Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Utley Powers Phils Back to New York

New York Yankees v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 5

Facing elimination, the Phillies came out swinging last night to keep their World Series Championship hopes alive. Chase Utley got them jump started with a 3-run homer in the first inning and then added a World Series record tying 5th home run later in the game, but the Phillies had to endure drama to fend off the Yankees to preserve the 8-6 win. Cliff Lee kept the Yankees in check most of the game to run his post season record to 4-0. The teams now head back to New York with the Yankees leading the series 3-2.

What had been an 8-2 lead, shrank to 8-6 as the Yankees scored three in the 8th and one in the 9th before Ryan Madson struck out slugger Mark Teixeira to end the game. Jorge Posada led off the inning with a double high off the wall in right-center and then pinch hitter Hideki Matsui bounced a single to left to put the tying run at the plate with the top of the order coming up. Madson battled to get Derek Jeter to ground into a double play that was perfectly executed by Jimmy Rollins and Utley. Matsui came home on the play and then Johnny Damon kept the game alive with a single. Once again, the tying run came to plate in the form of Teixeira, but Madson got him to swing over a diving change-up to end the game.

For the first 7 innings, it was pretty much all Phillies as they mounted a 6 run lead. Utley accounted for 3 runs in the opening frame, and the team rallied again in the 3rd to chase starter AJ Burnett. Utley walked and stole second before Howard drew another walk. Jayson Werth then smacked a liner to center to score one run and Raul Ibanez followed with a single to right to score Howard. Werth came across on a fielder's choice to extend the lead to 6-1.

After the Yankees scratched out a run in the 5th that probably could have been avoided with good fundamentals, the Phillies added two more runs in the 7th on a pair of solo home runs. Utley launched his second home run of the game into the right field seats, giving him a National League record and tying Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a series. Two outs later, Ibanez launched a tape measure shot off the facing of the upper deck in right to make it 8-2.

At that point, Charlie Manuel decided to insert Ben Francisco for Shane Victorino, who had a swollen finger from a fast ball fired at him by Burnett in the first. Victorino was confused by the switch, figuring that Manuel meant to replace Ibanez, but that was not the case. The move was looking very dubious when the Yankees rallied for 3 runs in the 8th inning, particularly since Ibanez and Francisco played roles. First, A-Rod's 2-run double to left bounced off Ibanez's glove and most likely would have been caught by the faster Francisco. Then, Rodriquez scored on a short sacrifice fly to center as Francisco hesitated and followed with an off target throw. Again, it is likely that A-Rod would not even have tried to score on Victorino.

Lee was not as sharp as he has been in previous post season games, but still pitched well. He lasted into the 8th inning and was charged with all 5 runs- a number that belies the true quality of his outing. Howard could have prevented the 2nd Yankees run by looking the runner on 3rd back and tagging the batter, but instead ran back to tag first on a ground ball. In the 8th, besides the aforementioned plays, Damon reached on an infield chopper as Rollins could not get the ball out of his glove.

Chan Ho Park relieved Lee in the 8th and turned in an excellent performance to escape further trouble. He set down three hitters in a row with Phillies fans starting to get very nervous.

Manuel was not done making decisions that could be second guessed, though. In the bottom half of the 8th, Carlos Ruiz led off with a single, but the Phillies skipper elected to pull Park for pinch hitter Matt Stairs rather than bunt, who promptly bounced into a double play. An insurance run would have been big and a strong argument could have been made to send the veteran Park back out for the 9th.

A game that the Phillies seized and then controlled most of the night, ended in high drama with memories of the previous night still fresh in everyone's mind. Although Manuel had Scott Eyre, Brett Myers and Brad Lidge all warming up in the bullpen, it seemed apparent that he was going to let everything ride on Madson. After the game, Manuel told reporters that he wanted to give Lidge a break. Hind sight notwithstanding, this was probably the right call because Lidge had the enormous added burden of the Game 4 loss.

Once again, the Phillies demonstrated the resiliency that many have attributed to the team. Despite a very disappointing loss one night earlier, they came to the ball park prepared to attack and win, rather than fret about the past or play not to lose. Although the scenario in Citizen's Bank Park did not go as they had hoped this weekend, the Phillies were able to secure a victory in a true "must win" game. And, it now gives this talented group of gamers an opportunity to return the favor by going to New York and winning a couple games in the Yankees own house.

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