(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies will attempt to do something that no National League team has done since 1976, as they open the 105th edition of the World Series against the New York Yankees.
On the heels of just its second World Series title in franchise history, Philadelphia will try to become the first repeat champion from the Senior Circuit since the Cincinnati Reds' Big Red Machine teams in 1975-76.
Unlike last year, though, when they ran roughshod over a Tampa Bay Rays team that was in the midst of their first-ever postseason run, the Phillies will be facing a franchise that is synonymous with baseball in October in the New York Yankees, who will be appearing in their 40th Fall Classic, as they shoot for an unprecedented 27th World Series title.
"I think there's definitely a special mystique when you walk into Yankee Stadium, new or old," Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth said. "It's the cathedral of baseball. It's where everybody wanted to play as a kid. It's Yankee Stadium. As far as that goes, there might be something to that. A little bit of motivation, something like that. But all in all, it doesn't matter who we play or where we play. I think everybody knows that we've got a job to do and we know how to do it."
One year after New York had its 13-year string of reaching the postseason stopped, the Yankees did what everyone expected them to do - spend money. And spend they did, as they paid a combined $423.5 million last winter for the services of three players: starting pitchers CC Sabathia (7-years, $161 million) and A.J. Burnett (5-years, $82.5 million) and first baseman Mark Teixeira (8-years, $180 million).
The moves paid off, as the Yanks returned to the postseason after winning the AL East for the 10th time in the last 12 years with a major league best 103 wins.
There is no secret as to why New York is in the position that it is and that is its incredible lineup.
The Yankees finished the season with the most home runs in the American League, a franchise record 244, the most runs scored (915), most RBI (881), top slugging percentage (.478), top on-base percentage (.362) and tied with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the most hits in the league with 1,604.
New York had seven players top 20 home runs with Derek Jeter coming close to that mark with 18.
New York had its way with the Minnesota Twins, sweeping them in the ALDS before gutting out a six-game victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALCS to return to the World Series for the first time since 2003 when it fell in six games to the Florida Marlins.
Alex Rodriguez has been the driving force behind the Yankees impressive run, as he has put any lingering questions about his ability to perform in the clutch behind him with a terrific postseason.
Through nine games Rodriguez has hit .438 with five home runs and 12 RBI, while coming up with big hit after big hit for the Yankees.
While Rodriguez has seemingly exorcised his postseason demons, Derek Jeter, as he has done his whole career, continued to thrive in October. Jeter has scored nine runs in the postseason, while hitting .297.
If the Yanks are going to get past the gritty Phillies they are going to need more from Robinson Cano, Teixeira and Nick Swisher, all of whom have struggled this postseason.
While Rodriguez has taken care of business at the plate, Sabathia has been the anchor on the mound, going 3-0 with a 1.19 earned run average in his three starts. Sabathia was 2-0 and allowed just two runs in 16 innings in the ALCS win over the Angels to win MVP honors.
Burnett struggled at the outset in his Game 5 start, but Pettitte took care of business in Game 6, as he became the winningest pitcher in postseason history with his 16th playoff win.
"This is what we play for," Pettitte said. "This is what we set out for in Spring Training. Obviously, to be able to get there and to accomplish that, it's awesome. I just feel very fortunate and very blessed to be on this team."
Of course, though, it all ends with Mariano Rivera, who is not only the best closer to ever appear in the postseason, but quite possibly the best pitcher - period - to throw in the playoffs.
Rivera has been dominant again in this postseason, saving three games, while pitching to a 0.84 ERA.
Getting to him, though, has been a problem. Phil Hughes, who was so reliable during the season, has been shaky and his eighth inning role could be relinquished to Joba Chamberlain, who is no sure thing himself.
Should Hughes and Chamberlain stumble, though, seldom-used right-hander David Robertson could emerge as a key figure in the Yankees bullpen this series.
While the Yankees are the last team to capture consecutive World Series with three straight wins from 1998-2000, Philadelphia will be playing in consecutive Fall Classics for the first time in team history.
If the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball, the Phillies are a close second. There was not a better lineup in the National League than that of the Phillies, who finished the regular season leading the league in runs (820), doubles (312), home runs (224), total bases (2,493), RBI (788) and slugging percentage (.447).
The Phillies had five players go over 20 home runs, with four of them topping the 30 barrier.
After capturing their third straight NL East crown, the Phillies started their title defense with a four-game victory over the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, before disposing of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second straight year in five games of the NLCS.
Led by mid-season acquisition Cliff Lee and the heroics of slugger Ryan Howard the Phillies find themselves back in the Fall Classic for the sixth time in team history.
Lee, who will oppose his former Indians teammate Sabathia in Game 1 on Wednesday, has been everything the team envisioned he would be when they acquired him near the trade deadline, as he went 2-0 in his three postseason starts, while surrendering just two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings.
"CC loves to pitch and he's very competitive, and Lee has the same kind of makeup, too," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It has a chance of being a good game."
Manuel opened himself up to some second guessing with his Game 2 starter, as he chose righty Pedro Martinez rather than last year's postseason hero Cole Hamels, who has struggled mightily in these playoffs.
Martinez, of course, is no stranger to the Yankees or Yankee Stadium back to his time with the Boston Red Sox. However he is just 1-2 with a 4.72 ERA in six postseason appearances against the Yankees, and is 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA in his past five.
"Pedro has been in the big environment," Manuel said. "He's pitched about everywhere you can pitch. I don't think nothing is going to really bother him or get him upset."
As good as Rodriguez has been this postseason, Howard has been every bit his equal, driving in 14 runs, while hitting a robust .355. His eight RBI in the LCS helped him pick up MVP honors.
Werth, one of the unheralded Phillies stars with 36 home runs, had struggled in the postseason, but belted two homers in Philadelphia's Game 5 clincher over the Dodgers and is hitting .281 in the playoffs.
Although, Chase Utley is hitting .303 in these playoffs, he has only knocked in two runs and has had his defense called into question, specifically his erratic arm.
Closer Brad Lidge has also regained his form in the postseason. After blowing a league-high 11 saves during the season, including two to the Yankees, he has saved all three of his opportunities and has yet to allow a run in five games this postseason.
These teams have a limited history against one another, but did square off once in the World Series back in 1950 when the Yankees swept the series in four games from the Whiz Kids of Philadelphia.
The Phillies also took two of three from the Yanks earlier this season at Yankee Stadium. Philadelphia won the opener, before New York rallied off of Lidge in the second contest. The Yankees got to Lidge again in the finale, but Philly managed to pick up an extra inning win in that one to capture the series.