Phillies have the ingredients for success

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

Like Annie Savoy in “Bull Durham,” I belong to the church of baseball. Also like Annie, I believe the church of baseball “feeds the soul, day in, day out.”

If that indeed is true, the World Series is Thanksgiving for the baseball-lover’s soul. We have quite a spread laid out for us this year, in what looks to be one of the more evenly matched World Series matchups of the decade. However, it will be the Yankees slumped over in a chair, loosening their belts, and the defending champion Phillies coming back for seconds.

In our Fall Classic feast, the offenses are the turkey. Both teams led their respective leagues in runs, homers and slugging percentage. Side by side, the lineups of these two teams are nearly identical. They each have versatile guys at the top, mashers in the heart of the order and a bottom of the order that keeps the pressure on the opposing pitcher. With such evenly matched offenses, it’s hard to say if either offense has an edge.

The pitching in this case is the stuffing. It’s normally good, but depending on who cooks it, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Sure, we know what to expect out of Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia in game one, but after that, it gets sketchy.

In game two, Pedro Martinez and A.J. Burnett could twirl gems, or they could do what Burnett has done this postseason, which is vastly underperform to the tune of an ERA of 4.42.

Game three will feature Cole Hamels and Andy Pettitte, who have each carved cozy niches in their respective rotations. Starter for starter, the pitching advantage has no clear-cut winner.

The bullpens are the pumpkin pie, always excellent this time of year. Despite his well-chronicled struggles throughout the regular season, Brad Lidge has returned to his 2008 form this postseason. The right-hander has been perfect in the playoffs, recording three saves in as many opportunities and has only given up one hit in his four innings of work.

In the other bullpen is one of the greatest postseason performers of all time. It’s no secret what Mariano Rivera has accomplished in the playoffs, and this season has been no different. The future Hall of Famer is a perfect three-for-three in saves and has only allowed one run in 10 2/3 innings. As for the supporting casts for each bullpen, they have been solid and done a decent job of bridging the gap between the starter and the closer. Once again, it’s impossible to choose who has the advantage.

You might have noticed that despite my prediction that the Phillies will hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy, I haven’t given them an edge in any area of the game. That’s because with these teams being so evenly matched, it’s going to come down to toughness.
Toughness: the cranberry sauce of our World Series feast. Toughness does for teams what quality cranberry sauce does to Thanksgiving spreads8212;it turns good into great. Having watched the Phillies a lot during the past two seasons, I can tell you that there’s not a tougher team in baseball. But don’t take my word for it.

After the Phillies beat L.A. in the NLCS, Dodger’s GM Ned Colletti told SI.com’s Jon Heyman, “They’re a tough club, not just wins and losses but how they approach the game. They play it hard, and they play it that way all the time. They play with a relentlessness, and they absolutely refuse to be beat.”

Evidence of this resides in the Phillies’ 18-5 postseason record during the past two years. They haven’t lost more than one game in any of the five playoff series they’ve played in that time. The Yankees and Phillies are both built to win, but the Phillies possess the insatiable need to win, and that’s where the Yankees can’t quite measure up.

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