Game 3 Preview | World Series 2009 | Yankees at Phillies, Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series between the Phillies and the Yankees features another battle of lefthanders, as Cole Hamels (1-1, 6.75, 12Ks) battles Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.37, 15Ks).

Much has been made of Game 3 being a critical juncture, and there’s no question this is a big game for both teams. The Yankees need to take at least one game in Philadelphia to force the series back to New York, and Charlie Manuel appears to be enhancing their chances of doing just that with the announcement that Joe Blanton will start Game 4, a game in which he will almost certainly oppose CC Sabathia.

As for tonight, the Yankees also appear to have the starting pitching advantage, as Hamels’ struggles to regain his dominating 2008 form have extended into the playoffs (not to mention the Yankees generally torch lefthanders not named Cliff Lee), while Andy Pettitte has pitched as well as one could have hoped for while also becoming the all-time postseason victory leader. A closer look reveals Hamels may not be entirely at fault for some of the results, but he’s clearly been less effective than he was a year ago.

The primary question on the Yankees’ side of the equation is who will get the start in right field, as Girardi’s benching of Nick Swisher for Jerry Hairston in Game 2 wound up yielding a key base hit. Still, Swisher has less chance of breaking out of his funk sitting on the bench, though I imagine there will be a fair number of pinch-hitting opportunities in the National League park. A bench of Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Eric Hinske is about as powerful as it gets (64 total home runs in 2009), so maybe another Hairston start isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Update, 5:14pm: Swisher gets the nod tonight and will bat seventh. Joe Girardi also officially announced the worst-kept secret in baseball.