A.J. Burnett pitched his best game of the postseason, lasting seven innings and leaving with the lead. Was there any doubt who would start the eighth? Not in the mind of Girardi, who called on Mariano Rivera.
He was equal to the challenge, laboring through the eighth but earning the save in the Yankees' 3-1 win over the Phillies in front of 50,181 at Yankee Stadium.
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The best-of-seven series, tied 1-1, now heads to the bubbling cauldron of hostility known as Philadelphia. Game 3 is Saturday night; Andy Pettitte takes on Cole Hamels. Said Derek Jeter, "They have a great team. I said it yesterday, they're probably the best team we've played all year. They're champs for a reason and we need to play well if we're going to beat them.''
Burnett, whose curveball danced and darted as well as it has all season, earned the first postseason victory of his career. He allowed one run and four hits, walked two and struck out nine, throwing 108 pitches.
Pedro Martinez was nearly as good, charged with three runs, six hits and two walks in six innings-plus, including homers by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui. He struck out eight. The Yankees fanned 12 times, bringing their total to 22 in two games.
Rivera came on with a 3-1 lead and gave up a one-out walk to Jimmy Rollins. Shane Victorino singled, but Rivera ended the inning by getting Chase Utley, who homered twice in Game 1, to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Rivera retired the first two Phillies in the ninth - Ryan Howard struck out for the sixth time in nine at-bats - before allowing Raul Ibañez's second double of the game. He got ahead of Matt Stairs 0-and-2, threw two balls and then struck him out with a low cutter for his record 10th World Series save.
"We can hit Rivera. We can hit any closer. We've proved that,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's good. He's one of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. He's very good. But I've seen our team handle good pitching, and you know, we're definitely capable of scoring runs late in the game.''
Will Rivera - who threw 39 pitches, the most he's ever thrown in a World Series game - be available for Game 3 tomorrow? Said Joe Girardi, "I think he threw 34 against the Angels . . . I think he'll be fine.''
Referring to the six-out save, Rivera said: "I always thank God for that because I think I have the opportunity to [get it done]. And I have the most experience in the bullpen, so definitely they're going to come to me. So I thank God for that and I was able to make my pitches and get people out . . . But everything starts with the starter. The job that A.J. did was outstanding.''
With two outs in the second, Ibañez hit an opposite-field double that was just fair, landing on the leftfield line before hopping into the stands. Stairs followed with a hard grounder just to the left of a lunging Alex Rodriguez, but the ball nipped the underside of his glove and went into left for an RBI single.
In the fourth, Teixeira reached for Martinez's 83-mph changeup and crushed it 414 feet into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center to tie it at 1.
In the sixth, after Martinez fanned Teixeira and A-Rod and got ahead of Matsui 1-and-2, Matsui lined his next pitch - a low, slow curveball - a few rows deep in the stands in right for a 320-foot homer to make it 2-1.
Matsui, who had two doubles off Martinez in the seventh game of the 2003 ALCS, had arrived about 30 minutes late for batting practice because of traffic. Said Jeter, "we told him to come late every day."
Jerry Hairston Jr. singled to right to start the seventh. Brett Gardner pinch ran and went to third when Melky Cabrera singled to right on a hit-and-run. Jorge Posada pinch hit for Jose Molina, Manuel brought in Chan Ho Park and Posada lined a single to center to make it 3-1.
The inning abruptly turned moments later, though. Jeter struck out when he bunted foul on an 0-and-2 pitch. "That was me,'' he said of his decision. "That was stupid.''
Then Johnny Damon lined a shot toward first baseman Howard that he gloved close to the ground before throwing the ball to Rollins near second base. He tagged Posada, who was on the bag clapping his hands. But it was ruled that Howard caught the ball before it touched the ground, so when Rollins tagged Posada, it became a double play. After Girardi argued the call, the umpires conferred, then upheld it.
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