November 04, 2009

NEW YORK -- The Yankees christened the first season in their new ballpark the same way they opened their old stadium in 1923: with a World Series championship.

Hideki Matsui's record night powered the offense, Andy Pettitte held Philadelphia's offense in check and Derek Jeter started a pair of key rallies with base hits, as the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 to win their 27th title and first since 2000, a relatively long drought by this storied franchise's standards (BOX SCORE).

Matsui was named the World Series MVP after batting .615 with three home runs, the second designated hitter to be so honored.

"Winning the championship is such a great feeling," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I guess you can say that this is the best moment of my life right now."

Jeter, Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada are veterans of the Yankees' run of four championships in five years from 1996-2000. Also part of those teams, of course, was closer Mariano Rivera, who pitched 1 2/3 innings to finish Wednesday night's Game 6. It was the fourth time Rivera has recorded the last out of the World Series, inducing Shane Victorino to groundout to Robinson Cano at second base as the Yankees poured out of the dugout in celebration before the throw even reached first base.

On a cold November evening, matching the latest date a World Series game had ever been played, Pettitte allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings to extend his postseason records for career wins (18) and series-clinching wins (six). Pettitte also won the final game of all three playoff rounds, matching Boston's Derek Lowe in 2004 as the only pitchers to do so.

"If you pitch, you have a chance to win," said Jeter. "You guys say I always give the same answer, but it's the right answer."

Jeter singled twice, doubled and scored two runs, batting .407 for the Series.

But it was Matsui's mighty swings in the early innings that buried the Phillies, as Godzilla finally conquered New York. He tied the World Series record set by the Yankees' Bobby Richardson in 1960 with six RBIs while going 3-for-4 with a single, double and a home run, to earn his first World Series ring after winning three Japan Series titles with the Yomiuri Giants.

Matsui's surgically repaired knee prevented him from playing the field at all and, thus, from starting the three games in Philadelphia where he could not serve as the designated hitter but contributed as a pinch hitter, even homering in Game 3.

"My first and foremost goal when I joined the Yankees was to win the world championship," Matsui said. "Certainly it's been a long road and very difficult journey. I'm just happy after all these years we were able to win and reach the goal that I had come here for."

In the bottom of the second Matsui turned on a full-count, 89-mile-per-hour heater that Martinez left over the middle of the plate and crushed a deep home run inside the rightfield foul pole on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

The Yankees struck again in the third, as Jeter led off with a liner into centerfield that Victorino narrowly missed, scooping it up on a short hop for a single. Martinez then walked Johnny Damon and hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch, loading the bases with one out. Martinez nearly escaped trouble, catching Alex Rodriguez looking with a breaking ball on the outside corner for the second out, but Matsui made him pay. On 0-2 Martinez threw a fastball some eight inches off the plate, but Matsui somehow reached across and punched it into centerfield for the two-RBI single.

Matsui continued his curious postseason success against Martinez. Though he's just 4-for-28 against Martinez in regular-season games, Matsui is now 9-for-19, with six extra-base hits (four doubles, two homers) in playoff games.

"Mattie has been a clutch player ever since I met him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Godzilla struck again off in the fifth off the bullpen. Jeter started the inning with a ground-rule double off reliever Chad Durbin and later scored on a Teixeira single. Matsui followed a few batters later with a two-RBI double off lefty J.A. Happ, who was brought in to face him, the final hit of a wild night and terrific series for the Japanese legend.

"They're partying in Tokyo tonight," Yankees rightfielder Nick Swisher said. "What a great job Matsui did for us. He came up clutch for us all year long. He deserved that MVP trophy, there's no doubt about it."

The Phillies chipped a run off the early lead in the top of the third. Catcher Carlos Ruiz tripled on a ball off the left-centerfield wall and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jimmy Rollins. It was Ruiz's fifth hit of the Series and fourth for extra bases.

Ryan Howard hit an opposite-field, two-run homer in the top of the sixth, cutting New York's lead to 7-3.

Game 6 featured a pitcher's duel between veteran stars who first faced each other in 1998 and regularly renewed battles during the tense Boston-New York rivalry games earlier this decade, when Martinez was with the Red Sox. Martinez got the loss, completing only four innings and allowing four runs.

Martinez left Yankee Stadium before clubhouses opened to the media, making only a few comments on his way out.

"I'm extremely proud," Martinez said, "... [but] they got me."

The Phillies had been the defending World Series champions but failed to become the first team this decade to repeat, after winning 93 games and their third straight NL East title. A lack of timely hits and poor starting pitching beyond ace Cliff Lee ultimately did them in.

"That just makes us more determined to come back next year," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

It was not only the first World Series title for Matsui, but also for Rodriguez, Teixeira, Swisher and starters CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, New York's prized free-agent signings. Their pitching turned around the Yankees' recent postseason misfortune in which they had won just four of their previous 17 playoff games.

"You play a lot of years to try and get here," Teixeira said. "Once you're here, it's unbelievable. Why wear the pinstripes if you're not going to win championships -- that's what the Yankees are all about."

It was also the first managerial ring for Girardi, who had donned uniform No. 27 to signal his pursuit of the franchise's 27th title.

As the game ended, the scoreboard flashed a message that "This one's for the Boss," a reference to ailing owner George Steinbrenner.

"I hope he feels special," his son Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees' general managing partner, said on the field. "This team, the entire postseason, has been focused, to win this for him."



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