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Phillies: The acquisitions of Lee and Pedro Martinez, signed in mid-July, transformed Philadelphia's pitching staff. Lee gave the Phillies an ace to go with last year's No. 1 starter, Cole Hamels, who hasn't been able to recapture his dominant form from last October. The 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA this season and then 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three playoff starts that covered only 14 2-3 innings. Martinez, who turned 38 on Sunday, pitched well down the stretch and threw seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the Dodgers in his only playoff start. Lee was 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three playoff starts spanning 24 1-3 innings. The left-hander could pitch three times in the series if Philadelphia chooses to use him on short rest. With the Indians, he won the first game at the new Yankee Stadium this year. Right-hander Joe Blanton and rookie lefty J.A. Happ, mostly used in relief during the playoffs, give the Philadelphia rotation more depth than many realize.
Yankees: Sabathia came to New York as a free agent last winter, signing a $161 million, seven-year contract. He was a workhorse during the season and has really proved his worth in October, putting past playoff failures with Cleveland and Milwaukee behind him by going 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in three starts. The ALCS MVP struck out 20 and walked three in 22 2-3 innings. He will be well-rested for a Game 1 start against Lee because the Yankees wrapped up the ALCS in six games. Sabathia and Lee, former teammates with the Indians, are the past two AL Cy Young Award winners. New York used a three-man rotation in the first two rounds and seems to be leaning that way for the World Series, too. That means A.J. Burnett and 37-year-old Andy Pettitte might be called on to pitch on three days' rest, as Sabathia did once in the ALCS. Otherwise, it's possible right-hander Chad Gaudin will make a start. Pettitte is a postseason pro, with a record 16 wins. Burnett, pitching in the postseason for the first time, did not receive a decision in three playoff starts. The left arms of Sabathia and Pettitte could help neutralize Howard, who hit .207 with six homers and 33 RBIs against lefties this season. The slugger batted .320 with 39 home runs and 108 RBIs against right-handers.
Phillies: A major strength during last year's championship run, the bullpen was a weakness for Philadelphia during the 2009 regular season. The unit has bounced back in October, with closer Brad Lidge leading the way. Lidge was 48 for 48 in save chances last year, including the postseason. This year, he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and a major league-high 11 blown saves during the season. Two came during a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in May. But he did not allow a run in the NL playoffs, going 1-0 with three saves in five appearances covering four innings. Chad Durbin is reliable in middle relief, Ryan Madson is a durable setup man and Scott Eyre is an experienced and effective left-handed specialist. Still, this group appears vulnerable against the powerful Yankees, who made a habit of late comebacks this year.
Yankees: With a record 37 postseason saves, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history. At 39, he hasn't lost an inch on that nasty cutter. His looming presence in the ninth inning -- sometimes earlier -- gives New York an advantage in the bullpen over anybody, anytime. But getting to Rivera is always the issue. The conversion of Phil Hughes from starter to super setup man was a key development this season, yet Hughes struggled in the playoffs. Joba Chamberlain, an inconsistent starter all season, is back in the bullpen, providing a power arm and more depth. Left-handers Phil Coke and Damaso Marte could be crucial against a Philadelphia lineup loaded with left-hander power. Alfredo Aceves is versatile and David Robertson has been effective. Still, trusting anyone other than Rivera in an important situation might be difficult for manager Joe Girardi.
Phillies: Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs are the best bats off the bench for Philadelphia, both from the left side. They can be dangerous. Veteran infielders Eric Bruntlett and Miguel Cairo are available, and Paul Bako is the backup catcher. This is far from a dazzling unit, but the Phillies don't necessarily use their bench that much, unlike other National League teams.
Yankees: A mostly experienced group that offers a little bit of everything. Gardner is a speedster who lacks power but can come off the bench to run or play defense. Jerry Hairston Jr. is versatile, and he helped manufacture a game-winning run in the playoffs. Defensive whiz Jose Molina has been catching Burnett. New York put Freddy Guzman on the ALCS roster for pinch-running duties, but might go back to Eric Hinske in the World Series. Hinske, who offers left-handed punch, homered against Philadelphia in last year's World Series for Tampa Bay. He also made the last out.
Phillies: Charlie Manuel. The magic touch in Philadelphia belongs to the 65-year-old Manuel, who seems to make all the right moves -- even if he doesn't explain them so clearly. Phillies players and fans alike have grown to love the folksy skipper, and his team is on the cusp of becoming the first NL squad to win consecutive World Series titles since Cincinnati in 1975-76. Manuel has done an admirable job with a pitching staff that was in flux for much of the season. But really he's a hitting guru -- and his club most definitely hits.
Yankees: Joe Girardi. The 2006 NL Manager of the Year with Florida, the 45-year-old Girardi is in his second season at the helm in New York. This is his first postseason as a manager, but the former catcher had plenty of October experience during his playing days -- including three championships with the Yankees from 1996-99. Intent on fostering camaraderie, he guided his $201 million roster to a major league-best 103 wins this season. Criticized of overmanaging, the detail-oriented Girardi has looked and sounded tight at times in this postseason. There's a lot of pressure when you're supposed to win. But so far, he's done exactly that.
Pick: Phillies in 7.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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