Doing It As Drawn Up
Wow. The Yankees are up 3-1 in the World Series with a 7-4 win. Sabathia pitched 6.2 innings giving up 3, Joba blew the save but vultured a win as the Yankees erupted for 3 runs in the 9th and Mariano Rivera did his thing.
I don’t mean to be triumphalist, but I think it needs some pointing out that the 2009 Yankees won 103 games in the AL East. The 2009 Phillies won 93 games in the NL East where their potentially biggest rivals tanked due to injuries. Look, the Phillies are plenty good, but I think we’re beginning to see the gap in strength as the World Series rolls on. No disrespect to the Phillies who did win it all in 2008, but I think the 3 wins in a row to the Yankees reflects the relative difference in strengths.
That being said, the Yankees now face Cliff Lee against whom the bats stayed dormant, ad they send AJ Burnett to the mound. Of course, AJ Burnett is like Forest Gump’s Box of Chocolates – you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Okay, he did win Game 2 with style but will he get the Yankees past Phillies a second time is a reasonable question.
It’s not over yet.
Ain’t That Johnny Damon Something?
Take his at-bat against Lidge in the ninth. There were two outs. Lidge got ahead in the count 1-2. And then Damon, realizing that Lidge would try to put him away with that famous slider of his, decided to look only for that slider. “They really don’t teach you do it that way,” Damon says. “They normally tell you to look fastball because if you sit slider, it would be too tough to catch up to the fastball.”
But Damon just sensed that his best shot was to wait for the slider and hope for the best. He fouled off a slider, then another. Lidge tried to throw a couple of fastballs — one was called just off the outside corner (Damon was beaten on the pitch — the umpire could have called it either way), and the second was outside. Full count. Damon kept waiting for the slider. He fouled off a fastball. He fouled off another fastball. And finally, he hit the fastball for a single to left field.
It was remarkable stuff — “Just an unbelievable at-bat,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi would call it — and then Damon realized that he could steal second base on Lidge. You know the guy in your neighborhood basketball game, the one that plays ruthless defense, never-ending defense, in-your-face defense and you want to yell at him “Just STOP already.” Yeah, that’s Damon too.
He stole second base, and then he saw third base was open and in an instant he ran through all those calculations and decided to go for it. At first, Feliz reached out and looked like he had a chance to tag Damon. But he could not. Damon pulled away. “I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,” Damon would say.
Damon made it to third base. We’ll never know for sure if his play spooked Brad Lidge … I think it’s a fair guess to say that it did. Lidge promptly hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch. And then he threw two fastballs to A-Rod — one of the great fastball hitters in baseball history — and A-Rod ripped the second to left for a double. That scored Damon. Jorge Posada followed with a single that scored two more runs, and that was that.
Now, the Yankees have a stranglehold on the series. It’s hard to come up with a scenario where the Phillies come back from this. They do have Cliff Lee going tonight, which gives them a fair shot at sending the series back to New York. But they’re standing at the base of Mount Everest. And they know it. The Phillies really had to win Sunday night, and they played exactly the kind of gutsy game that it takes to win. They came from behind. They scored a late run to tie the game. They were at home, and Lidge seemed to be throwing well, and it all looked good.
But then Johnny Damon had the at-bat of the Series and he pulled off what might have been the first one-man double steal in World Series history. It was one of those plays that you never forget. The Phillies never quite recovered from that.
“I kinda had to see all that stuff develop,” was how Damon explained his play. Then he shrugged his shoulders because, hey, he isn’t really sure he saw any of it. He ran. His mind told him to go. Things just seem to work out for the guy. He’s lucky that way.
Well, that too.