A-Rod, Yanks beat Phillies 7-4 for 3-1 Series edge
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Getting hit by a pitch could have been the best thing that ever happened to Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
Still smarting after getting plunked, Rodriguez struck back with his bat. He took the swing of a lifetime, and suddenly the Yankees are a win away from the World Series crown.
Rodriguez lined a go-ahead, two-out double in the ninth inning off Brad Lidge and the Yankees took advantage of Johnny Damon’s daring dash to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 on Sunday night for a 3-1 lead.
“There’s no question – I’ve never had a bigger hit,” Rodriguez said.
Only 27 outs from that elusive 27th title, the Yankees will try to close out the defending champions Monday night when A.J. Burnett faces October ace Cliff Lee.
Rodriguez applauded his own stroke of fortune, for good reason. The three-time AL MVP had waited his whole career for this chance, and put all his prominent postseason failures behind with a solid shot that echoed around Citizens Bank Park.
“He’s the reason why we’re sitting here and we’re in Philadelphia right now,” Damon said. “I felt like without him, who knows where our road may have stopped at.”
Rodriguez got drilled by a pair of pitches in Game 3, including one that left a bruise on his thigh. Then he got nailed in the back by Joe Blanton’s fastball in the first inning, prompting plate umpire Mike Everitt to warn both teams.
“The one time I got hit in yesterday’s game, my first at-bat, kind of woke me up a little bit and just reminded me, ‘Hey, this is the World Series, let’s get it going a little bit,'” Rodriguez said.
Overanxious at the start of his first World Series, Rodriguez struck out six times in the first two games. He homered in Game 3, yet it was another kind of thwack that got him going.
Now the team that has spent about $1.6 billion in payroll since last winning the championship in 2000 and nearly that much for a new stadium is in position for the ultimate payoff.
Of the 42 teams to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series, 36 went on to win it. The last club to overcome such a deficit was Kansas City in 1985.
Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz hit late home runs for the Phillies that tied it at 4. In the ninth, the Phils brought in Lidge – a postseason star last year who had struggled all season before regaining his touch this October.
But November was not so kind.
Lidge had been the lone closer in the playoffs who hadn’t allowed a run until the Yankees tagged him. With two outs, Damon capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a single. The Phillies overshifted their infield to the right side for Mark Teixeira and Damon took off.
Damon beat the one-hop throw to steal second, popped up from his slide and noticed no one was covering third. That’s because Feliz had handled the throw, and Damon easily beat the third baseman to the next bag for a rare double-steal.
“I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,” Damon said.
Offered Feliz: “We never got anybody to say, ‘OK, you’ve got to go in there, you’ve got to go here.'”
Lidge then hit Teixeira with a pitch. So up stepped Rodriguez, 1 for 13 to that point and looking nothing like the feared slugger he was earlier in these playoffs.
Rodriguez picked on a fastball and lined it to left field, and clapped after reaching second base. Maybe the key hit wasn’t such a surprise: Rodriguez had homered and doubled in three prior at-bats against Lidge, with the homer coming last May at Yankee Stadium.
“Facing Brad Lidge, he’s a great competitor. He’s had a lot of success of late here. Just trying to make contact there,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez stood at second with his 15th RBI, tying the Yankees’ postseason record shared by Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius. A-Rod’s other hit this week came in Game 3 when his double was changed to a home run after an instant replay review.
The crowd was still silent when Jorge Posada followed with a two-run single. The Yankees turned it over to Rivera and he quickly got three outs for his 11th World Series save. Joba Chamberlain got the win despite giving up Feliz’s tying homer in the eighth.
“I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back,” Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’ve seen us go through it before. We’ve blown 22 games from the seventh inning on or something this year. That’s got to tell you something about the resilience of our team.”
The Phillies face a daunting task; New York lost three in a row only twice after the All-Star break.
The first inning offered a replay, of sorts, when Rodriguez was hit by Blanton’s first pitch.
“Third time, it’s a little obvious,” Rodriguez told Everitt in a comment heard on Fox.
Rodriguez stood around the plate with hands on hips and stared at the Yankees dugout, and Everitt moved onto the grass to prevent any trouble from breaking out. Umpires met near the mound, Everitt issued warnings to both teams and fans chanted “you used steroids!” at A-Rod.
Derek Jeter led off the night with a single and scored, and later hit an RBI single. The MVP of the 2000 World Series is 7 for 17 this time around.
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard barreled home to score a run. He braced for a collision with Posada and got a piece of the New York catcher – replays, however, appeared to show Howard never touched the plate, yet another missed call in a shaky postseason for umpires.
Howard kept struggling, leaving him 3 for 17 with 10 strikeouts. Rodriguez is only 2 for 14, but he could enjoy both hits because they did so much damage.
“We’ve been down this road before and we have to stay very focused. Those guys are the world champs,” Rodriguez said.