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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.