November 02, 2009

Mr. October is taken. So is Mr. November. Chase Utley will have to settle for a historic hot streak that has helped push the World Series to a Game 6 for the first time in six years.

Yes, the World Series is going back to New York. Utley, and to a lesser extent, Cliff Lee, made sure of that.

Just as they did in Game 1, the Phillies stars who combined to lead Philadelphia to its only other win of this Series teamed up again to help beat the New York Yankees 8-6 in Game 5 at Citizen's Bank Park on Monday night, forcing a Game 6 at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.

Utley provided the power, smashing two more home runs to match the World Series record of five set by Reggie Jackson in 1977. Lee provided the pitching, tossing seven outstanding innings before being hit hard in the eighth with the Phillies already comfortably in front.

"I don't think my command was as good as it has been," said Lee. "It was a little off. It was a game where I had to battle a little bit. Fortunately we scored a lot of runs and made things easier."

That they did, thanks mostly to Utley, who keeps joining the ranks of some of the game's brightest postseason stars. His two home runs in Game 1 off Yankees starter CC Sabathia made him the first left-handed hitter since Babe Ruth to homer twice in a World Series game off a left-handed pitcher. With his two homers on Monday, he joined Jackson as the only players to hit five home runs in a World Series. Jackson, who has been spotted at both ballparks throughout the Series, hit his final three in 1977 in the Yankees' clinching Game 6 win against the Dodgers. In this year's Game 6, Utley will have a chance to break that record at the brand-new Yankee Stadium while the Yankees try to win their first championship in their new home ballpark.

"Obviously, it's great company," Utley said. "At some point, not right now, maybe I'll look back on it and see what kind of special moment it is. But right now, our goal is to win two more games."

Utley's impressive display included a a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Phillies the lead and a solo shot in the seventh to pad their cushion. It may not earn him a monthly moniker -- Mr. October is Jackson, who won two World Series MVP awards, while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is known as Mr. November for a walk-off home run he hit in the 2001 World Series in the first major league game ever played in the month -- but it did ensure Utley a place in the game's pantheon. It also means that the 2009 season would at least match 2001, which was interrupted by the terrorist attacks, for the latest date a baseball season has ever ended.

Jeter, meanwhile, had a chance to live up to his nickname in the ninth inning when he came to the plate as the tying run against Ryan Madson, who had allowed a Jorge Posada double and Hideki Matsui single. But Madson got Jeter to bounce into a double play. Johnny Damon singled to right field to keep the game alive, but Mark Teixeira struck out for the final out of the game.

The Yankees remain one win away from clinching their record 27th World Series crown, and first in nine years.

They decided to start A.J. Burnett on three day's rest against Lee, his fellow Arkansan. The Phillies had elected not to pitch Lee on short rest for the first time in his career in Game 4 and wound up falling into a 3-games-to-1 hole after losing 7-4. On full rest in Game 5, Lee was not nearly as brilliant as in his Game 1 gem, when he allowed no earned runs while striking out 10 and walking nine, but he did enough to improve to 4-0 this postseason.

Utley, meanwhile, used his patented short swing to line two more balls into the short porch in right field. The first came just three batters into the game, when he took Burnett deep for a three-run shot that put the Phillies in front; the second came off Yankees reliever Phil Coke. Utley became only the second player in World Series history to have two multi-home run games in the same series, a feat first performed by Kansas City's Willie Aiken in 1980.

That season, the Phillies won their first World Series title. They won their second just last season, led in part by Utley, who batted .429 with one home run against the Rays, and are still alive in their quest to become baseball's first repeat World Series champion since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.

After being kept scoreless for the first eight innings of Game 1 against Lee, the Yankees wasted no time denting him in Game 5. Alex Rodriguez, whose double in the ninth inning of Game 4 scored Damon with the go-ahead run, repeated the feat in the first inning, lining a double inside the first base line to bring home Damon, who had singled with one out. It was Rodriguez's 16th RBI of the postseason, setting a new single-season franchise record.

The Phillies answered back immediately in the bottom of the first against Burnett, who entered the game 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA on three days' rest in his career. Jimmy Rollins singled, Shane Victorino was hit on the hand attempting to bunt -- at first he said he feared it was broken, but afterward he said it was fine -- and Utley followed by crushing Burnett's first pitch, a belt-high fastball, into the right-field stands.

Two innings later, Utley started the rally against Burnett that knocked him from the game by drawing a leadoff walk. Ryan Howard followed with another before Jayson Werth lined a single past Burnett into center to score Utley. Raul Ibanez hit still another single to drive in Howard and force Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pull Burnett, who allowed four hits in two-plus innings and was charged with six earned runs.

Girardi said the short rest was not likely a factor in Burnett's struggles, and Burnett himself had said he felt good going into his start. But his performance, the shortest by a starter for either team in this postseason, seemed to indicate otherwise.

""If we would have pitched today, we probably would have won," said Girardi. "That's the bottom line. A.J. struggled today. He felt good he just struggled."

Lee had no such problems for most of the night. Staked to a comfortable lead, Lee resumed his brilliant pitching by shutting down the Yankees with an array of perfectly placed fastballs and dancing changeups. Though not as overpowering as he was in Game 1, Lee cruised into the eighth inning allowing just two hits between the second and seventh. But in the eighth the Yankees finally did some damage, getting a single by Damon a double from Teixeira and a two-run double from Rodriguez that hit the glove of a diving Ibanez in left field.

Chan Ho Park came in to relieve Lee after he had thrown 112 pitches. Rodriguez came around to score on a sacrifice fly, but Park didn't allow any baserunners.

After the game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel did not say whether Lee would be available to pitch in a potential Game 7.

"What's that old saying? 'Spahn and Sain and pray for rain?'" he said, recalling a famous line about the Braves' aces of the late 1940s. [We] got an off-day tomorrow, maybe it'll rain the next day."

Weather conditions in New York for Wednesday are for cool temperatures and only 10 percent chance of rain, but there is a 50 percent chance of rain on Thursday, the day of a possible Game 7. Pedro Martinez will start Game 6 for the Phillies. The Yankees have not announced their starter yet.

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