|Nick Swisher beat the throw to Carlos Ruiz to score on Andy Pettitte’s single in the fifth. (Mike Segar/Reuters)|
A-Rod, Yankees swing into action
PHILADELPHIA - The Liberty Bell had done its neon dance as the visiting starting pitcher found himself mired in trouble early, a pitch count rising and runs mounting. Andy Pettitte seemed ready to crumble, ready to give up Game 3 to the Phillies, all while Cole Hamels appeared to have rediscovered his form lost after last year’s World Series. The moment would be fleeting.
Beginning with two runs on a double-turned-home run - thanks to instant replay - the Yankees went on the offensive, scoring in each of the next five innings, burying the Phillies beneath their flailing starter with home runs from some unlikely sources. A pinch hitter (Hideki Matsui) and a man benched in Game 2 (Nick Swisher) teamed with Alex Rodriguez to power the Yankees to an 8-5 win at Citizens Bank Park last night in front of 46,061.
And that left the Phillies in a bit of a hole, perhaps even bigger than the two games-to-one deficit. With CC Sabathia looming - and no Cliff Lee to counteract him this time - the Phillies are relying on Joe Blanton to even the Series. It marked the first time since the 2007 playoffs that the Phillies have trailed in a series.
“As a team, I think we definitely know how to win,’’ Hamels said. “We definitely don’t put any sort of scenario where we’re trailing in our heads. We just know that we have to play one game at a time. No matter what we do, we have to win three more. I think that’s kind of the focus.’’
The Yankees are in this position because Pettitte righted himself and his team, giving it a chance to make Hamels be the one to leave early. They hit Hamels, as they had not hit anyone so far in the World Series. That bolstered the man on the mound.
“That’s Andy, that’s why he’s had such a successful career, and especially successful postseason,’’ Hamels said. “He might get himself into a jam early, but he’s able to keep his composure and maintain and go out and actually pitch deep into the game and get a win. That’s why he’s leading the postseason in wins. He does a phenomenal job of not letting missed opportunities or runs scored against him get to him.’’
The Phillies’ offense didn’t help last night as slugger Ryan Howard reached nine strikeouts in three games. It was a difficult night all around, made all the more miserable for Phillies fans by a 1-hour 20-minute rain delay to start, marking the second straight year that Game 3 in Philadelphia had been interrupted by bad weather.
It started early for Rodriguez, in the bottom of the first. Phillies leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins smashed a line drive to third that bounced off Rodriguez’s glove and into left field. The play was scored a hit, taking the heat off the player most likely to find controversy wherever he turns.
Rodriguez was back in the spotlight with one on and one out in the fourth. Hamels, who entered the game with a 6.75 ERA in three postseason starts this year, had been whizzing through the Yankees lineup before walking Mark Teixeira. Up came Rodriguez, and he launched a fly ball to right field that went for an apparent double after the ball bounced off a camera and back onto the field.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi quickly argued that the ball cleared the wall, and the umpires - already under fire for poor calls throughout the playoffs - gathered in the middle of the infield and then jogged down to the replay area past the visitor’s dugout. After a quick check of the video replay, they called it a home run and suddenly the Yankees were back in the game at 3-2 after Philadelphia had scored three runs in the second off Pettitte.
“He’s a big reason we’re at this point, what he did in the first two series,’’ Girardi said. “He has been patient, and he has not tried to do too much. I mean, he hit a home run to right field, down the right-field line. To me that tells you you’re not over-swinging, and he stayed in his game plan. He’s been huge for us.’’
Jayson Werth’s solo homer to left got the Phillies started in the inning, and Pettitte hurt his cause with a bases-loaded walk to Rollins. A sacrificy fly by Shane Victorino made it 3-0, but Pettitte, who had thrown 51 pitches by the end of the second, settled down and only one more Phillie reached base over the next three innings.
Pettitte, however, did give up a second home run to Werth, this one leading off the sixth inning, making him the fourth Phillies batter to have a two-homer game in the World Series.
While Pettitte was mostly reversing his fortunes, Hamels was melting down. After pitching hitless ball before surrendering the Rodriguez homer in the fourth, Hamels began the fifth by giving up a double to the slumping Nick Swisher. That was followed by a run-scoring single by Pettitte, marking the first time since 1964 that a Yankees pitcher recorded an RBI (Jim Bouton against the Cardinals).
Two more runs came in nearly simultaneously, as Derek Jeter (single) did his best to lap Pettitte on the way home on Johnny Damon’s two-run double in the same inning.
“I have no wheels at all,’’ Pettitte said. “I know that. I am very slow. I mean, very slow. And the first thing Derek said was, ‘I almost caught you.’ ’’
One more batter, a walk to Teixeira, and that was it for Hamels. His night was over, and he would have to wait for a likely Game 7 start (if the Series gets that far) to redeem himself.
The loss was something different for the Phillies, an unusual pressure that they haven’t experiencedsince winning the title last season. They haven’t been in this position, though no one on the home side expressed any doubt that they can even the Series tonight and pull out a second straight championship.
“It don’t change,’’ manager Charlie Manuel said of his team’s mentality. “We’ll come out tomorrow and we’ll try to even play better and harder. We’re that kind of team.’’