In a way it was classic A.J. Burnett. Just when I was ready to make my peace with his presence on the Yankees and accept him as a key contributor to a championship club, he took the mound in the potential World Series clincher and managed just six outs before getting the hook.
Burnett’s stinker was especially hard to take as Cliff Lee, whom most expected to shut down the Yankees again in Monday night’s Game Five like he did in Game One, was vulnerable. The Yankees managed just an unearned run in the ninth against Lee in Game One, but last night they jumped on the board in the top of the first on a Johnny Damon single and an Alex Rodriguez double. That lead was gone in the blink of an eye, however, as Jimmy Rollins greeted Burnett with a single back up through the middle, Shane Victorino got hit on the right hand attempting to bunt Rollins up, and Chase Utley crushed a first-pitch fastball for a three-run homer that put the Phillies up 3-1 before Burnett had recorded an out.
Burnett stranded a subsequent walk to Ryan Howard and worked around a two-out walk to Rollins in the second, but when he started the third with two more walks, both of which came around to score on singles by Jayson Werth and Raul Ibañez, Joe Girardi had seen enough. The first four batters reached against Burnett in two of his three innings of work and he had walked four and given up five runs on four hits without getting an out in the third, using up 53 pitches in the process.
With runners on the corners and none out, Girardi turned to David Robertson, who allowed the man on third to score on a fielder’s choice, but avoided an escalation of the inning, then pitched a perfect fourth. The Yankees got a run back in the fifth when Eric Hinske walked for Robertson, went to third on a Derek Jeter single, and scored on a Damon groundout. Alfredo Aceves then pitched in two scoreless innings, but after Jerry Hairston Jr. flied out for Aceves, Phil Coke was unable to answer in kind.
Brought in to face Utley, Howard, and, if necessary, Ibañez, Coke was greeted by yet another solo homer by Utley, his fifth dinger of this World Series, tying Reggie Jackson’s single-Series mark set in 1977. Two outs later, Ibañez also went deep off Coke, inflating the Philadelphia lead to 8-2.
Those two runs would prove to be the difference in the game as the Yankees immediately answered back. Damon led off the top of the eighth with an infield single which was followed by doubles by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, the latter of which plated both Damon and Teixeira and bounced Lee. With Chan Ho Park on in relief, Rodriguez moved to third on a groundout and scored on a shallow sac fly to center by Robinson Cano.
That cut the Phillies’ lead to three runs at 8-5 and, after a scoreless frame by Phil Hughes, the Yanks got right back at it. Having watched Brad Lidge blow the game the night before, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel chose Ryan Madson for the ninth inning this time and only narrowly avoided a similar result.
Madson was greeted by a double by Jorge Posada and a single by pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui. Facing the potential tying run, Madson fell behind Derek Jeter 2-0 before getting the Captain to ground into a sadly predictable double play (I say that only because I, sadly, predicted it). Posada scored on the DP, however, and Damon followed with a single that brought Mark Teixeira to the plate as the tying run.
With the Citizens Bank Park crowd roaring and waving towels like 46,178 Phil McConkeys, Madson threw Teixeira a first-pitch fastball on the outside corner for strike one followed by a trio of changeups that dove out of the zone. Teixeira swung over the first as Damon took second, took the second for ball one, then swung over the third for strike three, giving the Phillies an 8-6 win and sending the Series back to the Bronx for Game Six.
Neither of the last two games unfolded exactly as expected, but the results were the same. When the Series moved to Philadelphia tied 1-1, I said the Yankees would win behind Pettitte and Sabathia, lose to Lee, and head home up 3-2, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. I’m sure any fan, as well as the Yankees themselves, would have signed up for that three games ago, as the Yankees now have two chances two win the Series at home and a significant pitching advantage in a potential Game Seven with CC Sabathia going against an as-yet-unnamed Philly starter that could be the struggling Cole Hamels or the largely unused J.A. Happ.
Though he wasn’t all that impressive in this game, the Yankees can sleep well knowing they won’t be facing Lee again, and that they’ve made noise against both of the Phillies’ closer options. Losing a game that could have clinched a world championship isn’t fun, but the Yankees are in great position to win either of the final two games of this Series. As Teixeira said after the game, the Yankees were in a similar position in the ALCS, losing a potential clincher in Game Five. They then went home and wrapped up the series in Game Six behind Andy Pettitte. I won’t be surprised if they do it again.