NEW YORK — They boast all-stars all over the diamond, high-priced players decorated with coveted awards. They come loaded with October experience and shiny rings, expecting to win another World Series.
Impressive team … these Philadelphia Phillies.
Hardly a bunch of slouches on the other side, either. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees are a model of post-season success, eager to include Alex Rodriguez in a championship celebration.
A pair of franchises separated by a 90-minute ride on the New Jersey Turnpike, with no real rivalry to speak of despite their century-long histories.
That could change starting Wednesday night. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and the defending champ Phils are set to dig in against CC Sabathia in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.
“I think the fact that we’re playing the Yankees and it’s close to Philadelphia and how the fans and the media react to it and how both cities look forward to it, that puts more icing on the cake,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Monday. “It does something for the game.”
The Phillies worked out at Citizens Bank Park before hopping an Amtrak train for the hour-plus trip to Penn Station in Manhattan. Whether they ride back up next week will be decided later — none of the last five World Series has lasted more than five games.
In the meantime, all aboard!
How much of the country will tune into the all-Northeast matchup remains to be seen. The folks in Las Vegas already have taken a look — in spite of the Phillies’ credentials, the Yankees are heavy 2-to-1 favourites.
Philadelphia is trying to become the NL’s first repeat champion since the 1975-76 Big Red Machine. The Yankees return to the Series for the first time since 2003, having last won in 2000.
Cliff Lee opens for the Phillies, hoping to continue their run that includes a five-game romp over Tampa Bay in last year’s World Series. At 16-4, Philadelphia has assembled the best record over a 20-game span by an NL team in post-season history.
Manuel hasn’t shown any tendency to pitch around opposing sluggers, so Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez figure to challenge Rodriguez from the get-go. A-Rod hit .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs through the playoffs. This is his first foray into baseball’s big event.
“A lot of great players have never had the opportunity to play in the World Series,” Rodriguez said Sunday night after the Yankees’ clinching win over the Angels in Game 6 of the AL championship series.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a five-year-old boy to play in the World Series. In order to win the World Series, you have to get there and we’ve done that now,” he said.
It’s a power-packed matchup, marking the first time since 1926 the World Series pits the teams that finished 1-2 in the majors in home runs, according to STATS LLC. Back then, Babe Ruth and the Yankees led with 121, followed by St. Louis with 90.
This year, Mark Teixeira and the Yankees hit 244 and the Phillies tied with Texas at 224.
Add in two homer-friendly parks, along with the teams that led their leagues in runs, and runs could flow. Then again, everyone knows that pitching rules the post-season — neither Manuel nor Yankees manager Joe Girardi has announced his plans, though New York seems to be leaning toward a three-man rotation of Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte.
But what about Brad Lidge? A post-season star last year, the Phillies reliever was a bust this season. That is, until this October — he was the only closer in the playoffs who did not give up a run.
Also worth watching: the forecast.
After last year’s World Series ended with a game suspended two days because of rain, more wet weather might be on the way.
AccuWeather.com said a storm was headed toward the Bronx and predicted rain and temperatures around 12 C for Game 1, with the drizzle possibly lingering for Game 2 Thursday night.
The first World Series game at the new, US$1.5-billion Yankee Stadium will be played across the street from the old ballpark, where a record 26 championship banners flew.
“There’s definitely a special mystique when you walk into Yankee Stadium, new or old,” Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth said. “It’s the cathedral of baseball, where everybody wanted to play as a kid.”
AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.