PHILADELPHIA -- For opposing pitchers, the Yankees offense must seem as unwelcome and inevitable as the onset of winter. It's going to arrive sooner or later, and when it does, it's going to last a long time, it's going to be brutal and it's going to send you scurrying for cover. The Yankees 8-5 win in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night brought the 2009 baseball season ever closer to its winter slumber. That the end seems near is due largely to the way Yankees bats finally emerged from their own somnambulant state to take a 2-1 lead in the Series.
Through the first three innings of Game 3, the Yankees had no runs, no hits and had given no indication that they were on the verge of an offensive onslaught that many had anticipated when the series began. Yet from the fourth inning onward, they erupted for eight runs, eight hits and, perhaps just as importantly, four walks, en route to a convincing and confidence-inspiring win. "You hope you can put together some good at-bats and string together some runs," the always low-key
As they arrived in Philadelphia, the Yankees had done very little of either. Only once in the first two games in Yankee Stadium did the Yankees manage three consecutive base hits, and they failed to score more than one run in an inning and managed just four runs total -- one of which was unearned. It equaled their lowest two-game total in consecutive home games all season.
Yet perhaps the most illuminating statistic of their offensive woes was this: the Yankees had walked just twice, an astonishingly low total for a team that led the major leagues in bases on balls this season. Their much-heralded ability to work a count to, as Jeter had said on Friday, "wait for your pitch and then not miss it," was absent again in the first three innings on Saturday when the Yankees allowed
All that began to change with
His face was friendly, but his tone was serious. Yes, Teixeira's fourth-inning home run that tied Game 2 of the World Series was important, but just like the rest of his Yankees teammates, his swing still seemed out of whack, and as a result, their offense that had been slugging all year long had remained sluggish against the Phillies. Now, in the fourth inning of Game 3, came the at-bat that would change the game, and perhaps, tilt the World Series irrevocably in New York's favor. Teixeira fell behind in the count 1-and-2. To that point, he was 1-for-8 in the Series with four strikeouts. Yet he exhibited remarkable plate discipline, a trademark of both his (he has a .383 career on-base percentage) and the team's when he calmly watched a curveball break out of the strike zone for ball two, then a fastball miss just inside to run the count full. On the 3-2 pitch, Teixeira took again, and although the pitch may have caught the corner, it was ruled a ball by home plate umpire
That six-pitch at-bat matched their longest of the game to that point.
A-Rod did just that. With a swing reminiscent of the ones he used to overpower
It started with a contribution from an unlikely source. Starting pitcher
"I could have caught him," Jeter said with a laugh. "But it would have been embarrassing."
Instead, he would have to settle for his team having caught, and passed, the Phillies. The rest of the game became a continuing display of the Yankees' offensive prowess: a pair of solo home runs sandwiched around a typically patient and destructive seventh inning, when the Yankees padded their lead with a rally that began with a seven-pitch walk by Damon, a five-pitch at-bat by Rodriguez ending with his second hit-by-pitch of the game, and a six-pitch at-bat by
"We were a little more patient," said Posada, explaining the Yankees offensive eruption. The whole lineup contributed today.
That wasn't quite accurate --
In fact, Saturday was a perfect example of why the Yankees are so difficult to beat. Despite Pettitte's self-professed struggles -- "It was tough, I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "I couldn't put the ball where I wanted to" -- the Yankees revived the formula that had carried them to this point: a quality start, a patient and destructive offense, quality middle relief and the incomparable
It's a formula they need to put together just twice more to win their franchise's long-awaited 27th world championship. Before the final out was secured, the calendar had already flipped to November. Afterward, Mr. November himself was asked to reflect on what it meant to still be playing baseball in this month for only the second time in the game's history. "It's a long season, man," said Jeter. "A long season." With two more performances from their offense like they got in Game 3, the Yankees long season will be over very soon. Winter is almost here.