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October 29, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Game Two

by Joe Sheehan

Deja vu, anyone?

In 1996, the Atlanta Braves opened the defense of their World Series title by beating the New York Yankees 12-1 in their Series opener. The Braves led 8-0 after three innings thanks to a couple of Andruw Jones home runs. Hard-throwing right-hander John Smoltz--not the best pitcher on his team, but one of the best in baseball, nevertheless--handcuffed the Yankees for six innings, allowing just one run.

A night later, the best pitcher in the game--Greg Maddux--stepped to the mound and dominated the Yanks, throwing eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win that gave the Braves a.2-0 Series lead.

The details don't match exactly, but the similarities between the opening weekend of this World Series and the one five years ago are clear. The Yankees scored just one run in losing the two games both times. In 1996, they faced two of the three best pitchers in baseball that season, while this time they've seen the two best. Of course, the Yankees weren't THE YANKEES five years ago,


INSTANT POLL: Is this annoying?

and the Diamondbacks don't have Tom Glavine to pitch Game Three, and will have to get by with the generic equivalent, Brian Anderson.

The first two games couldn't have gone any better for the D'backs. Their aces pitched like aces, they scored enough runs in support of them, and all the big mistakes were made by the guys in gray.

The Yankees didn't make the big-ticket gaffes in Game Two that they did Saturday night, when David Justice and Scott Brosius made a couple of ugly, costly misplays, but they still didn't look sharp. In the seventh inning, Andy Pettitte let a 1-2 pitch get away from him and hit Luis Gonzalez leading off the inning. Reggie Sanders was nice enough to hit a double-play grounder to Brosius, but the third baseman double-clutched the throw to second, and the Yankees only got the force play because of that. Danny Bautista then one-hopped a grounder that hit Pettitte and became an infield single.

You never now how things will turn out if events develop differently, but if the double play had been turned, Pettitte would have pitched to Bautista from the windup. Maybe he would have retired him easily. Maybe he would have been better positioned to field the comebacker, or maybe Derek Jeter--playing deeper and further from the second-base bag with no one on first-would have been able to make the play.

None of this happened, and Matt Williams put the game away with a three-run home run (also with Pettitte ahead in the count, this time 0-1). Johnson got the last six outs, and the Diamondbacks had finished a neat impersonation of the 1996 Braves.

If they can stop doing it, they might just win a championship.

  • Brosius did not have a good weekend. He would later strike out looking with two runners on, joining Bernie Williams on the list of Yankees quite displeased with Mark Hirschbeck's strike zone. I thought Hirschbeck was pretty generous at the bottom edge of the zone. The 3-2 breaking ball on which he rung up Williams in the second inning was the most egregious example, but there were others throughout the game.

  • There may not have been much Joe Torre could have done to beat Johnson last night, but Luis Sojo? Even assuming Torre was not going to use a left-handed batter--and remember that David Justice has hit left-handers pretty well in his career--here were his options in the eighth inning:

    
                          Season              vs. LHP
                     AVG   OBP   SLG      AVG   OBP   SLG
    Luis Sojo       .164  .214  .190     .100  .143  .100
    Todd Greene     .208  .240  .281     .250  .268  .313
    Enrique Wilson  .211  .238  .281     .188  .184  .250
    Clay Bellinger  .160  .207  .383     .261  .250  .609
    

    All of those are in ridiculously small samples, but for crying out loud...Luis Sojo is something you rub for luck, not something you send to the plate against Randy Johnson with a World Series game in the balance.

    I think sending up Todd Greene and hoping for an accidental three-run shot that would knock Johnson out of the game was the best solution.

    (By the way, the notion that popped up last week about how the AL beats the NL in the World Series because "they have hitters on the bench instead of utilitymen"...I'm thinking that can probably be discarded.)

  • Here's the combined postseason line for the Diamondbacks' top two starters. It really is amazing:

    Curty Schillson: 67 IP, 35 H, 11 BB, 77 K, 1.07 ERA, 8 GS, 4 CG, 2 ShO

  • I'm not sure if you've heard, but the season premiere of "Boston Public" is tonight. It's kind of being kept quiet, though, so you can tell a friend, but don't be too obvious about it.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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