The Yankees beat the Phillies 7-4 in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series and are now one victory away from winning their 27th championship.
This was actually a pretty tough game to watch, between a not-terrible Joe Blanton, a somewhat shaky CC Sabathia and a couple of timely Philly solo home runs. In fact, I'm still cleaning the vomit off my keyboard from Pedro Feliz hitting a game-tying home run off Joba Chamberlain in the 8th inning.
Sabathia -- starting on three days' rest -- didn't look particularly crisp and struggled with his command early. That Sabathia made it through 6 2/3 innings only giving up three runs is still damn impressive (including 7 hits and 6 strikeouts), but the third run -- Chase Utley's third solo home run off Sabathia in the World Series -- shaved the Yankees' lead to one run and felt even more damaging given the Yankees' offensive ineptitude.
It looked like the Yankees would be all over Joe Blanton early, scoring two quick runs in the first inning, but Blanton ended up settling in and pitching pretty effectively, giving up four runs on only five hits over six innings. The Philly middle relief corps -- in stark contrast to the Yankee bullpen -- continued to get the job done in the World Series, shutting the Yankees down in the 7th and 8th innings.
Joba Chamberlain took over for Damaso Marte (who again retired the only batter he faced) in the bottom of the 8th inning and came out throwing gas. He got both Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez swinging on strikes, and looked set to strike the side out, but the light-hitting Feliz had other ideas, blasting a straight fastball right down the middle into the left field seats to tie the game.
Even though the Yankees plated four runs over the first six innings, they didn't look particularly great in doing so, striking out 11 times, and given that the Phillies had clawed back from two deficits to tie the game twice, it felt like this was going to be their night.
Then something amazing happened. Brad Lidge came on to pitch the top of the 9th with the game tied at 4, and promptly picked up two quick outs. Up came Johnny Damon, who had a great night at the plate (3-5, RBI, 2 R). Damon had a nine-pitch battle with Lidge before depositing a bloop single into left field. With Mark Teixeira at bat, Damon not only stole second base, but third too on a heads-up play as he noticed that no one was covering the bag. Lidge plunked Teixeira, bringing Alex Rodriguez to the plate. A-Rod had a fairly quiet night up to that point, only reaching base in the 2nd inning on his 3rd hit-by-pitch in the last two games.
A-Rod then did exactly what Alex Rodriguez has done in close and late situations throughout the 2009 postseason: come through with a huge base hit, doubling Damon home to take the lead back 5-4 and sending Teixeira to third. Jorge Posada -- who had also looked fairly lost at the plate earlier in the game -- followed with a big two-run insurance hit, although sloppily got thrown out trying to stretch it to a double to end the inning.
Mariano Rivera came in for the bottom of the 9th inning and did what Mariano Rivera has done in the postseason throughout his entire career: get three outs to close out another Yankee victory.
I know it seems insane to gripe about anything in a huge win that really seemed like it was destined to become a loss, but I do feel the need to point out that the Yankees probably could have made this game less close than it was in the early going, but were inexplicably stifled by Blanton save for the 1st and 5th innings, and shut down by Chan Ho Park and Ryan Madson. Then again, they did score seven runs on no home runs, and I'd have to imagine there weren't too many instances this year in which the Yankees scored seven-plus runs without hitting any homers, so I'm probably making a mountain out of a molehill.
Still, one individual who has been MIA in the postseason yet seems to have flown under the radar is Robinson Cano. There was some talk on Twitter comparing Cano's lack of production to Alfonso Soriano's miserable 2003 postseason, and I thought that was interesting so I decided to look it up. While Cano won't come anywhere near Soriano's insane 26 strikeouts that October, his slash line of .196/.288/.304 is eerily reminiscent of Soriano's .225/.267/.296 in '03, although Soriano put those numbers up in 71 at-bats while Cano's lack of hitting has come over 46 at-bats.
I have to admit it's a bit surreal to think that the Yankees are now one victory away from winning it all, and they have three more chances at it. Even if Cliff Lee comes up big again in Game 5, the series moves back to the Bronx for Game 6, and the Phillies have shown that they really don't have any other great starters besides Lee. Still, this Yankee team is more resilient and seems more focused on getting the job done than they have in years, and I almost wouldn't be surprised to see them find a way to get to Lee and close this thing out in five games.
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