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Utley Provides Power as Phillies Hold Off Yankees to Force Game 6

Nick PoustCorrespondent IINovember 3, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a 3-run home run in the bottom of the first inning against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, their $82 million man, shut down the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Two of the World Series.

His fastball was lively, and his off-speed pitches had their bite, sharpness, and were perfectly located. He tossed seven stellar innings, allowing just one run on four hits, walking one while striking out nine.

Manager Joe Girardi hoped for a repeat performance in Game 6, choosing him in the potential World Series-winning game on only three-days rest.

The 32-year-old right-hander could not baffle the Phillies once more. Instead, he was erratic, clearly off his game on short rest. His fastball was grooved and though his curveball and changeup had some movement, they were poorly placed. From the onset, Philadelphia, needing a win to live another day, wasn’t fooled.

By the beginning of the bottom of the first, the Phillies were already behind by one, but the deficit didn’t last long. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins singled to end a six-pitch battle, and then Shane “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino painfully reached after getting hit squarely on the hand by a first-pitch fastball by Burnett. The trainer came out to check on their energetic center fielder, who shook off the sure-fire bone bruise, if not a break, and took his base.

Burnett missed his location by three feet against Victorino, and two feet with his first pitch to Chase Utley.

Utley hit two home-runs off CC Sabathia in Game One, and another off the hefty left-hander in Game Four. The second-baseman who hit 31 home runs during the regular season kept on hitting the long ball, crushing an inside fastball that was meant to be outside that didn’t get inside enough deep into the left-field seats.

The fan who caught the souvenir thrust his arms in the air, and the other 46,177 spectators waving their rally towels followed suit in celebration of Utley’s three-run blast.

Phillies ace Cliff Lee, who tossed a complete game in the series opener, had a two-run lead with which to work. He wasn’t at his best, as his first inning indicated, but was certainly much better than his counterpart. He settled down after allowing a single, double, and a walk in the opening frame, shutting down the Yankees in both the second and third, then in the latter innings after his offense knocked around Burnett some more.

Burnett walked Utley to start the third inning, missing with five fastballs, but given a generous call on an outside offering. He was all over the place, unable to hit his spots. This happened periodically during the year, and he picked a bad time for his wildness to resurface.

Utley stole second and Ryan Howard watched three curveballs miss badly, the pitch that worked wonders for Burnett in Game Two, to work the fourth walk issued by Yankee.

Burnett actually managed to get ahead in the count to the next hitter, Jayson Werth, but a hanging curveball added to his misery, as the Phillie with seven homers this postseason socked a RBI-single to center.

Raul Ibanez then tried the left side of the field, ringing a single to Johnny Damon, scoring a hustling Howard from second. That lifeless fastball was Burnett’s final pitch. Of the 15 batters he faced over the two-plus innings, nine reached.

While Burnett, whose two-plus innings worth featured six runs on four hits, and four walks, settled into his seat in the eerily silent Yankees dugout.

Lee mowed down the Yankees through the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh before running into Burnett-like trouble in the eighth. He allowed a lone run in the fifth, which was countered by Utley’s fifth homer of the series that ended a seven-pitch battle and Ibanez’s first, both coming off New York’s third reliever, Phil Coke, in the seventh. So, he took a 8-2 advantage heading to the eighth.

The way he was pitching, the game could presumably be considered well in hand, but the Yankees didn’t back down. The second, third, and fourth-hitters in New York’s lineup–Damon, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez–reached with a single and two doubles.

The second double pushed across Damon and sent Lee to the dugout amidst cheers from the fans appreciating his outstanding effort. His relief, Chan Ho Park, had a pretty outstanding effort of his own as Lee waited nervously behind the dugout railing.

Park, who has been brilliant throughout this postseason, was once more, limiting the damage, allowing just a sacrifice fly in his inning of work. Philadelphia held a four-run lead entering the ninth.

Closer Brad Lidge, who allowed three runs in Game Five, would presumably be summoned to pitch the ninth in an attempt to close the door and send the series back to New York.

He wasn’t warming up, though. Ryan Madson, their stellar middle reliever, was instead. He took the hill, and instead of making manager Charlie Manuel’s decision pay immediate dividends, he harnessed his inner Lidge.

Jorge Posada nailed a 3-1 fastball to begin the frame off the top of the wall in right-center field for a double. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, seeing as the Yankees needed three runs, but it was a bad start in his attempt to close out the game considering pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui was due next, followed top of their very dangerous order.

Matsui, making the most of his final at-bats as a Yankee, singled through the left-side to bring the tying run to the plate.

First and third, with nobody out, and Derek Jeter was the batter. Throughout his illustrious career, he has relished in these situations, giving him the appropriate nickname "Captain Clutch."

Madson fell behind his third straight hitter before Jeter did something that entirely caught me off guard. He hit a grounder to Rollins, who then flung it to Utley “covering” second base (he pulled off the neighborhood play), who then fired to Ryan Howard, who was actually on the base, to retire Jeter. It was a double play. Who would have thought Jeter would be the rally-killer?

Damon followed with a two-out hit in the now 8-6 game to keep the rally alive. But it was the Phillies who would stay alive in the series, as the Yankees' last hope, Teixeira, took a called strike and then swung through two changeups, allowing all of Philadelphia to celebrate.

The Phillies, with solid pitching by Lee, a good recovery by Madson, and the power display by Utley, are headed to the Bronx, living to see another day in a series the Yankees desperately wanted to end in Philly.

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