Yankees take on Halladay, Phillies
By the time Shane Victorino crossed first base, the celebration already had begun. Ball still in glove, Mark Teixeira raced toward the mound and soon became engulfed in a sea of pinstripes.
That was the last time the Phillies faced the Yankees in a game that meant something: Game 6 of the 2009 World Series. A game that ended with a Mariano Rivera-induced grounder and a flip from Robinson Cano to Teixeira. A game that, in the eyes of Yankees fans, restored order in the baseball universe with a 27th World Series championship.
Tuesday night, the Phillies return to Yankee Stadium, the scene of their disappointing defeat still fresh in their minds.
So much has changed - , for both teams - since that November night. After trailing Tampa Bay in the American League East for the first two months this season, the Yankees enter tonight's game tied for first place after a three-game sweep of the Astros pushed their June record to 9-3.
The Phillies, NL champs in 2008 and '09, have lost 14 of their last 20 games and dropped to third place in the NL East. The Phillies offense has been in a major slump, and other than Roy Halladay's perfect game against the Marlins on May 29 - the Phillies only scored one run in that game - there hasn't been too much to celebrate of late.
But the good news for the Phillies is that Halladay will be on the mound Tuesday for the start of a three-game series. The ace is 18-6 lifetime against the Yankees, who just can't seem to escape him. He was the epitome of AL dominance as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons. And now, he has the chance to derail the Yankees' hot June.
"He throws so many strikes in so many good locations, whether it's his sinker, whether it's his cutter, his curveball or his changeup, he doesn't miss spots," manager Joe Girardi said of Halladay (8-4, 1.96 ERA). "He's very economical. He knows how to pitch. He doesn't beat himself. Obviously he's been a great pitcher for a long time."
And there's no way to prepare for that caliber of pitcher, Jorge Posada said. "You really can't," the veteran catcher said. "He's going to throw everything. He throws everything for a strike. You have to find a way of really making him work. And that's the plan."
The Yankees will counter with CC Sabathia Tuesday night, followed by A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte - the same three-man rotation they used during last year's World Series. Sabathia (6-3,4.01 ERA) is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA in three career regular-season starts against the Phillies. He's 0-2 against them in the playoffs; he allowed five runs in 13 2/3 innings against them last year.
"Those are obviously our top three guys and Javy and Phil have been throwing great recently too," Brett Gardner said. "So no matter who we run out there, we have a chance to win."
The Phillies' early struggles have not dampened the anticipation surrounding the rematch. Sabathia vs. Halladay pits two of the game's elite.
"It's always tough," Gardner said of facing Halladay. "Hopefully we can bring a good approach to the table. He's a guy that throws strikes so we have to hit some balls hard and try to get them out of there."