Thursday, November 5, 2009

Godzilla Delivers 27

After nine long years, it's just as sweet as I remember.

And hearing the words, "New York Yankees, World Champions," doesn't ever get tiring, either.

Hideki Matsui, the series MVP, homered and drove in six runs, Andy Pettitte gutted out 5-2/3 innings on short rest, and Mariano Rivera was where he belong, closing out the deciding game of the World Series as the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 Wednesday at Yankee Stadium to win world championship No. 27. It is their first championship since beating the Mets in 2000.

Yes, Yankees fans, as we woke up this morning, we woke up knowing that Hell, which had frozen over when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and again in '07, has thawed out and that world is once again back to normal with the Yankees once again ruling the baseball universe.


But this game will likely go down as the Godzilla Game because of Matsui's performance. His six RBI tied Bobby Richardson in 1960 for most in a World Series game. Richardson, however, did it in a series the Yankees lost to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski's homer. Matsui did it the deciding game of a championship.

Just as Reggie Jackson's three-homer game in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series is his biggest Yankee moment, Wednesday's game will forever be Godzilla's biggest moment.

We just don't know if it will his last moment.

Matsui will be a free agent and the Yankees face a tough decision. This performance and this World Series (.615, 3 HRs, 8 RBI) only makes that decision tougher.

He is still a tremendously productive hitter, but his body is breaking down. He played the entire season as DH, but still needed to have his knees drained twice.

The head says bringing Matsui back could result only in diminishing returns and possibly a bad contract.

The heart says, he needs to finish his career in Pinstripes.

For seven years, he's been a perfect Yankee: unassuming, productive when healthy, clutch, well-liked, never in trouble. He would have been a perfect fit on the dynasty teams and of the Yankees not part of the Core 4 of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Rivera and Pettitte, there was no one more deserving of a world championship.

He put the Yankees on his back Wednesday and got that championship.

It was clear from the start that the Man Who Would Be King, Phillies starter Pedro Martinez just did not have it. In a 13-pitch first inning, the three nothing back changeups and sliders. Not one fastball.

And when a pitcher who features a changeup is afraid or won't throw his fastball, that spells trouble. The changeup is only effective if a pitcher has a good fastball and keep hitters offbalance. Pedro, on this night though, didn't have a good fastball.

He finally threw one to Alex Rodriguez on ball four leading off the second. That heater lacked heat, measuring just 86 mph, according to mlb.com's Gameday.

And with a runner on base, Pedro was in trouble. He couldn't afford to fall behind, which meant he was forced to use that weak fastball more.

And that spelled trouble against Matsui, who had hit the go-ahead homer off Pedro in Game 2.

Matsui worked Pedro through an eight-pitch at-bat, taking the count full and fouling off pitches as he seemingly was measuring up Pedro, get down his timing.

And on the eighth pitch, Matsui timed an 89 mph fastball just right, turing on it and blasting it into the short portch in right to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Pedro got through the inning with anymore damage, but found trouble again in the third as Jeter hit a one-out single before Pedro's control deserted him and he walked Johnny Damon hit Mark Teixeira.

Pedro managed to strikeout A-Rod, but that should have been it for him. He had nothing and Matsui was locked in on his pitches. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is similar to Joe Torre. He trusts his players and uses his gut.

He trusted Pedro too much.

Matsui fell behind 0-and-2, but then jumped on a 90 mph fastball and lined it to single to bring in two more runs and make it 4-1. However, Damon strained his calf on the play and had to come out of the game, replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr.

Pedro would get through the fourth, but was done after that, giving the Phillies a disappointing performance. He allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in four innings. He struck out five and threw 46 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Matsui, however, wasn't done as the Yankees blew the game open in the fifth.

Chad Durbin replaced Pedro and surrendered a leadoff double to Jeter, who legitimately could have been named World Series MVP after going 11-for-27 (.407) with five runs.

Hairston followed with a sacrifice and Teixeira brought in Jeter with a single to make it 5-1. A-Rod, who can no longer be called an unclutch and selfish player after hitting .365 with six homers and 18 RBI this postseason, drew a walk to knock out Durbin, who was replaced by lefthander J.A. Happ.

The lefty-lefty move, however, did not work out for the Phillies as Matsui jumped on a 2-and-2 slider and crushed it to the wall in right for a two-run double to give the Yankees an insurmountable 7-1 lead.

But what was most important about Matsui performance was that it took all the pressure off Pettitte, who was pitching on three days' rest for the first time in four years.

And because Pettitte is an older player, there were questions by some, such WFAN'S Mike Francesa, about how he would hold up physically. Would he be able to get the job done?

The answer was a resounding yes!

No, Pettitte did not have his best stuff. His breaking ball was rolling, this cutter not sharp, his fastball lucking to touch 90 mph and his control wasn't precise.

