- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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The following is a transcript of Buster Olney's in-game analysis from Yankees-Red Sox Game 6 during SportsNation's The Show, which will be every night for postseason games. Click here for more details.
Hey, folks -- hope you all have your thermals on. Couple of quick openers: I'd be shocked, with Schilling's condition, if Jeter doesn't bunt to open the game. You've got to make Schilling prove he can move around on that ankle. Second: Schilling is a master of the fastball-split combo, and Clemens -- a pitcher with a similar style -- said that the most important thing in throwing a split is that you must keep your hand dry to have a clean release of the ball. Otherwise, the ball drifts through the strike zone, rather than diving. Tonight, it might be tough for Schilling to keep his hand dry. Third: We've all talked at length about the relievers being spent, exhausted. The position players must be, as well. Think about this -- in the midst of Game 4, A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui were all red hot. By the end of Game 5, they were all effectively in slumps, their swings awkward and long, and fatigue must have had something to do with it. Manny Ramirez might be suffering from the same thing ...
Something else, for starters: Torre is taking a lot of heat on the radio here in New York for the way he managed the bullpen in Games 3, 4 and 5. Except for some minor things, I don't have a problem with his in-game decisions in this series -- but I think he totally mismanaged the bullpen during the regular season, and we are seeing the fallout. He relied far too heavily on Gordon, Quantrill and Rivera, and now Gordon is on fumes and has pitched poorly throughout the post-season, Quantrill is shot because he never had a chance to get his bad knee a rest, and Rivera has racked up huge innings. More than that, in only trusting those three guys for most of the season, Joe is now scrambling for guys and having to rely on them after burying them for almost all of the regular season. (Sturtze became a more integral part in the late innings in September). The Yankees would not have had the success they had without Joe in the last decade, but in the last four years, he's done a terrible job of developing pitchers. He gives them a few chances to prove themselves to him, and then he buries them.
Lieber is the perfect guy for the Yankees to start in this game -- machine-like strike-thrower, not bothered by anything, won't be bothered by all that swirls around this game.
Middle of the first: One thing you see right away, seven pitches into this thing, is that Lieber might not have much control over his breaking ball. In cold temperatures, that is sometimes the case ... Maybe that's why he's not spinning a breaking ball inside to Damon. ... Wow, that was a solid shot off the thigh.. Hate it when the ball just drops to the ground like that... That must've really hurt.
19 pitches for Lieber. We've talked a lot about how the relievers are exhausted, but you get the sense that the position players are drained, as well, their swings lagging -- Ramirez is perhaps the most notable example for Boston. In the midst of Game 4, nobody could get out A-Rod, Sheffield or Matsui, and by the end of Game 5, all three of them were effectively slumping, the mechanics in their swings all messed up; A-Rod, in particular, had a very long swing. The cold weather can't help ... It's perfect conditions and situation for someone with a good fastball.
End of the first: Jeter didn't bunt; I'm shocked ... Schillings already hit 93 and 94 and 90 with fastballs, better than in Game 1 ... Mentioned this in the opener -- When you throw the splitter, Roger Clemens said, it is paramount to keep your hand dry, or else you can't get a clean release of the ball. And it would be hard to do that tonight.
11 pitches for Schilling -- 8 fastballs, 1 split, 2 breaking balls. Maybe he's going to bag the splitter and go fastball-curve-slider.
Middle of the second: 37 pitches so far for Lieber, 37 mistakes in this series for Bellhorn. Why he's playing is inexplicable, at this point ... The guy was getting himself out in that at-bat, leaning into the pitch and jamming himself ...
End of the second: If Schilling doesn't trust his splitter, he'll have to be a little more inventive against lefties, because he uses the splitter to finish off lefties. Maybe backdoor breaking balls, or fastballs away, as he just did with Matsui, or a Maddux-like sinker that bends back over the inside corner.
Schilling at 22 pitches. Can't believe that Posada's ball didn't get out; in July, it might've hit the facing of the upper deck.
Middle of the third: Lieber at 50 pitches through three innings. I do not understand why the Red Sox wouldn't try to force the issue, especially after seeing Posada's long drive die in the cold. You have to make something happen, you had a perfect situation, and given the circumstances -- tired teams, weary -- you've got to push it to get the adrenaline going, like a college basketball coach coming out in the second half with a press, just to change the tempo. But the Red Sox play that Moneyball station to station stuff; just not sure if the calculations include 35 degree windchill factor, 36 innings of baseball in three days, huge pressure on the other team.
End of the third: One thing that Schilling seems to realize, with this cold. If you get into a tough ball-strike count situation, you can challenge hitters in the middle of the plate with a fastball and get away with it. I bet he pounds fastballs at Cairo.
