Damon, Yankees on the verge
Ninth-inning uprising foils Lidge, Phillies
It looked a bit pathetic, as Pedro Feliz ran after Johnny Damon, holding the baseball with nobody to throw to. There was nothing he could do.
Damon had stolen second base on Brad Lidge after a two-out single earned in a great at-bat in the ninth inning last night. And then, he took third. Seeing the void at third, with third baseman Feliz at second - because of the Mark Teixeira shift - Damon simply took off. He ran to third, making it easily.
“I had a heart attack, a mini one,’’ said Joba Chamberlain, who had put the Yankees into this situation by allowing a game-tying solo homer to Feliz in the bottom of the eighth. “I didn’t know what was going on. I seen him get into scoring position, then he took off. I didn’t know if the ball got past him or what, but it skipped a beat and then went to about 100 beats per minute.’’
Lidge then hit Teixeira with a pitch, bringing up Alex Rodriguez.
And Rodriguez made it happen, lashing a double to left field on an inside fastball, a pitch that Lidge called “decent,’’ delivering Damon. But even though the RBI went to Rodriguez, the genius was all Damon’s.
“I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,’’ Damon quipped.
It wasn’t over, as the Yankees scored two more to push the final to 7-4, and give the Yankees a 3-1 World Series lead with a chance to close it out here tonight.
Lidge almost got out of it, getting the first two outs of the ninth before Damon stepped in.
The loss leaves the Phillies clinging to their postseason lives, one bad Cliff Lee start from elimination, one game from watching the Yankees celebrate.
“I have never had a bigger hit,’’ Rodriguez said.
As the calendar turned to November - still seemingly odd for a World Series just in its fourth game - the Yankees turned to an ace, the Phillies turned to a fourth starter, and a predictable result emerged. For the first six innings, at least.
Then the Phillies came back, emerging against a tiring CC Sabathia and a shaky Chamberlain. With Sabathia 6 2/3 innings into his outing, Chase Utley stepped to the plate - the same Chase Utley who had hit two home runs off the big lefthander in their first meeting, and hadn’t hit anyone since. While common sense might have dictated a call to the bullpen, Yankees manager Joe Girardi held off. And then he watched more of the same, the solo home run blasted out to right field, the second baseman rounding third and heading for home.
“I thought he gave a gutsy performance,’’ Girardi said of Sabathia. “He held them almost in check. The third run he gave up, he had two outs in the seventh, and for us to get him through seven would have been great. We weren’t able to do that.’’
But, still, the Yankees were on top. They led, 4-3, as Girardi kept his commitment to stay away from using Mariano Rivera in multiple innings. He brought in Chamberlain instead, which seemed effective, as he got Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez swinging. Up stepped Feliz, who smashed a Joba fastball out of the ballpark. The 46,145 at Citizens Bank Park exploded, a day’s worth of beating up on New York - witness the Eagles-Giants score - emerging from their lungs at once. It was the bottom of the eighth, the game was tied.
All the rest of it, the headfirst slide by Ryan Howard on which he didn’t touch the plate but was credited with a run, the sign that Melky Cabrera blew through on his way to scoring the fourth run for the Yankees, the two runs scored in the first by New York, and the one by Philadelphia, was gone. Tied, 4-4, they were ready to start again, and then Damon stepped up to bat.
The Phillies do still have their ace, the one who didn’t pitch on short rest last night. Lee will be back tonight, ready to take on A.J. Burnett and the Yankees, who get a chance to wrest the title of World Series champions from the Phillies. The Phillies, however, aren’t ready to let that happen. They would head back to New York tomorrow morning.
“I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back,’’ said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “I know that we’re going to come out and play tomorrow to win. I know that. 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.
“Tonight is tough. We’re in the World Series now. But at the same time, we’re down, but you know what, we’re still breathing.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.