PHILADELPHIA - Alex Rodriguez came through yet again for the Yankees, but it all started with Johnny Damon’s legs.
After a daring baserunning play put Damon on third with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Rodriguez’s RBI double and Jorge Posada’s two-run single gave the Yankees a 7-4 victory in Game 4 of the World Series last night at a stunned Citizens Bank Park, giving them a three-games-to-one lead and leaving them a win from their 27th title.
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The Phillies’ Pedro Feliz had sent the crowd into a frenzy a half-inning earlier with a tying two-out home run off Joba Chamberlain, who got the win.
Said Nick Swisher, “We know what’s at stake right now. No one will really talk about it right now but we know what’s at stake and we’re going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got."
After Brad Lidge retired the first two Yankees in the top of the ninth, Damon concluded a nine-pitch at-bat by lining a single to left, his third hit of the game. With the Phillies’ infield overshifted to the right, Damon stole second on the first pitch to Mark Teixeira. Third baseman Feliz took Carlos Ruiz’s throw to second, and knowing that no one was on the left side of the infield because of the overshift, Damon popped up, got a step on Feliz and kept right on going to third. He made it easily.
"Instinct, that’s all," third-base coach Rob Thomson said. “I have nothing to do with it. I wish I could tell you I did.”
Said Damon, “I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me . . . You know, it worked out, because 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. So Alex got two fastballs. So, hopefully -- well, it did work out for us.”
“For me, the key of that whole inning was an unbelievable, tenacious at-bat by Johnny Damon,’’ Rodriguez said. “This guy is just a great competitor and then goes first pitch, and then goes to third, put us in position to get a big hit there in the ninth.”
After Teixeira was hit by a pitch, Rodriguez lined a drive into the leftfield corner and off the wall for an RBI double, sending Teixeira to third. “No question I’ve never had a bigger hit,’’ Rodriguez said.
Posada (three RBIs) lined a two-run single to left-center, and although he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, the Yankees took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera needed only eight pitches to end it.
Rodriguez is only 2-for-14 in the World Series after going 14-for-32 in the first two playoff rounds, but he has 15 RBIs in 13 games this postseason. That includes four two-out RBI hits, a two-out RBI walk, three home runs that tied the score in the seventh, ninth and 11th innings, and a home run that cut into a three-run deficit and set the stage for the Yankees’ Game 3 comeback victory that swung the World Series in their favor.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the second time this month, CC Sabathia allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings and was in line to lift his 2009 postseason record to 4-1 until Feliz homered off Chamberlain. Said general manager Brian Cashman, “He’s someone who just likes to compete, that’s the bottom line. If you put him in a position to compete, he’s someone who’s going to leave it all out there."
Sabathia was one pitch away from getting out of the seventh with a 4-2 lead, but with two outs, Chase Utley lined a hanging 1-and-2 breaking ball over the rightfield fence. Utley, who homered twice off Sabathia in Game 1, also had an RBI double off the right-centerfield wall in the first inning of Game 4.
Similarly, in an inning in which he would strike out the side, Chamberlain got the first two outs in the eighth and got ahead of Feliz 1-and-2. But after working the count full, Feliz lined a fastball well over the leftfield fence for his third hit, tying it at 4.
But the game again changed quickly minutes later.
“We have yet to accomplish anything,’’ Derek Jeter said. “This is a game we wanted to win. We wanted to come out here and play well. CC did a great job, the bullpen did good, Mo was Mo and we scored some runs.”
Said Joe Girardi, “As far as thinking about one game, all I think about is playing a good game tomorrow. Go out and play a good game tomorrow and let’s see where we’re at. Continue to play the type of baseball that we’re capable of playing.”
Now Burnett will face Lee, a fellow Arkansas resident who shares the same agent.
“It’s going to be fun,’’ Burnett said. “It’s one of those games where you think about it, you talk about it, but once you get out there, you can’t really worry about him too much. I have a pretty tough lineup ahead of me tomorrow and I can’t worry about what Cliff does. I have to worry about what A.J. does.”
Six pitches into Game 4, the Yankees had a 1-0 lead. Jeter opened with an infield single, went to third on Damon’s double and scored on Teixeira’s grounder to first.
Pitch No. 7 made things much more interesting, as it hit A-Rod in the upper back. It was the third time in six plate appearances that he had been hit, and before heading to first, he shared a few words with plate umpire Mike Everitt. Replays seemed to show A-Rod mouthing the words, “That’s the third time.”
Crew chief Joe West, the second-base umpire, then conferred with the infield umpires and warnings were issued to both dugouts, which brought Girardi out to argue. Posada’s sacrifice fly to left made it 2-0 as Raul Ibañez’s throw home hit Damon in the helmet.
With one out in the Phillies’ half of the first, Shane Victorino blooped a double to left-center, just out of reach of the diving Damon. Utley then cracked an RBI double high off the wall in right-center to make it 2-1.
Ryan Howard led off the fourth with a single and stole second, but Jayson Werth grounded to third and Ibañez flied to left. Feliz then tied it at 2 with a single to left.
Damon’s throw home might have gotten Howard, who never actually touched the plate — and still hasn’t — but Posada couldn’t hang on to the ball in the collision. Sabathia picked it up and fired to second in an unsuccessful attempt to get Feliz as Howard walked back to the dugout without ever returning to touch the plate.
Swisher walked in the fifth and Melky Cabrera sent a possible double-play grounder up the middle toward Utley. But instead of taking the ball from his glove and making a simple toss to Jimmy Rollins for the sure force, he tried a fancy backhanded flip that went straight up in the air. The play, ruled a hit, put runners at first and second.
One out later, Jeter singled to left to make it 3-2. Damon then sent a looping single to right-center. Cabrera ran through Thomson’s stop sign, but Werth’s throw couldn’t be handled by Ruiz. Cabrera missed the plate but quickly went back and touched it for a 4-2 Yankees lead.
Damon said of being one win away from a world championship: “We won’t think about that until it’s done. They’re a great team, so we’re not going to count anything until our job’s finished."
“Those guys are the world champs over there,’’ Rodriguez said. “They’re going to come out fighting tomorrow and so are we. So it’s just staying in the moment.”
And Sunday was A-Rod’s moment — again.
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