38 pitches for Schilling, and he's working in the middle of the plate, and the Yankees are taking big swings and hitting the ball squarely. But in these conditions, there's a greater margin for error. Schilling -- I agree with many of you he doesn't look comfortable -- is just raring back and challenging hitters a couple of times in each at-bat, and he doens't have a great fastball. You can do that in the cold more readily.
Middle of the fourth: See if Lieber follows the script and now gives Varitek a slider down and in, 2-2 count ... Lieber at 64 pitches and counting ... Lieber is at 73 pitches now, and pitch count is a big deal with him. During the regular season, Lieber was pretty much limited to 90 pitches; opponents had only five at-bats against him the whole year after 105 pitches. And from pitches 91-105, opponents batted .373.
Lieber at 75 pitches, and now, down 4-0, Torre has an interesting decision. He's probably got another inning, but after that, Torre will need relief. Do you use any of your prime guys to keep the game close and assume your guys will come back. Or will you stay away from Rivera, Gordon, Sturtze and save them for Game 7, unless you pull within a run? I say Joe will hold out Rivera, in particular, unless it's a save situation.
End of the fourth: Schilling at 54 pitches. Obviously, if you're Francona, you're riding this horse as long as you can. If he starts to fade in the middle -- the sixth, for example -- would you guys use Arroyo? Or would you save Arroyo for Game 7, even though the rest of your 'pen is arm-weary.
Middle of the fifth: Lieber starting to get the ball up in the strike zone, based on those swings in that inning. He's at 85 pitches and entering his danger zone. Yankees should start the sixth with somebody warming up.
End of the fifth: Based on what Francona said before the game, I think Schilling is going to pitch until he stops getting people out. He's only at 63 pitches, so I think he's got a ways to go, unless he starts getting popped around.
Middle of the sixth: Lieber at 107 pitches, and he's retired 7 straight batters. I bet that given the condition of Joe's bullpen, he'll send him out for the seventh and go batter to batter the rest of the way, trying to get every last bit of Lieber before he taxes the bullpen.
End of the sixth: 81 pitches for Schilling through six innings, and Francona will keep him out there until he says he can't go. This would be huge for Boston -- not only with the win, but to eliminate the abuse on the tired bullpen. Lieber might lose, but he is taking some pressure off the Yankees' bullpen tonight, which means Mo, Gordon and Sturtze could have a full day of rest for Game 7 -- unless the Yankees come back late tonight.
Middle of the seventh: George fired the eagle Challenger after he swooped over Jeter's head and landed in the wrong spot in 2001; I wonder if he'll fire Ronan Tynan from this spot as a good luck charm if the Yankees don't win this series.
End of the seventh: Schilling at 100 pitches and judging by the way he was talking to home plate umpire Joe West, complaining about that first fastball to Posada, he has no thoughts of coming out. Wonder if Francona would pull a reverse-Grady and pull him too soon, based on pitch count.
Middle of the eighth: Wow -- I am absolutely shocked that Schilling is being yanked out of this game ... The way he finished? Jeez ... A reverse Grady ... maybe. We'll see. ... Five outs to go... That sounds too familiar to Red Sox fans ... I really don't like Wallace going out to the mound here. It's cold, Arroyo's got to know that Wallace is visiting to make sure to give relievers warmed up, I don't like the negative thinking... I can't believe they're going to bring Timlin in for Sheffield. What a debacle, after how Schilling threw in the eighth.
End of the eighth: A-Rod tried to pull a Reggie, '78 World Series, and it didn't work.
Wow, I can't imagine how much Cashman has been hearing it from Steinbrenner in the last 36 hours ... George is tough when the team is going well. ... Posada absolutely was cheating forward, anticipating a ball away, and jammed himself.
Tension, anybody? After Game 5 in Boston, the streets outside of Fenway Park were filled with happy fans, because the Red Sox were still alive. Then, on the trains, everybody was silent, as if everybody was thinking: Oh, what have we gotten ourselves into? The stakes are absurd. If the Red Sox lose, this will rank second to Buckner, just ahead of Grady-gate, in all-time Boston heartbreaks. If the Red Sox win, however, they could crush nearly a century's worth of frustration and hang a historical first on the Yankees -- the greatest gag job in major league history. Who can sleep? The Red Sox might be better prepared for the first six innings, because of the dubious Kevin Brown for the Yankees, but tomorrrow Rivera will at least have a semblance of rest, and Foulke would have to pitch for the fifth straight day.
Talk to you folks tomorrow ... Thanks for all your great input.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," is a New York Times best seller and can be ordered through HarperCollins.com.
Buster Olney's Game 6 instant analysis of the Red Sox-Yankees series.