vs. Lefty Off-Speed Pitches: 2006-09 Seasons
Howard Pettitte
Slugging pct. .339 .312
Pitch pct. 50.2 34.8
Swing-and-miss pct. 52.8 23.0
Chase pct. 31.6 38.4

-- ESPN Stats & Information


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Here are the career batter versus pitcher numbers for each team against Game 3 starters Cole Hamels and Andy Pettitte.

Yankees vs. Hamels (career)
Melky Cabrera 3-for-6 (.500)
Robinson Cano 0-for-3 (.000)
Johnny Damon 3-for-5 (.600)
Brett Gardner 0-for-2 (.000)
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2-for-10 (.200), 1 HR, 1 K
Derek Jeter 4-for-7 (.571), 1 K
Hideki Matsui 0-for-3 (.000), 1 K
Jorge Posada 0-for-3 (.000), 1 K
Alex Rodriguez 0-for-4 (.000), 4 K
Mark Teixeira 5-for-17 (.294), 2 HR, 3 K

Phillies vs. Pettitte (career)
Paul Bako 0-for-1 (.000)
Pedro Feliz 2-for-7 (.286), 1 K
Ben Francisco 2-for-5 (.400), 1 K
Ryan Howard 1-for-9 (.111), 1 K
Raul Ibanez 6-for-21 (.286), 1 HR, 5 K
Jimmy Rollins 4-for-18 (.222), 1 HR, 2 K
Carlos Ruiz 2-for-3 (.667), 1 HR
Matt Stairs 0-for-9 (.000), 1 K
Chase Utley 1-for-7 (.143), 3 K
Shane Victorino 3-for-6 (.500), 1 K
Jayson Werth 1-for-13 (.077), 1 HR, 5 K