Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Matsui Goes Off; Yankees Take series in 6

Players of the Day for Wednesday, November 4, 2009 NY Yankees 7, Philadelphia Phillies 3 Prior to the 2003 season, the New York Yankees acquired Hideki Matsui from Japan's Yomiuri Giants with the promise of delivering more World Series glory to the team. Seven years and more then 3300 at-bats, Matsui delivered on that promise with a magnificent Game 6 performance, taking out the Phillies by a 7-3 score, 4 games to 2. Matsui wasted little time making his presence felt. In the 2nd inning, with no outs and Alex Rodriguez aboard, he took Pedro Martinez out to right field, his two-run homer giving the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. With Martinez struggling to stay alive in the 3rd, Matsui stepped up with the bases full of Yankees and stroked a single off a two-strike, two-out high fastball. 4-1 Yankees. By the 5th inning, with Martinez out of the game, replaced by reliever Chad Durbin, it was becoming apparent that New York was on their way. After Derek Jeter doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Mark Teixeira's single, Rodriguez walked and Matsui appeared again at the plate, this time driving a double to right center, plating both of his teammates for a 7-1 lead. Matsui had driven in 6 runs with a single, double and home run in 3 at-bats. Andy Pettitte protected the lead well until the 6th inning, allowing just one run in the 3rd inning until Ryan Howard finally got untracked with his first homer of the series. with Chase Utley aboard, Howard drove the ball into the left field stands, cutting the Yankee lead to 7-3. Yankee relievers Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte came on to work the last out in the 6th, the entire 7th and the first out in the 8th inning before manager Joe Girardi brought on closer Mariano Rivera. When Rivara induced a weak ground ball from Shane Victorino to second baseman Robinson Cano, the verdict was in: the New York Yankees had captured their 27th World Series championship. Andy Pettitte took the win, his second of the series. Pettite completed a remarkable post-season, which began by breaking a tie with John Smoltz for the most career post-season wins when he pitched the clincher in the divisional series sweep over Minnesota. It was Pettitte's 16th win in the post-season. He also won the ALCS clincher against the Angels, plus the two World Series wins for 18 post-season wins, a record that likely will stand for a long time. After Smoltz, who is probably pondering retirement, there are no active players listed among the leaders. Matsui was named Series MVP shortly after the game. He batted an incredible .615 (8-for-13), with 3 home runs and 9 RBI. Tomorrow: That's a wrap on the 2009 season.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Phillies Force Series Back to Bronx for Game 6

Players of the Day for Monday, November 2, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies 8, NY Yankees 6 Chase Utley socked a three-run homer in the first inning off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett and launched a solo shot in the 7th - his 5th home run of the series, tying him with Reggie Jackson for the most all-time in a series - as the Phillies took Game 5 by an 8-6 score, sending the World Series back to New York for Game 6. The anticipated pitcher's duel between Burnett and Philly starter Cliff Lee never materialized as the Yankees struck for a run in the first inning when Derek Jeter scampered home from first base on Alex Rodriguez' RBI double. After Utley's first blast gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead, Phillies batters added three more in the third off RBI singles by Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez and a fielder's choice ground out by catcher Carlos Ruiz. Burnett was chased from the mound, never recording an out in the 3rd inning, officially tagged with all 6 earned runs on 4 hits and 4 walks. Lee fared better, eventually being lifted in the 8th after allowing a 2-RBI double by Rodriguez with no outs in the inning. Lee finished with 5 earned runs on 7 hits and 3 walks, but did earn the win, his second of the series, without a loss. The series now shift back to New York for Game 6 on Wednesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:57 pm ET. Andy Pettitte gets the nod for the Yankees, against Pedro Martinez for the Phillies. The Yankees had the best home record in the majors during the regular season (57-24); the Phillies were tied with the LA Angels for the best road record in the majors at 48-33.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yankees Rally in 9th, Put Series on Brink

