Lee meets Burnett in Game 5

November 1, 2009 8:59:16 PM PST
The New York Yankees are chasing championship No. 27 by throwing their top pitchers on three days' rest.

2009 WORLD SERIES

A.J. Burnett is scheduled to start on short rest against Philadelphia ace Cliff Lee in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night. CC Sabathia was given the same assignment Sunday in Game 4, and Andy Pettitte could come back on three days' rest in Game 6 if the Series returns to New York.

"Our guys feel good at this time of year," manager Joe Girardi said before Game 4. "We tried to give them some extra rest in the month of September, and they've had some extra rest during the playoffs that we thought was very important."

With right-hander Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen, New York has stuck with three starters throughout the postseason. Girardi chose Burnett, who beat Pedro Martinez and the Phillies 3-1 in Game 2, over journeyman Chad Gaudin for Game 5.

Burnett is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four career starts on short rest, though he hasn't tried it this season.

"To be honest, it's a little different, obviously, in October," he said. "But I feel good right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't take the ball."

New York's approach is a departure from the norm in baseball over the last two decades. According to STATS LLC, no team has won the World Series using only three postseason starters since the 1991 Minnesota Twins.

Jack Morris made five starts, Kevin Tapani four and Scott Erickson three that year for the Twins. Back then, however, the postseason lasted two rounds, not three.

The defending champion Phillies decided to keep Lee on regular rest, giving him the ball in Game 5 rather than setting up a rematch with Sabathia. Lee dominated the Yankees in the opener, tossing a six-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks in a 6-1 victory.

New York's only run was unearned, thanks to a throwing error by shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning. Lee became the first pitcher in World Series history to have 10 strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs allowed in a complete-game victory, STATS said.

"I don't really overcomplicate it or think, man, I just faced them the other day, it's going to be different now," Lee said.

"It's still the same game. I've still got to go out there and locate pitches and do the things that I just said. And if I don't, bad things will probably happen. And if you do, good things will probably happen. That's how I look at it. It's really that simple."

Joe Blanton started Game 4 for Philadelphia against Sabathia.

Lee, who has never pitched on three days' rest, has been nearly unhittable in October, going 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in four postseason starts totaling 33 1-3 innings. He has 30 strikeouts and three walks.

Burnett and Lee are both pitching in the postseason for the first time this year. Both from Arkansas, they've developed a friendship, too. They share the same agent, do offseason charity work together, and they chatted on the field before games this weekend.

"I didn't really know him growing up. He was a little ahead of me, but I knew who he was, obviously," Lee said. "It's not very often two guys from the state of Arkansas make it to the big leagues, much less square off against each other in the World Series. ... That's going to be a neat deal for our state and going to be a lot of fun, and something we can talk about for the rest of our lives."

Burnett said he enjoys pitching on three days' rest because his body doesn't allow him to overthrow. He threw about 30 fewer pitches than usual during his bullpen session Saturday.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I told them I felt good. I'm not going to lie to them and say I felt good if I didn't. ... I've been preparing for it just in case it was going to happen."

Looking for their 27th title and first since 2000, the Yankees went into Sunday night's game with a 2-1 lead in the Series.

Light-hitting backup Jose Molina has been catching Burnett, so New York could have longtime star Jorge Posada and regular designated hitter Hideki Matsui on the bench in Game 5. World Series rules don't allow a DH in National League parks.

Burnett, who began his big league career with Florida, has flashed a strong, healthy swing during batting practice in Philadelphia. He said he's been working mostly on bunting, though. Burnett is a .132 career hitter (35 for 266) with three homers and nine RBIs. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, now a senior adviser for the Yankees, gave the pitcher some hitting tips by the batting cage Sunday.

"Man, I'm like, dude, I'm a pitcher!" Burnett said.

Still, he said Mr. October had some useful pointers that pitchers normally wouldn't think about because they usually just go up to the plate hacking.

"It's kind of hard not to listen to a man like that," Burnett said.

PHILLIES FANS CENTRAL

2009 NATIONAL LEAGUE SERIES

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