Home MLB Phillies hold off late Yankee rally to win Game Five

Phillies hold off late Yankee rally to win Game Five

by Matt Smith

world-series2009The Philadelphia Phillies held off a characteristic late rally by the New York Yankees to win Game Five of the 2009 World Series by a score of 8-6 in the early hours of this morning. 

The Phillies jumped on Yankee starter A.J. Burnett, sending him to the showers after just two innings and with six earned runs against his name, and then added on two more runs in the seventh inning.  The importance of the solo home runs by Chase Utley, who hit two homers in a game for the second time in the series, and Raul Ibanez quickly became apparent as the Yankees scored three runs against Cliff Lee in the seventh to draw to within three runs of the Phillies at 8-5.  Jorge Posada and the pinch-hitting Hideki Matsui got on base to start the ninth inning against Ryan Madson; however, Derek Jeter grounded into a double play, scoring Posada from third, and the Phillies’ reliever struck out Mark Teixeira to end the game. 

While the importance of individual games can sometimes be overstated, this was a true ‘must win’ contest for the Phillies.  They were able to send the series back to the Bronx for Game Six on Wednesday night, where the odds will continue to favour the 3-2 series-leading Yankees.   The Phillies are still alive though, which means they are still in with a chance of winning back-to-back World Championships.

The decision to hold back Cliff Lee to start on normal rest for Game Five, rather than pitch him in Game Four, worked out well for the Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel.  Lee produced a workman-like performance, rather than the outstanding show delivered in Game One.  He gave up a run in the opening frame and didn’t look particularly sharp, but he battled through and gave his team a chance to win.  His counterpart A.J. Burnett did pitch on short rest and it was a disaster.  Possibly hindered slightly by a tight strike zone, Burnett didn’t have command of his fastball and his curve was more a weak looper than the ‘snap dragon’ that was so effective for him in Game Two. 

The early one-run advantage presented to Burnett was soon thrown away in the bottom of the inning on the back of three straight fastballs.  The first was thrown right down the middle of the plate to lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins on a 1-2 count and the shortstop singled it into centre field.  The second got away from Burnett and hit Shane Victorino, a blow that left the centre fielder shaking his hand for the rest of the game until he was replaced by Ben Francisco in the eighth inning.  The third was another fastball down the middle to Chase Utley, which the hot-hitter dismissively smashed into the right-field seats for a three-run homer.  Burnett was able to get through the second inning by giving up just a walk to Rollins, but two walks and two singles to start the third inning was more than Yankee manager Joe Girardi needed to see and the frustrated Burnett could do little else but hang his head while sitting alone in the dugout.

The Yankee starter took the loss, but his teammates nearly got him off the hook and proved once again that they are never out of a game.  The solo homers by Utley and Ibanez in the bottom of the seventh inning were celebrated by the Citizens Bank Park crowd as symbols of a comprehensive victory, rather than much-needed insurance against a World Series-winning late smash-and-grab by their opponents.  They should have known better after Game Four and, sure enough, their nerves were jangling in the ninth inning.  Ryan Madson pitched it instead of Brad Lidge after the latter’s losing escapades of the previous night, but he was far from convincing either.  Even when Jeter grounded into a double-play to leave the Phillies needing just one more out, Johnny Damon kept the Phillies on edge with a single that brought the game-tying run to the plate.  The subsequent strikeout of Teixeira was met more with relief than jubilation.  In just an inning and a half, Utley and Ibanez’s homers had turned from mere decoration to being the two decisive runs in an 8-6 win.  Still, we really shouldn’t have expected anything else from this thrilling World Series. 

GamedayAudio to the rescue

The game was a little different for me as MLB.tv became too jumpy to watch, after working pretty much flawlessly for the first four games.  I switched to the radio feeds and immediately wished I had started with them in the first place.  That’s not so much a knock against FOX’s coverage, although I can see why some are critical of their announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but a reflection of how much I enjoy listening to radio commentary of ballgames (just as I prefer listening to cricket games).  It’s something I’ve written about in the past and I don’t know why I automatically turn to the TV footage.  I guess I’m a product of these visual-dominated times.