Players of the Day for Sunday, November 1, 2009 NY Yankees 7, Philadelphia Phillies 4 With one more win, the NY Yankees will become the 2009 World Champions, their first claim to such a title since 2000, when they beat the Mets, 4 games to 1. The Yanks could produce a similar result when they take the field in Game 5, Monday night in Philly. The critical moment in Game 4 came in the top of the 9th inning, with the score tied at 4-4. Solo homer by Chase Utley in the 7th and Pedro Feliz in the 8th set the stage as the Phillies rallied from a 4-2 deficit. With Brad Lidge on the mound for the Phillies, seemingly in control after getting Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter for the first two outs, Johnny Damon (left) stroked a clean single to left field. Damon's hit was no big deal by itself, but it brought Mark Teixeira to the plate. A dead pull hitter, the Phillies swung their infielders around toward first base, with second baseman Utley playing a rover-like position in short right field and all but third baseman Feliz on the 1st base side of second. With Teixeira taking all the way, Damon broke for second and easily swiped the bag on a one-hop throw from catcher Carlos Ruiz. He popped right up and took off for third, which, due to the shift, was unattended, allowing Damon to take the base uncontested. Feliz had actually collected the throw from Ruiz and chased Damon for a few steps before giving up. Lidge, clearly rattled, hit Teixeira with his next pitch, and then gave up the biggest hit of the series, when Alex Rodriguez lashed a double down the left field line, scoring Damon and leaving Teixeira on third and A-Rod on 2nd base. Jorge Posada stroked a single to left center, plating both of his teammates before being thrown out trying to advance to 2nd. The rest of the script is easy. The Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera to pitch the 9th inning, and the Sandman retired the deflated Phillies in order for the 7-4 win and his 2nd save of the series. He also set a record with his 23rd appearance, passing another Yankee, Whitey Ford. Game 5 is on for Monday night at Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia. Yankee A.J. Burnett will start against the Phillies' Game 1 hero, Cliff Lee. Lee pitched a complete-game, 6-hitter for a 6-1 Philly win. Since then, they've lost three straight. One more and it's over. Only 6 teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. The last time it happened was in 1985, when the KC Royals took the final three games from the St. Louis Cardinals. Of the 42 teams which have had 3-1 leads in the world Series, 36 have gone on to capture the title.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Swisher, Pettitte Lead Yanks to Game 3 Victory, Lead Series, 2-1

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 31, 2009 NY Yankees 8, Philadelphia Phillies 5 Just when it seemed the Phillies had Andy Pettitte and the Yankees on the ropes, Alex Rodriguez changed Game 3 into a runaway for the boys from Gotham. Pettitte was touched up for 3 runs in the 2nd inning on a Jayson Werth solo homer, a bases-loaded walk to Jimmy Rollins and a Shane Victorino sac fly, but in the top of the 4th, with Mark Teixeira on first base, Alex Rodriguez launched a high fly down the right field line that at first glance seemed to bounce high off the wall for a double, advancing Teixeira to third. Standing on second base, Rodriguez motioned to the umpires and manager Joe Girardi that his shot was actually a home run, and, when the umps checked the tape - which was playing over and over again on the big screens at Citizen Bank Park - sure enough, A-Rod's ball had caromed off a TV camera protruding slightly over the wall near the right field foul pole. They ruled that the hit was a homer as they had discussed prior to the game that any ball hitting the camera would be a home run. Tex and A-Rod trotted home with the first 2 runs for New York. With Pettitte settled down, the Yankees went to work, scoring 3 more in the 5th and adding single runs in each of the 6th, 7th and 8th innings. Besides Rodriguez, the main catalyst for the Yankees was Nick Swisher, who came into the series batting just a shade over .100 in the post season. Swisher doubled and scored in the 5th and belted a solo homer to left field in the 6th as the Yankees built their lead. Pettitte took the win, his 17th career post-season victory, the most by any player all-time and also drove in the tying run in the 5th with a bloop double. Cole Hamels, the MVP of last year's World Series, was the loser, mostly due to his odd pitching behavior, suddenly switching to curve balls - which Yankee batters hammered - in the 4th inning after keeping them check with his slider and fast ball over the first three. Jayson Werth homered twice for the Phillies, both solo shots, as the Phillies tallied their 5 runs on just 6 hits. Werth has 7 post-season homers. Meanwhile, the big thumper batting in front of him, Ryan Howard, has just 2 hits in 13 series' at-bats (.154), and has struck out 9 times over the three-game span. Game 4 is scheduled to start at 7:57 pm ET in Philadelphia, with Game 1 starter, C.C. Sabathia going up the hill for the Yankees on three days rest. The Phillies will start Joe Blanton, who hasn't pitched since October 19, Game 4 of the NLCS, when he allowed 3 earned runs over 6 innings to the LA Dodgers and did not earn a decision. The Phillies won that game, 5-4.