Joba Chamberlain got the win, despite giving up a homerun in the only inning he pitched. Mariano Rivera* got the save, well earned with a masterful eight-pitch, three-out ninth inning. Alex Rodgriguez knocked in the winning run, stroking a sharp double to left with two men on base in the top of the ninth. The Yankees won Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park last night in Philadelphia, taking a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the World Series over the Phillies.
None of that would have been possible without Johnny Damon. Damon, with two outs and no one on in the top of the ninth, fought off three two-strike pitches from Brad Lidge to work the count to three-and-two before lining a single to left.
Then, on the first pitch to Mark Teixeira, Damon, knowing that Lidge does not hold baserunners well and is slow to the plate, took off for second. The throw by Carlos Ruiz was late and slightly to the second base side of the bag, where it was taken by third-baseman Pedro Feliz, who was covering because the Phils had an overshift on Teixeira, playing the slugger to pull by placing three infielders on the right side of the field. (Want to rethink that, Charlie?) Damon popped up at second base from his slide and noticed that there was no Philly covering third and that Feliz, not a fast runner, was behind him.** The Yankees’ leftfielder immediately took off for third, pulling in with his second stolen base in seconds.
The heady play set up the Yankees’ three-run ninth-inning barrage (Lidge hit Teixeira with a pitch, A-Rod doubled to score Damon, and Jorge Posada doubled Teixeira and A-Rod home) that gave the New Yorkers the win.
The Phils had battled back from two two-run deficits furnished the Yankees by starter Joe Blanton, who pitched . . . about like you’d expect Joe Blanton to pitch. He had three effective innings (second through four) sandwiched by a tough-luck two-run first (which featured only one hard hit ball, a Damon double) and an ugly two-run fifth (which came immediately after the Phils had tied the game at 2-2 and Blanton had to come out and throw a shutdown inning against the bottom of the order, which he failed to do by walking the damn leadoff man!).
The Phils scored three times off Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia, who once again looked eminently vincible (and a tad silly in his jodhpur uniform pants),*** but who pitched out of jams in the first (one run in, two on, two out), fourth (two on, two outs, though with the pitcher due), fifth (two on, no one out and the 3-4-5 hitters due in the fifth) and sixth (man on second, two out). (Note to Raul: please wake up.)
The Phils even seemed to have Dame Fortune on their side in the fourth, when Ryan Howard scored after he singled, astonished the world by stealing second, and was given a phantom run on a single by Feliz—phantom because Howard never touched the plate.
It was after that good fortune that Blanton had his two-run failure in the fifth, forcing his lineup to scratch back again, which they did, Chase Utley besting Sabathia for the third time this Series with a homerun to right in the seventh (Utley’s second extrabase hit and second RBI of the night, and Sabathia’s last pitch) and Feliz notching his homer off Chamberlain in the eighth (Feliz’s third hit and second RBI of the night).
The Feliz homer sent Phils’ fans into a frenzy, as visions of getting the win and tying the Series (plus giving the city a two-sport doubleheader victory, after the Eagles had steamrolled the New York Football Giants earlier in the day to the tune of 40-17).****
It was perhaps 20 minutes after that euphoria that Damon rifled his ninth-inning single and started the rally that pushed the Phils to the end of the abyss.
And so the Phillies face the formidable, but not impossible, task of winning three games in a row. That particular hill has been climbed only five times in World Series history (1925 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Detroit Tigers, 1979 Pirates, and 1985 Kansas City Royals). The Tigers, at least, looked far worse in their first four games than the Phils have in this series—I remember. And four of those come-from-behind teams had to defeat some of the best pitchers ever: the ’25 Pirates team had to defeat Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, the Yankees beat Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, the Tigers bested Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, and the ’79 Pirates defeated Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. The Yankees don’t have any starters of that caliber. Well, they do have Andy Pettitte, likely to reach the Hall of Fame on his gaudy postseason statistics. And they do have Mariano Rivera, perhaps the single most important factor in the Yankees’ success since the mid-1990s.
But it can be done, and the road begins tonight, with ace Cliff Lee on the mound for the Phils.
If only he could start all three games.
* Rivera thus became the only closer to get more than one save against the Phillies’ come-from-behind lineup, which defeated Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street twice and LA Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton once. But that’s not surprising.
** After the game, the Phils were as confused about who should have been there as they had been during the play. Charlie Manuel said it was either the catcher’s or the pitcher’s responsibility. Lidge said that after throwing the pitch, he had ducked to get out of the way of Ruiz’s throw to second. Jimmy Rollins tried to take the responsibility off Lidge, saying it was his fault for not reminding Lidge, before he pitched, that the reliever would have to cover third in case of an attempted steal because of the infield shift.
*** CC's line was not overpowering: 6-2/3 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts. Burnett was far better in Game 2. In fact, Sabathia was better in Game 1.
**** Citizens Bank Park provided fewer celebrities than Yankee Stadium, but far more fan excitement. And, no, that's not a consolation, just a note.
Words © 2009 AtHome Pilgrim.
All Rights Reserved.