But Pettitte is a champion. He's a competitor and he knows how to make pitches on guts and guile.

And most importantly he knows how to win.

He allowed a run in the third as Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out triple and scored on Jimmy Rollins' sacrifice fly to right to make it 2-1.

Pettitte got through the next two innings before finally running out of gas in the sixth. Had the Yankees not scored three runs in the fifth, Joe Girardi might not have sent Pettitte back out there, but with a six-run lead, Girardi made the right decision. With that large of a cushion, every out Pettitte could get would be huge.

Pettitte got Shane Victorino to ground out to start the sixth, but he walked Chase Utley before throw a first-pitch slider that hung a bit over the outside corner for Ryan Howard to muscle over the wall in left to cut the lead to 7-3.

Pettitte came back to strike out Jayson Werth, who had homered twice of Pettitte in Game 3, but when he allowed a double to Raul Ibanez after that, Pettitte's gutty night was done.

He allowed three runs on four hits and five walks, striking out three and throwing 50 of 94 pitches for strikes. The result was postseason win No. 18, series clinching win No. 7, World Series clinching win No. 2 and World Series ring No. 5.

Pettitte also will be a free agent, but for the past several years, he has been considering retirment. Clearly, he still can pitch well, the question is whether he has the desire. If he does decide to walk away, Pettitte could not have produced a better farewell start.

Joba Chamberlain finished the inning by getting Pedro Feliz to ground out before getting two more outs in the seventh, be leaving with runners on first and second.

Girardi then turned to the hero of the bullpen this postseason, Damaso Marte. Who would have ever thought that would happen?

The guy wasn't good when the Yankees traded for him and Xavier Nady last year. He injured most of this year and largely ineffective, and for the most part, the trade was looking like a major bust.

But Marte was everything the Yankees were dreaming of in the playoffs. After a rough first appearance in the ALDS in which he allowed two hits with out recording an out, he's been untouchable, recording 12 straight outs with five strikeouts.

In the World Series, he ended up goin 2-2/3 perfect inning, mostly facing the heart of the Phillies order in Utley and Howard.

He was impressive. And that certainly was the case in Game 6 as he struck Utley on three pitches to end the seventh and then needed just three more pitches in the eighth to whiff Howard, who struck out a World Series record 13 times.

And with five out remaining, Girardi didn't mess around. It was time to go to Mo.

Early in the postseason, Girardi butchered his bullpen, overmanaging by mixing and matching when he really didn't need to.

But as this World Series wore on, Girardi settle down. The pitching changes grew less frequent as Marte was able to get into a rhythm and Joba as able to regain some effectiveness.

The thing is, he is now a World Series-winning manager. He owns this town now and he can expect and should receive a fat contract extension. He's grown tremendously since he took the job and has proven himself.

Is he perfect? No. He has made mistakes and he will make more going forward. But that happens to every manager. The thing is that he is a smart man and he does learn.

He is due a lot of credit.

But with Mo on the mound, the Series was all but over. Mariano is unlike any closer in the game today. Nothing rattles him and he knows how to pitch for more than one inning.

This was not a save situation, but in a game this big, there was no need to wait to bring him in. This was the moment to close the door on the Phillies and secure this World Series title.

He allowed a double to Ibanez with two outs in the eighth and a walk to Ruiz in the ninth, but nothing was going to stop him from closing the door, getting Victorino to ground out to Robinson Cano to start the celebration.

And so, the inaugural season of the new Yankee Stadium ends just like the first season of the original Yankee Stadium ended in 1923 -- with a World Series Championship.

Let hope that's a sign that this stadium will hold at least as many championships and memorable moments.

Runners In Scoring Position
World Series
13-for-43 (.302)
Game 6
3-for-8 (.375)
Game 5
2-for-8 (.250)
Game 4
4-for-11 (.364)
Game 3
3-for-7 (.429)
Game 2
1-for-5 (.200)
Game 1
0-for-4 (.000)
ALCS
12-for-64 (.188)
ALDS
6-for-17 (.353)
Regular Season
419-for-1,543 (.272)

Up Next
Friday, Parade down the Canyon of Hero, YES and local TV
Followed by Pitchers and Catchers in February and the start of the Quest for No. 28

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Howdy Aviv, are you coming to town tomorrow? I work right off the Canyon of Heros so possibly could meet up. Karru

Aviv said...

Nope, working tonight, won't be home until 2:30 a.m., so getting up early not happening. Too bad they couldn't have closed it out Monday because then I'd have been there with Jack.

Anonymous said...

Parade was pretty intense, just like the fans. People were lined up already at 6:30 a.m. while I was walking to work. I might be crazy but that is nuts. Especially since the YES Network was carrying the whole thing anyways. km