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Bodley: Game 3 loser faces tough decisions

Game 3 loser will face tough decisions

NEW YORK -- The dynamics of the World Series changed dramatically at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night.

The Yankees, thanks to a superb pitching effort by A. J. Burnett, escaped with a 3-1 victory over the Phillies, which evens the best-of-seven tournament at a game apiece.

The defending champion Phillies won the opener, 6-1, and I'll guarantee you before the first pitch was thrown, they would have been satisfied with a split heading to the comfort of Citizens Bank Park for the next three games.

That's what exactly what they got, but is it enough?

The Yankees, favored to win their 27th crown, now own the momentum, and even though the Phillies have been known for their resiliency this year, I believe Game 3 on Saturday will be the pivotal contest in this Series.

A 2-1 advantage for either team would be an enormous advantage considering the decisions that lie ahead.

With left-hander Andy Pettitte, all-time postseason wins leader with 16, starting for the Yankees, the Phillies could be in for a long night. Although they handled Yankee ace CC Sabathia in Wednesday night's opener, they're vulnerable to left-handers.

Lefty Cole Hamels, however, could be their wild card as Burnett was Thursday night if he can muster the form that made him World Series MVP a year ago when the Phillies defeated Tampa Bay.

Hamels has been inconsistent this season and lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Oct. 21 when the Phillies defeated Los Angeles to win the National League pennant.

That's probably why Phillies manager Charlie Manuel bypassed Hamels for Pedro Martinez in Game 2.

I wonder how much that decision will affect Hamels' confidence, which has been shaky at times this year?

Might he feel the manager didn't have enough faith in him to start Game 2 at Yankee Stadium? Will he take those thoughts to the mound Saturday night?

Or was Manuel convincing when he told Hamels he was the logical choice to start Game 3 because he has pitched better at Citizens Bank Park?

And Martinez, who turned in a solid effort even though he lost, could handle the pressure of pitching a World Series game at Yankee Stadium. Despite his past success, Hamels is just 25 years old.

Pitching in the new ballpark, especially in a World Series game, can be intimidating.

So, dynamics change.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

If the Phillies go up 2-1, chances are Yankees manager Joe Girardi will bring back Sabathia on short rest.

And if the Yankees prevail, Manual may have no choice but to pitch Cliff Lee on Sunday in Game 4.

Neither team wants to risk falling behind three games to one. That might spell doomsday.

"I'll have to wait and see where we are before I make that decision," said Manuel.

Burnett has had an inconsistent season somewhat like Hamels but rebounded to stymie the Philadelphia bats.

He threw first-pitch strikes to the first 10 Phillies he faced and continually threw his fastball inside to the left-handed batters.

Of the top four Philadelphia batters -- Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard -- only Victorino got a hit and that did not come until the eighth inning off relief ace Mariano Rivera. Howard struck out four times.

Girardi said Burnett "was able to work in and out with his fastball and throw his good curveball and get some good swings and misses."

Had Burnett not given the Yankees such a solid effort, they would be in a deep hole this weekend. But now Girardi can see how the Series unfolds Saturday before making decisions about his starting pitching.

"The one thing that we've been able to do is we've went through some tough losses and we've seemed to bounce back," said Girardi. "It was just business as usual for us today."

Manuel, a stickler for hitters not wasting at-bats, may say a few words to his players before they face Pettitte.

"I feel like if we could have hit Burnett's fastball early in the count and made him throw breaking balls a lot, his command might not have been so good. We might have been able to get him deep in counts and hit him better.

"But he blocked all that out by throwing his fastball for strikes and being very aggressive with it, and then of course his slider was off the chart."

The final footnote to the Series' move to Philadelphia is the fact the designated hitter will not be used, thus the Yankees will have to make a decision about Hideki Matsui, whose home run off Martinez in the sixth inning gave New York a 2-1 lead.

The Yankees obviously will be weaker without the DH.

Matsui has been bothered by swollen knees and may not be able to play defense.

"We'll see how he's doing," said Girardi. "We'll make a decision when we get to Philadelphia. We have all day to think about it [Friday]. That's the one thing about playoff baseball, you get a lot of time to think about things."

Girardi might be right, but the deep thinking will take place after Saturday's game. That's when the true colors of this World Series will emerge.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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