If it weren’t for Chase Utley’s ownage of CC Sabathia, the Yankees might have been going for a sweep of the Phils tonight. As it is, they now hold a 3-1 lead in the series, and in all eight previous World Series in which the Bombers took a 3-1 series lead, they won the whole shebang.
The game got started off hot for the Yankees as Jeter singled and Damon doubled, and it looked like all the dire predictions made based on about how bad Blanton’s career numbers were against the Yankees were going to come true. Teixeira grounded out for an RBI for first blood, bringing A-Rod the the plate.
A-Rod took a fastball right in the back, incensing the Yankees bench. It was A-Rod’s third plunking in two days, and he said to the umpire “I think that was pretty obvious.” (Teixeira has now been hit twice, too… more on that later.) The umpires then warned both benches against retaliation, although Sabathia was told he could pitch inside and that the umpires “could tell” if he had intent to hit a batter. I’m not sure I believe that, but in any case, the plunking became a non-issue. Jorge Posada then hit a deep sac fly to bring in a second run, but Blanton had sent his message and settled down.
Blanton would retire the next ten men in a row while hardly seeming to break a sweat. He was helped by an oddly shifting strike zone that MLB.com’s Pitch f/x showed was skewed in his favor. Many of Blanton’s balls just off the strike zone were called strikes, while many of Sabathia’s strikes were called balls.
Sabathia got nicked in the first inning, too. With one out, Shane Victorino laced a double, bringing up Chase Utley, the man who had hit two homers off Sabathia in Game One. Utley once again got a hold of a Sabathia pitch, but it was a foot or two from being a home run, a double off the wall, scoring Victorino. Sabathia then settled down, too, striking out Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez (on three pitches) around an intentional walk to Jayson Werth. He had a perfect second and third, but then gave up the tying run with two out in the fourth. Ryan Howard, determined not to set a new World Series strikeout record, hit a single, then stole second. Howard is not exactly a speedster. Before this season he had never gotten more than two steals in a whole year, but he’s apparently been working with a coach and this year he had 8 of 9 stolen. So there he was in scoring position. CC got two outs and was working on Pedro Feliz, trying to strand him there. But Feliz was hot and cashed Howard in with a base hit.
Blanton finally blinked again in the fifth. Nick Swisher, who finally broke out of his postseason slump last night with a homer and a double, regained his batting eye tonight and worked a leadoff walk. Walking the leadoff man was like putting raw sirloin into a shark tank. The Yankees began stirring around. Melky Cabrera followed with an infield hit. Sabathia then came to the plate, under orders to bunt, and ended up bunting foul on two strikes for a strikeout. I have to wonder if the weak attempts to bunt were CC secretly saying “Dammit, I’ve hit three career homers! Let me swing!” One unproductive out, but then came Jeter who cashed in Swisher with a hit, followed by Damon, who cashed in Melky. 4-2 Yanks.
But the lead didn’t quite last. Sabathia faced Utley with two outs in the seventh. Utley was definitely going to be his last batter no matter what. And he put Utley down 1-2 on two sharp called strikes and got a foul… but then Utley squared one up and sent a ball deep into the right field seats. That ended Sabathia’s night and cut the lead to a single run.
Marte finished the inning, getting Howard to pop up, and then Joba came on for the eighth. He looked like the Joba of old, striking out Werth on a sucker pitch (high fastball), and then getting Ibanez to swing and miss at the fastball away. He had Pedro Feliz, who was two for three and even the out had been hit hard, down 1-2 then. But he put a 97 mile per hour fastball on the inside half of the plate and Feliz raked it into the seats to tie the game. I don’t think that pitch was where Joba wanted it. He came back to strike out Chooch Ruiz, though, sending the game to the ninth with the score 4-4.
So on came Brad Lidge. Lidge whose struggles this season (11 blown saves) have been well documented and analyzed. But he has been three for three in save situations in the post.
This, however, was not a save situation. If anything, it was even more crucial than a save. Lidge needed to give his team a chance to swing their bats against the Yankees bullpen and not hand a lead to Mariano Rivera.