Anyway, the GamedayAudio service on MLB.com allows you to pick the home or road feed.  In either case, you are listening to the team’s local coverage so naturally they are a little biased towards their respective team.  I don’t mind that, in fact it brings some extra emotion to the broadcast, so long as the commentators are fair to the other side as well.  Thankfully, the Phillies commentators on WPHT did give credit to the Yankees where deserved, whilst displaying plenty of passion and humour. My favourite moment came in the seventh inning.  Already annoyed at Jorge Posada’s delaying tactics at the plate, the commentators were delighted when Cliff Lee struck him out after the Yankee catcher’s latest call for time was ignored.  “Sit down!”, gleefully ordered one of the commentators as Posada presumably muttered away to the home plate umpire. 

Although I’m not going to be able to stay up and follow the whole of Game Six live, I’ll set my alarm clock and switch on the WPHT coverage for the final hour or so.  Extra innings would leave me lacking sleep, but I’m sure it would be worth it.  This series started off well and just gets better and better. 

(P.S. my notes on Game Six and – if needed – Game Seven will be delayed until the evening after each game).

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Kathleen November 3, 2009 - 1:55 pm

Found your piece on Twitter. Really enjoyed reading your coverage here. I’m a huge Phillies fan and admit I couldn’t take watching the ninth inning so went our for an anxious walk in the moonlight, calling out to the gods to let the Phils come through.

How about a piece on Utley sometime – is he truly the best player in MLB?

Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Matt Smith November 3, 2009 - 4:30 pm

Hi Kathleen. Thanks for commenting. I think Utley has got to be in the mix and it’s great that he’s showing what he can do on the biggest stage of all. It’s amazing how some players can seem to go under the radar, or at least be under appreciated. If you were building a team from scratch, he’d be one of the position players you would want to build around.

Maybe I’ll do a few player profiles over the offseason?!

Joe Gray November 3, 2009 - 6:49 pm

Having not followed the game live, I typed “www.mlb.com” into the address bar this morning and pleaded with the screen to not show me a photo of Jeter hugging A-Rod under a shower of bubbly. I got my wish, and thus on the series goes.

If it goes to game seven, I’m going to need to do some sleep pattern reconfiguration.

Joe Gray November 3, 2009 - 7:20 pm

I should add that I go to mlb.com purely to get the score. I wait for your game review.

Matt Smith November 3, 2009 - 7:59 pm

I know I can count on you, Joe!

As noted, I’ve used up my live game quota for this World Series, but I’ve enjoyed the first five so much that I want to listen to how the remaining game(s) ends live if possible. I figure that I can try to get to sleep an hour or so earlier and set the alarm for about 03.30. That should leave the last 3 innings or so, judged on how they’ve gone so far, and then I’ll get what sleep I can when the game finishes . Might have to set my alarm clock AND mobile phone alarm just in case!

Joe Gray November 3, 2009 - 8:18 pm

My alarm has a special slider you can use to make the buzzer extra loud, and they’ve not held back on the decibels.

This is precisely the situation where you need to bring this kind of feature into play. I’m not sure my neighbours will thank me though.

Matt Smith November 3, 2009 - 9:14 pm

I guess explaining to your neighbours that “it’s the World Series” won’t help matters!

Chico November 4, 2009 - 9:53 pm

Should be a good one tonight. Go Phils!

Matt Smith November 5, 2009 - 7:12 am

So, the Yankees completed their 27th World series win earlier this morning with a 7-3 victory. I’ll be posting some thoughts about it in the evening.

Joe Gray November 5, 2009 - 8:27 am

I’m glad I decided to shift my sleep reconfiguration plans to game six, although I’m obviously sad to not see a game 7. My alarm did the trick, and once I’d stirred my computer from its state of hibernation on my bedside table the first commentary I heard was the Phillies having the tieing run at the plate in the top of the 4th. I decided to call it a night after Matsui’s 2-run double in the 6th.


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