The 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.Â
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.Â 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.Â 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 Philliesâ€™ reliever struck out Mark Teixeira to end the game.Â
While the importance of individual games can sometimes be overstated, this was a true â€˜must winâ€™ contest for the Phillies.Â 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.Â Â 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 Philliesâ€™ manager Charlie Manuel.Â Lee produced a workman-like performance, rather than the outstanding show delivered in Game One.Â He gave up a run in the opening frame and didnâ€™t look particularly sharp, but he battled through and gave his team a chance to win.Â His counterpart A.J. Burnett did pitch on short rest and it was a disaster.Â Possibly hindered slightly by a tight strike zone, Burnett didnâ€™t have command of his fastball and his curve was more a weak looper than the â€˜snap dragonâ€™ that was so effective for him in Game Two.Â
The early one-run advantage presented toÂ Burnett was soon thrown away in the bottom of the inning on the back of three straight fastballs.Â The first wasÂ thrown rightÂ 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â They should have known better after Game Four and, sure enough, their nerves were jangling in the ninth inning.Â Ryan Madson pitched it instead of Brad Lidge afterÂ the latter’sÂ losing escapades of the previous night, but he was far from convincing either.Â 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.Â The subsequent strikeout of Teixeira was met more with relief than jubilation.Â In just an inning and a half, Utley and Ibanezâ€™s homers had turned from mere decoration to being the two decisive runs in an 8-6 win.Â Still, we really shouldnâ€™t have expected anything else from this thrilling World Series.Â
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.Â I switched to the radio feeds and immediately wished I had started with them in the first place.Â Thatâ€™s not so much a knock against FOXâ€™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).Â Itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve written about in the past and I donâ€™t know why I automatically turn to the TV footage.Â I guess Iâ€™m a product of these visual-dominated times.
Anyway, the GamedayAudio service on MLB.com allows you to pick the home or road feed.Â In either case, you are listening to the teamâ€™s local coverage so naturally they are a little biased towards their respective team.Â I donâ€™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.Â 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.Â Already annoyed at Jorge Posadaâ€™s delaying tactics at the plate, the commentators were delighted when Cliff Lee struck him out after the Yankee catcherâ€™s latest call for time was ignored.Â â€œSit down!â€, gleefully ordered one of the commentators as Posada presumably muttered away to the home plate umpire.Â
Although Iâ€™m not going to be able to stay up and follow the whole of Game Six live, Iâ€™ll set my alarm clock and switch on the WPHT coverage for the final hour or so.Â Extra innings would leave me lacking sleep, but Iâ€™m sure it would be worth it.Â This series started off well and just gets better and better.Â
(P.S. my notes on Game Six and â€“ if needed â€“ Game Seven will be delayed until the evening after each game).