So, after the heroics of Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon last night — after the slow, sad, Charlie Brown head-down shuffle Phillies fans did while leaving Citizens Bank Park — it almost seems strange that they have to play another game tonight. The Instant Classic Game 4 made another victory irrelevant, right? They’re still playing? Yep. They are.
A.J. Burnett, the hero of Game 2, is charged with taking this thing home for the Bombers. He’s pitching on three days’ rest, something he hasn’t done all season and which would seem outside his sometimes erratic, always laboring skill set. (Alas, damned lying statistics once again get in the way of our beloved easy story lines: In his four lifetime starts on three days’ rest, Burnett is 4–0 with a 2.33 ERA. So he’ll be fine, yessir.) He’s facing Game 1 hero Cliff Lee, whose performance five days ago was so dominant that it fooled us all into thinking this would be a tight, terrifying series. Now it’s looking like Allen Iverson’s superhuman work in the 76ers’ shocking 2001 Game 1 NBA Finals victory over the Lakers. It set up expectations that could never be met, and only delayed the inevitable.
Is that what we’re looking at tonight? It’s worth keeping in mind that a win by the Phillies tonight forces the Yankees to use Andy Pettitte on short rest Wednesday night, against (presumably) Pedro Martinez and all the drama his presence provides. CC Sabathia would be ready for Game 7 — against … Cole “I Just Wanna Go Home” Hamels? J.A. Happ? Who’s up for Lee on two days’ rest? — and the Yankees would certainly be favored. But Game 7 is crazy. Game 7 is chaos. Game 7, anything can go wrong. It makes one think the Yankees best take care of this right now, while they can. A 3–1 lead is a cushion, but a thin one.
So, Game 5 tonight, in Philadelphia, against a tormented, desperate team with their best pitcher on the mound. The Yankees can get this done now. They can celebrate tonight. And so can you.
We’ll be back after the game, covered in Champagne, whether they win or not. (Hey, that’s just what we do on Monday nights.)