Andy Pettitte clinched the AL East, the Division Series, and the ALCS for the Yankees this year, so it only makes sense that he’d be on the mound for the the last game of the 2009 World Series. He looked bone-tired tonight, more than 220 innings and seven months into his age-37 season, muttering darkly into his glove; but as you probably should have expected by now, he figured out a way to pitch just as well as he needed to. Hideki Matsui, your Series MVP, provided all the necessary offense, and the Yankees earned their 27th Championship with a 7-3 win over the Phillies.
Tonight, for a change, was not about Pedro Martinez – who, even more than Pettitte, seemed to be pitching on fumes and experience. He worked slowly and painstakingly, never hit his stride, and when he made mistakes he did not get away with them. It’s funny – I thought Matsui had hit Pedro well throughout his career, but that turns out not to be the case. It’s just that the hits he does have were big ones, from his part in the Yankees’ rally in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS through Game 2 of this World Series and tonight’s show of strength.
Matsui put the Yankees on the board in the second with a big two-run home run. The Phillies got one back right away on a triple and sac fly, but the Yankees padded their lead in the bottom of the third: Jeter singled, Damon walked, Teixeira was hit by a pitch (definitely an accident this time), and after A-Rod struck out, Matsui came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. He promptly unloaded them with a single to center, plating Jeter and Damon (who, unfortunately, injured his calf running home and had to be replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr; be thankful there was not a Game 7). Pedro got out of the inning, but that was the end of his night, and a patchwork of five Phillies relievers finished the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, after Jeter doubled and scored on Teixeira’s single, Matsui did it again, doubling in Teixeira and Rodriguez to make it 7-1 Yanks. He ended up with three hits and six RBIs, and one triple short of the cycle, though with the state of his knees, you’re more likely to see Alex Rodriguez actually turn into a centaur. He’s also the first DH ever to win the Series MVP.
Meanwhile, Pettitte was in full Battle Cat mode. After the top of the 4th, feeling (with some reason) that he was being squeezed, he started yelling at home plate ump Joe West and had to be pulled away by Joe Girardi. This is not a fight you want to pick in Game 6 of the World Series. But Pettitte persevered into the sixth inning, at which point he gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Howard – hi, Ryan! – but talked Girardi into letting him stay in. He got Jayson Werth out, gave up a double to Ibanez, and finally running out of what little gas he’d had to start the night, was removed to a long, loud ovation. Pettitte hasn’t said anything about retirement this year… and I don’t see why the Yankees wouldn’t want him back… but it is possible that this was his last start for New York. If so, he certainly went out on a high note.
Joba Chamberlain took over, and he looked pretty good, picking up where he left off a few games ago. He got three outs before running into a little trouble – and so with two out in the seventh and two on, the Yankees still up 7-3, Girardi brought in Damaso Marte to deal with Chase Utley, who could have pulled the Phillies to within one. It was probably the tensest moment of the game. I’ve groaned every time Marte came in this postseason, more out of habit than anything else, but he has been terrific, and he continued in that vein tonight, getting Utley to half-chase a slider for strike three.
Mariano Rivera took over with one out in the eighth – it was not a save situation, but no way Girardi was going to mess around here – and though it was not one of his seemingly effortless performances, he was never in real danger. When he completed the ninth he’d tossed 16 postseason innings while allowing one run, to the surprise of no one. Give Shane Victorino credit, though, he did not go gentle into that good night – his last at-bat, and the Phillies’, took took 10 pitches, but finally it ended the way most at-bats against Mariano do: a groundout.
And then there were a series of tableaux, some familiar – Jeter’s raised arms and yell, Rivera’s grin, Posada’s near-skip towards the mound – and some new: Mark Teixeira’s fiercely goofy expression as he jumped up and down, Nick Swisher tearing wide-eyed and open-mouthed towards the infield, Francisco Cervelli hopping around like a caffeinated bunny, Joe Girardi’s gaunt face an open book of anticipation and then, for just a moment, pure, unguarded happiness.
I think almost all of us realize that nine years, in the scheme of franchise championship droughts, is not a long time at all, sometimes just a drop in the bucket. But it’s still a significant chunk of life, and most of us have probably gone through considerable changes since the 2000 Fall Classic – gained and lost loved ones, maybe started a family, changed careers, changed cities, grown up. And who knows where we’ll be the next time the Yankees win? All of which is, I guess, a long-winded way of saying: enjoy the moment.
-”Empire State of Mind,” as I said a few weeks ago, has a nice catchy hook but isn’t a great song, and far from Jay-Z’s best. Still, it’s neat that this postseason had such an obvious anthem – if only because now I’ll think of the 2009 Yankees every time I hear it, probably for the rest of my life. And I mean, say what you want about the tune, but the song that makes me think of the 2000 Yankees is “Who Let the Dogs Out,” so count your damn blessings.
-The Canyon of Heroes parade is set for Friday at 11 AM. I think I have to go.
-I hope George Steinbrenner is at least lucid enough to know what happened tonight. Of course we already knew he was unwell, but the fact that he wasn’t at tonight’s game at all is still a little startling.
-I’m a little sorry Mike Mussina couldn’t have been part of this one; he did right by the Yankees, and retired with flair at the top of his game – but he arrived the year after a World Series and left just before another, Mattingly-style.
-I’m much sorrier that Todd Drew couldn’t be here for this one. But, as Alex and many other people mentioned tonight, this one’s for him.