Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yanks Battle Back To Win, Take Lead In Series

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
NYY 0 0 0 2 3 1 1 1 0
8 8 1
PHI 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
5 6 0

WP - Andy Pettitte (1-0)
LP - Cole Hamels (0-1)

It was a gutty and gritty performance by the Yankees tonight as they fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit to win and take a 2-1 lead in the series. But the way things started out this one looked like it was going to be a total disaster.

First there was the hour and 20 minute rain delay. Then, after Cole Hamels breezed through the first two innings Yankees starter Andy Pettitte got into some serious trouble in the bottom half of the second. Jayson Werth led off the inning with a solo homer to left to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Following a strikeout of Raul Ibanez, Pedro Feliz doubled and Carlos Ruiz walked putting runners on first and second and the pitcher coming to bat. Hamels laid down a nice bunt, neither Pettitte nor Jorge Posada fielded it, and the Phils had the bases loaded with one out and the top of the order coming up. Jimmy Rollins then walked to drive in a run and it looked like Pettitte was headed for a short outing.

But that's when the inning and maybe the game turned around. Pettitte got Shane Victorino to hit a sac-fly and struck out Chase Utley to end the inning. The lead was now 3-0, but Andy was just one out from getting out of the jam without letting the game get away from him.

After a scoreless fourth the Yankees finally got to Hamels. Mark Teixeira walked with one out, and Alex Rodriguez followed with his first hit of the World Series, a two-run homer off a TV camera in right. At first the play was ruled a double, but after the umpires reviewed the replay they correctly called it a homer. It was A-Rod's sixth of the postseason tying him with Bernie Williams for most home runs in a single postseason. More importantly it got the Yankees, who now trailed by just one, back in the game.

Pettitte had settled down at this point and put up another zero in the bottom of the fourth. He would then come through with a big hit in the next half inning. Nick Swisher led off with a double. Melky Cabrera then struck out bringing Pettitte to the plate. Many people, including myself expected a bunt, but Joe Girardi had Pettitte swing away and it paid off. Pettitte blooped a first-pitch curveball into left-center and the game was tied. Derek Jeter then singled, another bloop, and Johnny Damon lined a two-run double into the gap in right-center and the Yanks now led 5-3. Unlike Pettitte three innings earlier Hamels couldn't make the big pitches to minimize the damage and get out of the jam. He would walk Teixeira before leaving the game to a chorus of boos from the hometown fans.

It was an amazing turn around. Talk about a role reversal; Pettitte started out terrible but settled down, while Hamels started out looking unhittable but ended up imploding. It just shows you that guts and moxie are the two most important tools a pitcher has. Great stuff means nothing if you don't have those two things.

After being handed the lead the most important thing a pitcher can do is put up a zero. This wasn't going to be easy for Pettitte with Shane Victorino, Utley, and Howard coming up. But a fly out, a ground out, and a pop up later that's just what Andy did.

Pettitte would last one more inning before leaving the game after six. He did give up another solo homer to Werth, a long blast off the second deck in left, but considering how little stuff he had tonight he deserves a ton of credit. This start for Pettitte was certainly a battle; he fell behind most hitters on the night, threw just 56% of his pitches for strikes, and no command of his curve, and had his defense betray him twice (Both times were A-Rod).

In the end he allowed four earned runs on five hits, walked three, and struck out seven on his way to his MLB best 17th postseason win. After the game Pettitte said he couldn't remember winning a game where he struggled like he did tonight.

The Yankees would tack on two more runs: a Jorge Posada RBI single in the seventh and a pinch-hit solo homer by Hideki Matsui in the eighth -- this is what I meant when I said having a bat like Matsui to come off the bench late in a game would be very valuable. The two insurance runs were huge, but I don't have to tell you how important those are against a lineup like the Phillies'.

Another great sign from tonight's win was the work Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain did in middle relief. Chamberlain came in for the seventh and retired Jimmy Rollins, Victorino, and Utley in order on just nine pitches. Then Marte pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, getting Howard, Werth, and Ibanez. Marte, with a better slider than he's had since coming here, has been one of the biggest most pleasant surprises of the postseason. In six games he's thrown three innings, allowing no runs on two hits, walked none, and struck out three. This is the Marte the Yankees were hoping they were getting in that trade last year.

Trying to save Mariano Rivera, Joe Girardi went with Phil Hughes in the ninth. It was a very understandable move, but it ended up being another frustrating outing for Hughes. After getting Pedro Feliz to ground out to start the inning, he gave up a solo shot to Carlos Ruiz and Joe had seen enough. Mo came in and five pitches later the Yankees had the lead in the series. Jimmy "I think we figured Mo out" Rollins popped out weakly to third to end the game.

One of the keys to tonight's win that I haven't mentioned yet was how well Yankees pitching handled the Phillies 2-3-4 hitters. Victornio, Utley and Howard combined to go 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts. Throw in Rollins and their 1-4 hitters went a combined 1-for-16.

But that's not it, there were many good things that happened for the Yanks in this huge win tonight. Seven different Yankees picked up hits, Swisher got two including a homer after being invisible all October, Damon got a big hit, A-Rod picked up his first World Series hit, and the Yanks finally got some decent relief pitching. The Yankees now find themselves up 2-1 with CC Sabathia on the mound tomorrow. Joe Blanton, who has a career 8.18 ERA against the Yankees, will get the ball for the Phillies. First pitch is set for 8:20 p.m.

Jeter, SS5110010.385
Damon, LF4112100.167
Teixeira, 1B3100221.100
Rodriguez, A, 3B2112102.100
Posada, C5011004.300
Cano, 2B4000023.091
Swisher, RF4221001.286
Gardner, CF0000000.000
Cabrera, Me, CF-RF4000021.100
Pettitte, P3111010.333
Chamberlain, P0000000.000
a-Matsui, H, PH1111000.571
Marte, D, P0000000.000
Hughes, P, P0000000.000
Rivera, Ma, P0000000.000

a-Homered for Chamberlain in the 8th.

2B: Swisher (1, Hamels), Damon (1, Hamels).
HR: Rodriguez, A (1, 4th inning off Hamels, 1 on, 1 out), Swisher (1, 6th inning off Happ, 0 on, 1 out), Matsui, H (2, 8th inning off Myers, 0 on, 2 out).
TB: Jeter; Damon 2; Rodriguez, A 4; Posada; Swisher 6; Pettitte; Matsui, H 4.
RBI: Rodriguez, A 2 (2), Pettitte (1), Damon 2 (2), Swisher (1), Posada (2), Matsui, H (2).
2-out RBI: Posada; Matsui, H.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Posada; Cano.
Team RISP: 3-for-7.
Team LOB: 6.

SB: Damon (1, 2nd base off Durbin, C/Ruiz).

E: Rodriguez, A (1, throw).

Pettitte (W, 1-0)6.05443726.00
Chamberlain (H, 1)1.00000000.00
Marte, D1.00000200.00
Hughes, P0.111100181.00
Rivera, Ma0.20000000.00

Pitches-strikes: Pettitte 104-59, Chamberlain 9-5, Marte, D 15-13, Hughes, P 8-5, Rivera, Ma 5-4.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Andy Pettitte (Not your typical POTG performance, but between battling to a win and the game-tying single he gets it.)

HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Swisher (2-for-4, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 R). ... Jayson Werth and his two bombs also deserve a mention.

Game 4

Yankees @ Phillies
Game Time: 8:20 p.m. | TV/Radio: FOX, WCBS
LHP CC Sabathia (3-1, 1.52) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (0-0, 4.66)

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