New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies 11-2-09

November 2, 2009

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New York Yankees (10-3) at Philadelphia Phillies (8-5), 7:57 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: New York – A.J. Burnett (1-0, 3.55) Philadelphia – Cliff Lee (3-0, 0.54)

The New York Yankees target their 27th World Series title this evening, when they play Game 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

However, if the Yankees are going to win their first crown since 2000, they will have to do so against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who delivered a brilliant performance in Game 1 of this series and has pitched to an amazing 0.54 earned run average in four postseason starts this year.

Acquired at the trade deadline from Cleveland, Lee has been magnificent for the Phillies in these playoffs. Last Wednesday, Lee went the distance and allowed six hits and an unearned run to beat the Yanks. He also struck out 10 without a walk for the second straight start.

Not starting Lee on short rest, though, may be the decision that comes back to haunt the Phillies, as the Yankees took a commanding 3-1 lead in this best- of- seven set with a thrilling win on Sunday.

After Philadelphia tied the game in the eighth inning on a Pedro Feliz home run, Alex Rodriguez delivered the go-ahead run-scoring double with two outs in the ninth inning as New York put the Phillies on the brink of elimination with a 7-4 victory.

Jorge Posada drove in three runs, including a two-run single to cap the top of the ninth.

Mariano Rivera set the side down in order in the bottom of the ninth for the save and broke the World Series record with his 23rd appearance, passing ex- Yankee Whitey Ford. It was his 39th career postseason save, and the latest one provided a near-knockout blow for the defending World Series champions.

“It feels good but, again, we’ve been down this road before, and we have to stay very focused,” said Rodriguez. “Those guys are the world champs. They’re going to come out fighting, and so are we, so just staying in the moment.”

Brad Lidge (0-1) retired the first two batters of the inning on a pop-up from pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui and a strikeout from Derek Jeter. On a nine-pitch at-bat, Johnny Damon then singled to left-center field.

The Phillies then put an infield shift toward the right side of the diamond with Mark Teixeira at the plate, but the move backfired. Damon stole second with third baseman Feliz taking the throw from catcher Carlos Ruiz. Nobody covered third, and Damon raced all the way to the base.

“I felt like being on third base, it possibly takes away a slider, a tough slider in the dirt that I may be able to score on,” said Damon. “Alex got two fastballs. It did work out for us.”

Teixeira was hit by a pitch before Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP going after his first World Series ring, clubbed an 0-1 offering to left field to give New York a 5-4 edge. Posada lined a single left-center for the three-run cushion and was thrown out trying to go to second.

“I have never had a bigger hit,” said Rodriguez. “But again, if you look at what Mark Teixeira and I have done in this World Series is not much, and it just tells you what a great balanced team we’ve had all year, and we’re getting contributions from all our guys.”

Rodriguez has 15 RBI this postseason, tying Bernie Williams (1996) and Scott Brosius (1998) for the most RBI by a Yankee in a single playoff year. Of those 15 RBI, seven have been game-tying or of the go-ahead variety.

“It is important to stay calm,” said Rodriguez. “For me making an adjustment after Game 1 and 2 was very easy because what I was doing was just being a little overanxious. One thing about postseason, if you want to hit, you’ve got to swing at strikes, and if you don’t swing at strikes, you’re going to expose your weakness. That’s all I’ve been trying to do.”

CC Sabathia, going on three days’ rest, pitched into the seventh inning for New York, but was lifted after Chase Utley homered off the southpaw for the third time in this series. The blast pulled the Phillies within 4-3.

Phillies starter Joe Blanton was taken out after six innings for a pinch- hitter. The righty gave up five hits and four runs, walked two and fanned seven.

The Phillies, aiming to become the first National League repeat winner since Cincinnati in 1975-76, have a big task to overcome. This is the ninth time that the Yankees have held a 3-1 lead in a World Series. They have gone on to win the world championship on each of the previous eight occasions. Also, the last team to overcome such a deficit to win the title was Kansas City in 1985.

Tonight the Yankees turn to righty A.J. Burnett, who will be going on short rest following a terrific effort in Game 2 of this series.

Burnett held the Phillies to a run and four hits in seven innings. He also fanned nine and walked a pair in picking up his first-ever postseason win.

“I’ve waited a long time for it, and I’m going to take it full stride,” said Burnett. “I’m going to go out there with everything I’ve got, and you take nothing for granted. I’ve seen some crazy things this postseason, and I guess that’s why they call it post-season baseball, because anything can happen.”

Burnett has made four starts on short rest in his career and is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in those outings.

“Obviously, you do everything you can to help this team win,” Burnett said. “If that means me taking the ball on short rest, then I’m taking the ball on short rest.”

After being named the NLCS MVP, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has yet to find his groove in this series, going just 3-for-17 with 10 strikeouts. He is in a position to top the World Series record that Royals outfielder Willie Wilson set in 1980, when he struck out 12 times against the Phillies in 1980.

These teams have a limited history against one another, but did square off once in the World Series back in 1950, when the Yankees swept the series in four games from the Whiz Kids of Philadelphia.

The Phillies also took two of three from the Yanks earlier this season at Yankee Stadium. Philadelphia won the opener before New York rallied off of Lidge in the second contest. The Yankees got to Lidge again in the finale, but Philly managed to pick up an extra-inning win in that one to capture the series.

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