He faced pinch hitter Hideki Matsui first–Matsui who hit a pinch homer last night. Lidge induced an easy pop-up to short. Then he faced the vaunted Mr. November, Derek Jeter, who had already been on base three out of four times tonight. Jeter guessed fastball and got the slider, looking silly, but he worked the count full before finally fanning. Two outs and it looked like Lidge was going to shut the door when he went 0-2 on Damon, who looked as silly as Jeter on the slider.
But Damon decided to sit on the slider, just fouling off the fastball to stay alive. Lidge kept throwing fastballs, and Damon worked the count full, and then on the ninth pitch of the at bat got another fastball and just managed to line it into left. The sharks began to circle in the Yankees dugout again. Mark Teixeira was up next. Damon wanted to get into scoring position so that he might score on a base hit, and he stole second, only to find when he made his pop-up slide that third base was free for the taking. The Phillies had the infield shift on for Teixeira, and as Jeter did when Jason Giambi was a Yankee, he took the opportunity to grab the extra base. Pedro Feliz took the throw from the catcher behind Damon, and Damon took off. In his postgame press conference, Damon described it as if his 25-year-old legs had suddenly come back. So there he was, perched on third, and a wild pitch or a bloop would make it Mariano Time.
Then Lidge lost Teixeira when he hit him with a pitch. (And was not ejected.)
So it was up to A-Rod. Lidge started him with a fastball on the inside corner, strike one. Then he came back with another fastball, but it was up from the inside corner, just like Joba’s was to Feliz, and Alex didn’t miss it. He ripped the pitch into left for an RBI double, plating Damon and sending Teixiera to third.
Lidge then had Jorge Posada down 0-2 before throwing two that weren’t even close to even the count. The fifth pitch wasn’t a bad one, painting the black on the outside corner, but Posada laced a two-run single, then was out at second trying to stretch it or draw the throw. 7-4 Yankees, and Mariano was coming in.
The FOX broadcasters has earlier shown Mariano huddling up with a heating pad on his ribs, but perhaps it had been just for warmth. It took him only eight pitches to sit the Phils down one-two-three and send the series up 3-1 in the Yankees favor.
The Yankees are hungry now to win tomorrow against Cliff Lee. Lee dominated them in Game 1, but A.J. Burnett dominated the Phillies in Game 2, so we could have a matchup for the ages as the two pitchers go head to head. Can’t wait. Can’t wait.
More Game Notes:
Ryan Howard has joined the ranks of World Series strikeout leaders. Willie Wilson holds the number one spot with 12 Ks in the 1980 series, and it took him 26 at bats to get there. Howard now has 10, and it took him only 14 ABs to do it. Here’s the rest of the list:
Rank Player SO PA Series/Year 1. Willie Wilson 12 30 1980 WS 2. Wayne Garrett 11 36 1973 WS Eddie Mathews 11 31 1958 WS Luis Gonzalez 11 30 2001 WS Damon Berryhill 11 24 1992 WS Damian Miller 11 23 2001 WS 7. Devon White 10 36 1997 WS George Kelly 10 33 1921 WS Vince Coleman 10 30 1987 WS Rich Gedman 10 30 1986 WS Del Crandall 10 29 1958 WS
Joba Chamberlain vultures the win after giving up the tying run. After the big rally in the ninth, several players were seen hugging the big kid. They really picked him up.
Mariano has thrown a total of 13 pitches in two days. I would say if the Yankees have a lead in the ninth inning tomorrow, he’s available.
Melky Cabrera strained his left hammy and left the game partway through. Hopefully Gardner and Hairston are ready to step up. Remember, Luis Sojo had the series-winning hit against the Mets in Game 5 in 2000. It isn’t always the big horses (or centaurs) that do it.
Thanks to Ed Price of Fanhouse & the Star-Ledger for this factoid: “Last player to battle for 9 or more pitches and get a hit in 9th inning or later of a tied WS game: Derek Jeter, Game 4 ’01, HR off B.Kim.” Myself, I was reminded of Paul O’Neill doing something similar, too. Follow Ed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ed_price.
And this one from Sweeny Murti of WFAN: “From the All-Star break thru Game 4 of the WS, CC Sabathia made 20 starts. The Yankees went 17-3 in those starts.”
Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/YankeesWFAN.
Pete Caldera of the Bergen Record: “Into the Fall Classic lexicon, we nominate ‘Damon’s Dash.’”
Follow him at http://twitter.com/pcaldera.
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