Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phillies Fall Short in Quest to Repeat

Shane Victorino battled Mariano Rivera for ten pitches, before finally grounding out to end the game and the Phillies dream of repeating last year's World Series Championship. Instead, it was the media darling New York Yankees who hoisted the trophy at the end of the evening. Victorino's struggle to keep the Phillies' hopes alive mirrored the team's tenacity and fighting spirit despite an uphill struggle.

Last night the Yankees seized an early lead and never let go similar to the Phillies in Game 5. The much anticipated pitching duel between two accomplished veterans never really materialized, although Andy Pettitte had the best of it and battled to get the win. Pedro Martinez probably had his worst stuff since his late season return to baseball, lasting only four innings and getting torched again by Hideki Matsui.

It was unclear whether Martinez was bothered by the cold weather, not being in a regular regimen, lingering illness or all the above, but it was clear that he was not at his best from his initial pitch. In the first inning, his velocity was in the 70's to low 80's, but survived a couple hard hit balls to set the Yankees down in order. He walked A-Rod to open the second, and then after several hard hit foul balls, Matsui launched a home run down the right field line.

The Phillies countered in the third to cut the lead to 2-1 when Carlos Ruiz smacked a triple high off the center field wall and scored on Jimmy Rollins sacrifice fly. In the bottom half, though, it was Matsui inflicting more damage when he lined a two-out, two-run single to center to extend the Yankees lead to 4-1.

Chad Durbin came into pitch the 5th inning with Martinez struggling and the top of the order coming up. He quickly worked into trouble, yielding a double to Jeter, a single to Mark Teixeira and a walk to Rodriguez. Charlie Manuel opted for J.A. Happ to pitch to Matsui, who greeted him with a double off the center field wall to give the Yankees a 7-1 lead. This gave Matsui 6 RBI for the game, and was a large reason why he was later recognized with the MVP award.

Pitching on 3 days rest, Pettitte did not appear to have good stuff, walking 5 batters in his 5 2/3 innings of work as he nibbled at the corners, but the Phillies failed to capitalize. They finally chased him in the 6th inning after Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer to left and one out later Raul Ibanez doubled.

Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte worked through some trouble until Rivera was called in with one out in the 8th inning. The Phillies hit him hard, but were unable to break through, and Rivera was able to preserve the win 41 pitches later. When Teixeira caught the final out to end the game, Yankees players bounded into a celebratory pile.

The World Series victory gave the Yankees organization their 27th title in their storied history. Meanwhile, the Phillies passed the torched after making a gallant effort to be the first National League team in 33 years to repeat as champions. Needless to say, it was a very disappointing end to another great season by a truly remarkable Phillies team.

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