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10/26/09 3:39 AM EST

Series rotations unclear beyond ace lefties

Will Lee, Sabathia return on short rest in Game 4?

NEW YORK -- By avoiding a Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the pesky Angels, the Yankees have likely improved their chances significantly in the World Series.

Consider the impact. The Yankees would have pitched $161 million ace CC Sabathia in Game 7 of the ALCS, which means he likely would have been idled until Game 3 of the World Series.

Now? The Yankees can put their big lefty on the mound for Wednesday night's Game 1 against the Phillies and perhaps pitch him three times if the Fall Classic goes to the limit.

When the Yankees and Angels had a rainout Saturday, New York manager Joe Girardi could have had Sabathia start Game 6 of the ALCS on full rest. Instead, he stuck with Andy Pettitte. While Girardi never came out and said that the World Series was a key reason he didn't pitch Sabathia in Game 6, it seemed fairly obvious.

"It's great," said Girardi. "We stayed with our plan and we were going to use CC in Game 7 if we needed it. We didn't need it. Now we have him for Game 1 and that's good for us."

Especially when you consider the Phillies, who will have a full week of rest entering the World Series, have their own ace taking the ball for Game 1 in Cliff Lee. Sabathia knows all about Lee, as they were teammates in Cleveland.

In fact, Sabathia won the American League Cy Young Award while with the Indians in 2007 and Lee did the very same thing in Cleveland a year later.

All Sabathia did in the ALCS was go 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA en route to being named Most Valuable Player. The star southpaw also won Game 1 of the Division Series.

Then there is Lee, who has been every bit as vital to the Phillies, going 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA in his three starts in this postseason.

Masters of October
Most career postseason wins
Rank Player W IP
1. Andy Pettitte 16 237 1/3
2. John Smoltz 15 209
3. Tom Glavine 14 218 1/3
4. Roger Clemens 12 199
5. Greg Maddux 11 198
Curt Schilling 11 133 1/3
7. Whitey Ford 10 146
Dave Stewart 10 133
David Wells 10 125
10. Catfish Hunter 9 132 1/3
Orlando Hernandez 9 106

If Sabathia had to pitch Game 7 of an ALCS, the Phillies would have had a big advantage throwing Lee in Game 1. Now, the two lefties neutralize each other.

That said, this World Series could well come down to what the starters below the aces do.

The Yankees will probably pitch A.J. Burnett in Thursday's Game 2, and he has been a bit erratic in this postseason. After turning in a solid performance for a no-decision against the Twins in the Division Series, Burnett posted a 4.42 ERA while taking two more no-decisions in the ALCS. In Game 5 against the Angels, he was hit for a four-spot in the first inning.

Who will the Phillies use against Burnett? One option is future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who was brilliant in his lone start this postseason against the Dodgers. Martinez also has World Series experience, as he fired seven shutout innings for the Red Sox in a victory over the Cardinals in Game 3 of 2004.

Whomever the Phillies pitch in Game 2 will have positive World Series experience on his side. For if it isn't Martinez, the Phillies will go with lefty Cole Hamels, who was the MVP of the 2008 World Series. Keep in mind, however, that Hamels has struggled in this postseason, going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

Andy Pettitte will be the man on the mound for the Yankees in Game 3. Pettitte, the all-time leader with 16 postseason wins, continues to turn in quality performances, even at the age of 37. It was Pettitte who earned the win in Game 6 of the ALCS, giving up one run over 6 1/3 innings. Pettitte will be matched up with either Hamels or Martinez, depending on who pitches Game 2 for Philly.

It is in Game 4 where things will start to get interesting. Will the Phillies bring back Lee on three days' rest or will Joe Blanton get a start? Ditto for the Yankees and Sabathia. If Sabathia doesn't come back on short rest, there's a huge question of who could make that start for New York. Joba Chamberlain has been used exclusively as a reliever in this postseason and Chad Gaudin doesn't seem like the caliber of starting pitcher a team would want to use in the World Series.

If the Yankees again want to ride Sabathia, he will be up for the challenge. On three days' rest in the ALCS, the lefty fired eight brilliant innings en route to New York's 10-1 win.

The Yankees will take Monday off and then have their pre-World Series workout Tuesday. Both teams will come in with rested bullpens, another side benefit of the Yankees not needing a Game 7 against the Angels.

"We have four more games to try to win and hopefully we can do it," said Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon. "The fact that we have to go through the world champs to become champs and they have their chance to defend it -- not too many teams get that opportunity."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.