Apparently, viewing figures for this year’s World Series are up on previous years and whilst that might well be something to do with the Yankees’ popularity in many corners of the globe, it has probably also got something to do with the fact that both the Yanks and the Philadelphia Phillies play an expansive kind of baseball that sports fans are bound to find an attractive prospect. So far, so attractive for the 2009 World Series, but what it lacked until last night was a bona fide classic encounter. Now it has that as well…
Last night’s game was close throughout. The Yankees led for most of it, but never by more than 2 runs. Sabathia pitched well for a guy on short rest, but you always felt that he was vulnerable – especially to Chase Utley, who has owned him and who blasted his third homer of the Series (all of them off Sabathia) last night.
It was largely the veteran lead-off duo of Jeter and Damon who kept the Yankees ahead with a selction of flares and bloops, but the Phillies finally caught up when Feliz homered off Joba Chamberlain in the 8th to level things at 4-4.
In the top of the ninth, Phillies closer Brad Lidge soon saw off pinch-hitter Matsui and Jeter, leaving Johnny Damon as the last man standing. In a nine pitch at-bat, he fouled off pitch after pitch before finally lining one into left field for a single. That brought up the hitherto invisible Mark Teixeira, batting left-handed (not that it seems to make much difference right now) and the Phillies promptly applied a shift, moving their whole infield defence across to cover the right field into which Teixeira might, were he not in a slump of elephantine proportions, be expected to hit the ball.
Johnny Damon, meanwhile, surveying all this from first base decided to do some base-stealing and easily made it into second as Lidge pitched to Teixeira. The throw to second base was weak and third baseman Pedro Feliz, now covering second in the shift, had to step forward to field the ball. Damon, realising that the Phillies’ shift had left third base unattended, simply set off for third
Go, Johnny go; Damon makes the break for third with Feliz trailing in his wake
as fast as his thirty-something legs could carry him. Lidge didn’t come across to cut him off and Feliz couldn’t catch him, so Damon made into third and an inning that had threatened to expire for the Yankees was suddenly alive again
Lidge, clearly rattled, then did the Yankees a major favour by hitting Teixeira with a pitch, sending him to first and bringing A-Rod to the plate. It hasn’t exactly been a vintage World Series for Rodriguez either, though at least he hit a home run in Game 3 . This time he produced just the right hit at just the right time – a one-hop line drive into the left field wall, bringing home Damon from third to make it 5-4 for the Yankees. That brought up another cool head in Jorge Posada, whose 2-run single brought home Teixeira and A-Rod to pad the lead to 7-4. Another 8-pitch classic from Mariano Rivera then saw the Yankees home in some comfort.
So, the Yankees could clinch the World Series in Philadelphia tonight, but the impressive Cliff Lee will be on the mound for the Phillies, so they will have to do it the hard way. For all the brave talk, you sense that the Phillies will be hurting more than a little over last night’s loss and the Yankees will no doubt be oozing confidence.
For me, it’s too close to call….maybe tonight will be the night Mark Teixeira arrives in the World Series….well, I can hope, can’t I?