November 01, 2009

Andy Pettitte gave up more runs than he had in any of his first three starts this postseason but got them back by singling home the tying run and scoring the go-ahead tally.

On the mound, the Yankees starter was solid, though not spectacular, striking out seven and allowing four earned runs, five hits and three walks in six innings. But Pettitte's contributions with his bat and his legs made the difference, keying a three-run fifth inning, and the Yankees went on to defeat the Phillies 8-5 in Saturday night's rain-delayed World Series Game 3, giving New York the 2-1 lead.

Pettitte admitted that the 80-minute rain delay disrupted his pregame rhythm and that it was a "tough" night on the mound. "I can't remember winning a game where I've struggled like I did tonight," he said. "It's very gratifying to be able to go out there and just battle through it."

Prior to the game, the Yankees announced that, win or lose, they'd bring CC Sabathia back on three days' rest to start Sunday night's Game 4, set for an 8:20 p.m. (EST) start time. He'll oppose the Phillies' Joe Blanton, who won Game 4 in last year's World Series and got a no decision in Game 4 of this year's National League Championship Series.

Rightfielder Jayson Werth hit two home runs to provide half of Philadelphia's offense, but it wasn't enough against Pettitte, who improved to 17-9 in his postseason career and 4-4 in 12 World Series starts. The veteran lefty has been especially good this year, going 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in his four outings. Closer Mariano Rivera recorded the game's final two outs.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the fifth, Pettitte punched a soft single into centerfield to score Nick Swisher, who had doubled. For Pettitte, a regular-season .134 batter, it was his third hit and first RBI in 18 career postseason at bats.

"[With] runners in scoring position, I'm going to be a little bit more aggressive," he said. "I wasn't taking -- I just saw a ball up in the zone, so I'm not trying to hit a home run. I'm trying to slap the ball around, and fortunately enough I got a ball up in the zone, and I was able to slap it back up the middle."

Two batters later Johnny Damon turned on an inside fastball and powered it into the right-centerfield gap for a two-RBI double, scoring Pettitte and Derek Jeter to give New York a 5-3 lead it would not relinquish.

Philadelphia starter turned postseason reliever, J.A. Happ, a lefty, was summoned to face Rodriguez but got him to flyout. Jorge Posada batted next and popped out to second on a 3-0 pitch, stranding two runners on base.

Among the insurance runs were solo homers from New York's Swisher and Hideki Matsui. Alex Rodriguez also homered in the fourth, driving home Mark Teixeria, who had walked. A-Rod's blast was the Yankees' first hit and first two runs off Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who has been unable to repeat his sensational 2008 postseason which culminated in a World Series MVP award.

The pundits calling for more use of instant replay got a demonstration of its effectiveness on A-Rod's homer, a low liner to rightfield. The ball bounced back onto the field of play and was thought to have hit off the top of the wall, but the umps consulted the replay, which showed that the baseball caromed off a TV camera beyond the wall. That was the first time replay has been used in a playoff game.

Pettitte was particularly tough on Philadelphia's three power-hitting lefties, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibañez, who were 0-for-9 with six strikeouts against Pettitte.

"I couldn't put the ball where I wanted to," Pettitte said. "I wasn't getting it down and away consistently like I wanted to, and I wasn't able to throw my curveball for strikes. It was an absolute grind tonight, that's for sure."

Hamels noted earlier in the week his difficulties in putting away hitters after getting two strikes -- he yielded 79 two-strike hits, second-most in the NL -- had no such trouble for the first 3 1/3 innings of Game 3, retiring the first four hitters that went to two strikes. But the fourth inning started to slip away from him when he started Teixeira with a 1-2 count, then threw three balls to walk him. Rodriguez homered on an 0-1 fastball.

"I think at times he gets a little upset with himself," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, "but as far as his mental toughness, this guy, he's mentally tough."

Werth led off two innings with homers, the first to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead and later to cut the deficit to 6-4. After the second blast, estimated at 445 feet, Werth watched the ball descend into leftfield's upper deck, then slammed his bat into the home-plate circle as a rallying cry to his teammates.

In the second Pettitte kept his full-count slider down in the zone, but Werth reached down and crushed a homer to leftfield. Werth hit the sixth pitch of the at bat out of the park. A patient hitter, he led the majors in seeing 4.51 pitches per plate appearance this season.

The home runs were Werth's sixth and seventh of this postseason and extended his team record to 11.

The second inning continued with a Pedro Feliz double off the rightfield wall, a walk to Carlos Ruiz and a perfect sacrifice attempt that turned into a bunt single for Hamels. Then two more runs came in on a walk to Jimmy Rollins and a Shane Victorino sacrifice fly.

Ruiz added a solo homer in the ninth off reliever Phil Hughes, prompting Yankees manager Joe Girardi to bring in Rivera for the final two outs, burdensome work with games in three consecutive nights for the first time this postseason. Though his bullpen management was on point in Game 3, Girardi has been routinely second-guessed on his use of the relievers this postseason and grew testy in response to a simple question asking him to walk through his decision-making process. He finished his short answer by tersely asking the reporter, "Is that enough?"

Pettitte's plodding pace, with prolonged pauses between pitches and pickoff attempts a plenty, practically teased the rain to return. He labored in those early innings, throwing 51 pitches through two.

The tarp was rolled onto the field after a sudden burst of rain 30 minutes before the first pitch started soaking the field. A few more bands of heavy, but brief, rain fell, leading to the long delay, before the first pitch at 9:17 on a mild night of 63 degrees. The delay more than nullified the hour of rest everyone would gain from Daylight Savings Time.

The cast members of Glee sang the national anthem, as more than 100 military personnel unfurled a gigantic flag spanning most of the outfield. Phillies legend Mike Schmidt threw out the first pitch in front of the largest World Series crowd (46,061), in Citizens Bank Park's two years of hosting the event.

The Phillies won last year's Game 3, which also was played on a Saturday night following a rain delay, winning on a Ruiz walkoff single in the ninth.

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